Notre Dame cathedral fire: What does the blaze mean for tourism – and tourists – in Paris?

The heartbreaking destruction of the city's heart will have significant effects 

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 16 April 2019 09:46 BST
Sun sets on Notre Dame as flames still rage from within cathedral

The tragic combustion of heritage in the fire at Notre Dame is heartbreaking for the city, the country and humanity.

The catastrophe will also have significant implications for the tourist industry in Paris.

The cathedral of Notre Dame is by far the most popular visitor attraction in France, which in turn attracts more tourists than any other country on Earth.

Until now, the cathedral has had the most generous opening hours of any major attraction in Paris: 8am–6.45pm every day of the year, and half-an-hour later at weekends. Admission is free, which is significant for a number of visitors to the French capital.

In 2018, around 13 million people visited the church as tourists, rather than worshippers.

The fire will significantly distort visitor patterns in the city’s tourist industry. The average 36,000 daily visitors who spend two or three hours at the landmark will want to go to other locations during their stay.

The other “big hitters”, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, are likely to see numbers increase. But the effect will depend on the day of the week. Most Paris attractions are closed on either Monday or Tuesday, when Notre Dame was especially popular.

In terms of ecclesiastical tourism, Sacré-Cœur, the Basilica on top of the hill of Montmartre, may attract more visitors – as could the 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle, the royal chapel which, like Notre Dame, is on the Ile de la Cité at the heart of Paris.

Free attractions which may see a surge in numbers include the Maison Victor Hugo in the Marais – though its nearby and also free counterpart the Musée Carnavalet, dedicated to the history of Paris, is closed for most of the year for refurbishment.

Cemetery tourism may be boosted: Père Lachaise, in the east of the city, is the largest, and is the resting place of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

To the southwest, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and other people are buried at the Montparnasse cemetery.

While cancellations among tourists already booked to travel to Paris are unlikely, the seemingly inevitable closure for many months of Notre Dame will reduce the appeal of the French capital, with cities such as Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam likely to benefit.

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