PARIS (Reuters) - Tourism in Paris is starting to recover, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, after hotel bookings slumped following the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people.
Daily occupancy at hotels in Paris fell 24 percentage points on average in the week after the attacks claimed by Islamic State militants, according to figures given by the Office du Tourisme et des Congres de Paris on Wednesday. But the decline had eased to 16 points on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23, it said.
Airline booking cancellation levels were also back to normal this week from a slump right after the attacks, the Office said.
“The situation is improving, a return to normal is underway this week,” Macron said during a visit to the La Defense business district to the west of Paris.
Prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed on Tuesday that attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, killed in a police raid last week, was believed to be preparing a suicide bomb attack in La Defense on Nov. 18 or 19.
“It’s picking up. We are on a seasonal market, so it is crucial that it picks up quickly for these operators that are open only for a few weeks during the holidays,” Macron said.
The Chambre du Commerce et de L’Industrie de Paris-Ile-de-France (CCI) has said that revenue at hotels in the Paris region slumped 50 percent in the week following the attacks and footfall dropped 30 to 50 percent at large stores.
Some hoteliers were more circumspect than the minister. Christian Navet, president of the Paris-Ile de France section of French hotel federation (UMIH), said he saw “no signs of recovery”.
“We had cancellations right after the attacks, but now it’s just people not coming. Hotels are empty. All eyes are now on Christmas,” he told Reuters.
Macron said it was too early to estimate the financial impact the attacks would have on the tourism sector, as much hinged on the pace of the recovery.
French department store Printemps Haussmann, which makes 20 percent of its sales over Christmas, told Reuters that footfall was down 15 percent on Saturday, Nov. 21, following a drop of 30 percent in the week after attacks.
“Traffic is coming back slowly, it’s encouraging,” a spokeswoman for the department store said.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Marine Pennetier; additional reporting by Pascale Denis; editing by David Clarke, Larry King