Wednesday, September 21, 2016

No Longer a French Benefit

Some countries’ economies rise and fall on tourism dollars. Look at the Caribbean and the South Pacific. When the global economy tanks, discretionary travel is one of the first expendable casualties. Competition from low cost alternatives – like Airbnb in lieu of pricey hotels – has taken one more bite out of the lower end of the spectrum. But danger and risk factor into the equation as well.
When Florida’s “stand your ground” homicides added to the Orlando mass extermination, when an alligator chomped on a three-year-old at Disney World, Florida’s tourism took a hit. Chicago? Forgetaboutit! ISIS and regional unrest have hit Middle Eastern destinations hard, notably Turkey. Tourism to Syria and Iraq are non-existent today. Egyptian treasures are getting seen by fewer tourists; folks are unwilling to expose themselves to potential kidnappings or out-and-out mass killings.
Until recently, Europe was a haven from that unrest, and tourists simply could not get enough of renaissance buildings and museums, ancient castles and alarmingly wonderful food. Oh and shopping where fashion was born. France is beautiful, luxurious and delicious. And for these and other reasons, “France is the most-visited country in the world, with almost 85 million foreigners last year. France is still targeting 100 million foreign tourists by 2020, [according to Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault].” Reuters, September 13th.
But from vicious assault on the weekly satirist newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 and injuring another 11 on January 15 last year to the Islamic State gunmen who slaughtered 130 people in an attack in Paris last November and the mad ISIS-inspired gunman who drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on July 14 in tourist-destination-Nice, killing 86, France has gained a reputation of a nation where the risk of unpredictable violence is threatening tourism. The post-attack tourism scenario is bleak.
“The sector represents between 7-8 percent of France's gross domestic product and employs about 2 million people… [In August], regional and business officials asked the government for a rescue plan for the sector, saying the attacks had cost the French capital about 750 million euros in lost revenue…
“Revenue per available hotel room plunged 21.2 percent in Paris year-on-year for the July 1-Aug. 20 period, according to data from hotel research firm MKG Group. Overall revenue per room fell 9.4 percent on average in France during the period.” Reuters.
So the French government is countering this malaise. By reconfiguring its archaic top-down-even-in-an-emergency police chain of command that still has to wait for “orders” before officers on the ground can take serious measures against obvious violence? Not exactly. “The French government on Tuesday pledged more aid to help the country's struggling tourism sector cope after a wave of Islamist attacks, bringing to 10 million euros its contribution to a campaign to promote the country abroad.” Reuters.
Ah, marketing money! So tourists can hold posters as shields against their perceived bombs and bullets threat? With a mild recession looming, it’d going to take a bit more than marketing to fill those hotel rooms and return tourist spots to hot, high-spending lures again. When you wonder whether or not the terrorists are winning, ask yourself what life was like before we had 9/11 and its ilk. Remember when you used to go to the plane to greet arriving passengers? No? Oh, we did that a long time ago… or was it so long ago.
            I’m Peter Dekom, and with growing “nothing left to lose” all over this world, that flowing and expanding anger, should tell you that the sloganeering “one and done” political solutions will be about as effective as leeching in medical treatment!

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