France sees number of tourists drop by 7% since January after terror attacks, rains and strikes: Minister

An empty waiting line in front of the pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris on Aug 6, 2016.
An empty waiting line in front of the pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris on Aug 6, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The number of tourists visiting France has dropped 7 per cent since January, with foreigners deterred by terror attacks but also by bad weather and transport strikes, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday (Aug 22).

"Tourist arrivals since the start of the year have fallen by 7 per cent across the country," with Paris the worst- hit, said Mr Ayrault, who is also tourism minister.

France is the world's top tourist destination. The sector accounts for around 9 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The industry has been struck a severe blow from attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, shuttering festivals and other public events and prompting jittery visitors to stay away.

"The attacks partly explain these disappointing trends. The perception of risk has an influence on some clients, notably the wealthiest or those from Asia," said Mr Ayrault.

He said that economic difficulties in countries such as Russia and Brazil have also affected visitor numbers from those countries.

Pictures of flood-ridden streets - the result of 50 more days of rain in the second quarter compared to normal levels - and public-sector strikes also played a part, he added.

A terror attack in Paris in November last year that killed 130 people led to a drop in tourist numbers.

Officials had hoped the trend would reverse after the successful hosting of the Euro football championship in July.

But just days after the end of the competition a Tunisian believed to be acting for ISIS rammed a lorry into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 86 people.

The attack led to numerous summer events being called off due to security fears.