16 August, 2016 Security
The Nice and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray attacks had a particularly grim impact on tourism because of the heinousness of their violence. The Nice attack involved an ISIS agent driving a truck through a crowd on Bastille Day, killing 85 and wounding 307. The Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray attack entailed ISIS agents beheading a priest in a catholic church during Tuesday morning prayers.
As a result, Paris hotel occupancy rates in July 2016 fell to a mere 32 percent. In July 2015, they were at 77 percent. Nice hotel revenues have fallen 45 percent since the truck attack. Reuters reports that Nice’s tourist economy is worth $1.65 billion USD a year. MasterCard reports that Paris’ economy in 2014 was worth $17 billion USD.
Now, all of that is in jeopardy.
The Local, a French newspaper, says that since the beginning of 2016, foreign hotel bookings in France is down 10 percent, and air travel to the country is down 20 percent. It also reported that wealthy tourists from the US, Asia, and the Middle East have gone elsewhere for ritzy travel.
The International Business Times says that Japanese tourism in France is down 46 percent, Russian tourism is down 35 percent, Italian tourism down 28 percent, and Chinese tourism is down approximately 20 percent.
Travel bloggers have said that taxi driver protests, and strikes by rail workers, plus trash collectors, have added to the dip in hotel occupancy.
None of this is surprising or unusual. Countries beset by terrorism suffer economically, especially their tourism sectors. ISIS has declared war on France for its actions in Syria, and for its enforcement of French secular traditions, domestically. It has intentionally targeted France’s tourism sector to damage its economy, its international reputation, and to cause its citizenry to lose confidence in the government.
Islamist jihadist (mostly ISIS) operational tempo in France in 2015 was, statistically, one attack ever other month. Some were small scale, and some were large and punishing. Islamist jihadist (mostly ISIS) operational tempo in France in 2016 so far has nearly been double that of 2015. These operations have been small but punishing. None of this bodes well for there remainder of 2016.
The only recourse France has is to adopt proven counterinsurgency and counter terrorism strategies to quell this threat. Some methods that need to be applied – such as those that enforce secular traditions to keep the country from being balkanized and divided along cultural and religious lines – are controversial and will cause Islamist jihadists to execute additional attacks.
Furthermore, France’s stability has been challenged, and this means that ISIS’ operations have traction. Given this fact, ISIS will continue to carry out operations in France in order to maintain this traction. These attacks are likely to continue to be: a) small scale and individual stabbings and shootings, b) outlandish attacks such as beheadings and vehicular homicides, and c) raids by groups armed with automatic weapons and explosives.
The targeting of hotels and other tourist venues by ISIS and like minded groups/individuals cannot be ruled out. This threat environment will continue to fester until the French government applies counterinsurgency and counter terrorism strategies in a new and stalwart campaign – including social and citizenship programs – designed to decisively defeat the threat.
Sources and further reading:
“Paris Tourism ‘Suffering’ After Terrorist Attacks, Dealing Blow To Businesses,” International Business Times, 10 August 2016.
“Paris hotel occupancy rates halve as tourists abandon France in wake of terrorist attacks,” The Telegraph, 7 August 2016.
“Isis attackers forced French priest to kneel before he was murdered, hostage says,” The Guardian, 26 July 2016.
“Timeline: Attacks in France,” BBC, 26 July 2016.
“Attack on Nice deals blow to France’s crucial tourism industry,” Reuters, 17 July 2016.
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