PARIS — Amid falling tourism, Paris has come up with a plan.
It includes building a welcome center at the base of the Eiffel Tower; creating a Cité de la Gastronomie at the Rungis wholesale food hall, and developing and promoting several emerging, hipster neighborhoods.
The 59-initiative plan has a shopping component, too. It calls for improving shopping streets, including the Champs Elysées; cleaning up the Grands Boulevards area surrounding the department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette; creating a Made in Paris label, and cultivating a “tourism of know-how” by encouraging shopkeepers and artisans to organize tours of their ateliers.
Paris City Hall plan gathered some 200 players in tourism for a committee dubbed Destination Paris. These include department stores, luxury body Comité Colbert and retail associations Comité Champs Elysées, Comité Montaigne and Comité Saint-Honoré to draw up a six-year strategy from 2017 to 2022.
The plan, in the works for two years, comes at a crucial time as the terror attacks of 2015 and the Bastille Day carnage in Nice last July, continue to weigh on visitor numbers and sentiment.
From January to October 2016, tourists visiting the capital were down 11 percent. “We think we’ll end up the year at 23 to 24 million, down from 26 million in 2015,” Jean-François Martins, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s deputy for tourism, told journalists on Wednesday. “After a very bad summer, we have seen an uptick in September — we were down six percent.”
Martins anticipates tough times for tourism through next summer. “Things take time. There’s no magical stick,” he said.
The city plans to increase hotel accommodation by 12,000 rooms by 2020, adding to the 115,984 rooms at present. The opening of the Paris Convention Center that’s slated for 2018, a congress hub with a capacity of 30,000 as part of the renovation of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, is expected to boost business travel, which already accounts for 40 percent of tourism nights in the city. Other initiatives include the reinforcement of “memorial tourism,” highlighting such events as the centennial of America’s entry in World War I on April 6, 1917 and the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 civil unrest in Paris.
On security, Martins said that some 6,000 additional troops have been deployed in Paris as set out under Vigipirate, the French national security alert system. On top of that, a brigade against “incivilities” such as littering and souvenir hawking was reinforced with 800 additional agents.
Excluding lodging, visitors in Paris spend an average 139 euros per day, or $154, and they stay for 4.7 days on average, said Martins. He sees very “high potential” in the South Korean market, albeit a small percentage of total tourists in Paris, that’s resisting better.
The plan comes after a strategy to promote Paris, budgeted at about 1.8 million euros, or $2 million at current exchange, that was started in May by French authorities and other backers.
“The tourism industry globally is roughly increasing by 5 percent. Our goal is to reach a 2 percent growth,” said Martins. The plan is to be presented to city council on Nov. 7.