Double blow for visitors to France as prices soar

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British tourists in France, already stung by the fall in the value of the pound against the franc, yesterday faced further price rises after the French government increased VAT by 2 per cent. The new rate, at 20.6 per cent, is one of the highest in Europe.

Although basic foodstuffs are not affected, most goods and services will be forced up, including hotel rooms, restaurant prices, wine and spirits. Motorists are especially stung; the rise applies to petrol, hire-cars, motorway tolls and breakdown services. Public transport and telephone calls also suffer.

British visitors this month will receive about 7.5 francs for every pound, compared to 8.2 francs last year and about nine francs five years ago.

For many foreign visitors, the VAT rises could be the last straw, classifying France as an 'expensive' country better left to the rich. Representatives of the French tourist industry have already made their fears known.

Almost the entire front-bench teams of the Conservative and Labour parties - including the Prime Minister - are on holiday in France at present. But the total number of British tourists crossing the Channel is expected to fall this year from 8 million to 7 million.

Those who do make the trip are spending less. A trend to less expensive holidays has also been noted among the French, with campsites, gites and simple hotels doing well. Advance bookings are well down, with people choosing shorter, as well as cheaper, holidays.

The only area not to have been affected is the luxury end of the market. In Paris and the Riviera high-spending Russians and east Europeans have joined the traditional clientele.

French anger, page 7

What's dear and what's cheap in France

Meal for two at bistro

Train fare, 200 miles return

Double room and breakfast in

moderate hotel

Camembert cheese

Litre unleaded petrol

20 cigarettes

Two litres Evian water


pounds 50 pounds 35

pounds 41 (Paris-Dijon) pounds 33 (London-Manchester)

pounds 100 (Paris) pounds 70

pounds 33 (provinces)

pounds 1.33 pounds 1.65

76p 52.9p

pounds 2.50 pounds 2.50 pounds 2 82p