Paris attempts to lure back tourists

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The Independent Online
Paris - The French tourist authorities have launched an aggressive campaign to promote Paris as a holiday destination after a disastrous fall in visitors from abroad in the second half of last year, writes Mary Dejevsky.

The scheme, led by Air France in conjunction with the Paris tourist office and its municipal transport company, offers an all-in price of less than pounds 100 for an air ticket, two nights in a three-star hotel, a weekend travel card and a museums pass, for visitors from North America and Europe, including Britain. The promotion starts on Friday and lasts until the end of March.

It is designed to counter the effect of boycotts after the resumption of French nuclear tests last June, terrorist bombs in summer and autumn, and the three-week transport strike at the end of the year.

The effects of the anti-nuclear boycott are hard to quantify and have been played down by the authorities. American and Japanese tourism was particularly affected by the bombs, while European tourists were more affected by the strikes.

The losses, now being assessed, are huge. Air France estimates it lost 300m francs (pounds 39m) in receipts and cancellations between the end of November and mid-December and says the effects are still being felt. Paris local transport is estimated to have suffered a revenue loss of F500m to F600m. Hotels, restaurants and shops were all severely affected.

Tourism from Britain, however, appears to have stood up relatively well, despite the weakness of the pound.