Shoppers, tourists giving Paris a wide berth

French policemen patrolling the Christmas market in Metz, eastern France, on Nov 21, 2015.
French policemen patrolling the Christmas market in Metz, eastern France, on Nov 21, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • Half-empty department stores amid the festive season and a spate of hotel cancellations - the attacks on Paris are having a profound effect on business in the French capital a week after militants launched a shooting and bombing spree on the national stadium, a concert hall, and bars and restaurants.

But analysts say France can withstand the financial shock. Other cities hit by terror in the past - such as Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 - experienced short- term economic impact.

Printemps, one of the department stores in Paris near the Opera Garnier which are normally overflowing with shoppers, particularly Chinese tourists, says footfall is down 30 per cent.

"It is deserted," said saleswoman Marine. "Everything is under surveillance. There are many policemen in plainclothes."

Security guards at the entrance frisk visitors, who have also been checked with metal detectors for the past few days. The scene is replicated in other department stores and commercial complexes.

The same deserted look haunts Paris' fashion street Avenue Montaigne, where top couturiers are located, but the reason is different here, according to an employee at a leading leather store. "People are saying that it is indecent to shop after such events," said Armelle.

The same story is repeated at the traditional Christmas village at one end of the Champs-Elysees. It opened on Nov 13, a few hours before the terror attacks, and things have been going downhill since.

Hotels have reported a slump in bookings. Mr Didier Le Calvez, president of the luxury arm of hotel union Umih Prestige, said: "There has been a sizeable wave of hotel cancellations for the two or three coming months."

Concert promoters said they saw an immediate 80 per cent plunge in ticket sales.

Such reactions are likely to be transitory, analysts said.

After the Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people, the Spanish capital's Complutense University estimated the cost to the city's economy at 0.16 per cent of annual economic output.

In Britain, consumer confidence took a hit when coordinated suicide attacks on London trains and a bus killed 56 people, but a budding economic recovery continued.

"The sanguine reaction of the financial markets to the atrocities and past experience of similarly tragic events suggest the economic impact is likely to be limited," BNP Paribas analysts Dominic Bryant and Gizem Kara said in a report. But they acknowledge there is "some risk of a greater reaction" in Paris, because the latest attacks came only 10 months after gunmen attacked satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. In total, 12 people were killed in the attacks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2015, with the headline 'Shoppers, tourists giving Paris a wide berth'. Print Edition | Subscribe