"Islamic State" attacks in Paris and the 2015 New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne led to a reduction in overnight visits in both cities. However, tourism may once again be on the rise.
Paris saw a drop of 1.5 million tourists in 2016 as fears linked to terror attacks scared off would-be visitors, especially those from China and Japan, according to figures released Tuesday.
However, tourist numbers rose towards the end of the year, suggesting the slump might soon ease, according to the regional tourism authority, CRT.
Overall, 4.7 percent fewer tourists visited the French capital, while international visitors dropped by nine percent from the previous year. The figures, which are based on hotel arrivals, showed that fewer Japanese, Chinese, Russian and Italian visitors chose to vacation in Paris - a shortfall that cost Paris about 1.3 billion euros ($1 billion), the CRT said.
The main cause of the reduced numbers included flooding, strikes, and attacks by "Islamist State" terrorist groups in recent months. Many were scared off by the November 13, 2015 attacks on Paris cafes, a rock concert and the national stadium which left 130 people dead.
Despite concerns, it seems that the number of tourists could be rising. Higher numbers in November and the period around the Christmas holidays suggest that travelers are once again interested in visiting the French capital. France remains the top worldwide travel destination with over 82 million international visitors.
The Rhine river metropolis, Cologne, one of Germany’s most popular destinations, is similar to Paris when it comes to tourism. A 3.5 percent drop in overnight stays by visitors in 2016 may have been caused by the headline-making 2015 New Year’s Eve sexual assaults and general security worries in Europe.
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe, some travel operators had changed the itineraries of their European tours, thereby affecting Cologne, said Josef Sommer, head of the Cologne Tourism Company. Also, many tourists from China and India, for example, are choosing to visit destinations like Prague and Vienna instead of Paris or Düsseldorf. "This means that Cologne as a stopping point along a travel route is no longer so often to be found on an itinerary," added Sommer. In 2016, 12.1 percent fewer tourists from Great Britain chose Cologne as a destination.
Just as in Paris, the Cologne Tourism authority called the decline moderate in light of the difficult conditions. In all of North Rhine-Westphalia there were more overnight stays in last year than in 2015.
sh/eg (ap, dpa, afp)