Paris is crawling with French, American, British, German and Belgian – you name the nationality – counter-terrorism operatives, investigators and police. Of course,the average person is reacting, not looking forward. Which is why U.S. and European media are reporting billions in euros worth of hotel and airline cancellations.
The Wall Street Journal has posted two stories in the last 48 hours about the beating Paris’ economy is taking because of travel cancellations. In “Steep Drop for Tourism in Paris,” the WSJ’s Scott McCartney reports online travel giant Expedia has seen “super high” cancellation rates for Paris, all of France and and all across Europe since the 13 November terror attacks. Air France reported 50 million euros in losses due to cancellations in November alone, McCartney writes.
Though there have been no new attacks, and police are cracking terror networks as we speak, relentless bad news crushed tourism.
The British Foreign Office told school officials NOT to take their students to France for the time being. The Pentagon banned Department of Defense employees and active-duty personnel from traveling within 30 miles of Paris. Global Risk Group at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations Inc., a unit of Swedish security firm Securitas AB, told its clients to stay away, according to the Wall Street Journal, and urged them to cancel meetings and conferences in Paris.
Just after the attacks, the Financial Times reported business down 44 percent year-over-year at dining and drinking establishments, with hotels down 57 percent compared to the same period in 2014.
The Guardian reported shares of hotel companies and airlines such as Air France-KLM down sharply. With Paris the capital of ultra-luxury goods, shares of companies such as Paris-based LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton and other brands, also are down. Streets are empty in the shopping districts along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
My family lived in Izmir, Turkey on Sept. 11, 2001, and Turkish tourism ground to an immediate halt, damaging the economy severely. I remember resorts inviting travelers to literally name their price for rooms. That level of collapse won’t hit French tourism simply because Paris is a Top 5 global destination.
But all this anxiety translates into serious bargains for those expats with high risk tolerances, though discounts likely won’t last long.
From the New York Times:
Typically, economists say, the commercial impact of terrorist attacks tends to be minor and temporary. That was the case after attacks in London in 2005, in Madrid in 2004, and even in New York in 2001.
So, where are the savings now?
• The rich and famous clientele at ultra-luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons Georges V and Plaza Athenee tend to be especially – how shall say – “risk adverse,” and are likely to cancel. So there might be bargains there.
We checked on Hotwire.com, and there seem to be quite a few 4-star and 5-star hotels in the best sections of Paris listed at steep discounts. Hotwire deals are blind, so you don’t know the hotel’s identity until you agree to the deal. But there are several listed in the Saint Germain/Luxembourg Gardens area for less than $200 per night … way down from the typical $300-plus for that area of the 6th Arrondissement.
Several 5-stars have reduced prices from more than $800 per night to about $550, including the Bristol Paris near Notre Dame.
• Corporate/events/meeting hotels such as the Paris Marriott, Sofitels, and InterContinentals are seeing cancellations. The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau reports bookings down 13 percent for the Christmas holiday period compared to Christmas 2014. The Sofitel Arc d’Triomphe is offering Christmas stays for about $288 per night, which is less than half what the 5-star luxury hotel charges in good times, according the Wall Street Journal. Biz and convention hotel rates will get more reasonable, especially if you or your company has corporate reward points.
• For airlines, fear of flying after a terror attack is only one issue. Full-fare airlines in Europe such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are facing all sorts of problems at the moment. They’re getting pressured by discounters such as EasyJet, which is expanding service out of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. They’re also getting pressured by their employees, with Air France-KLM officials manhandled recently over plans for layoffs and cost cutting.
Lufthansa cabin attendants walked out for a week earlier this month over retirement benefits and others issues that still haven’t been resolved.
Let’s check prices!
Air Berlin subsidiary flyNiki has been offering flights from Vienna to Paris for $138.
RyanAir has flights from Madrid to Paris for $38 round trip. You get the idea.
Don’t count on getting cheap tickets for the increasingly popular river cruises in Europe. At Viking River Cruises, for example, a spokesman said Europe sailings are going ahead normally, and bookings are increasing.
Okay, you’re asking yourself whether I’d take my family to Paris. Oh, yeah. We’ve seen this movie before, and we saw how painful the post-9/11 world was for our Turkish friends who owned hotels, or who worked in the hospitality industry. Only in the last few years has Turkey’s tourism returned to pre-2001 levels.
We’ll be there for France. We’ll stay someplace we can’t really afford. We’ll eat lavishly and drink Chateauneuf des Papes and Champagne to excess. And we’ll toast the joie de vivre the terrorists will never extinguish.
Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.