The emotional impact across the world was immediate, leading to heightened security in major European and American cities.
This story first appeared in the December 16, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Given its standing as the fashion industry’s world capital, the reaction from designers was swift and powerful with scores of messages posted throughout social media with images of peace, solidarity and mourning.
“Love, light, peace: This is what we have to find, inspire and spread,” declared Christian Lacroix.
François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, said, “This attack is an attack against our way of life, against our values, against liberty and against humanity. Under these circumstances, the most appropriate attitude is to continue living normally, by showing courage, solidarity and vigilance.”
“It is a great sadness. It’s our 9/11. It’s frightening,” said Hubert de Givenchy.
“We all have to remember that Paris is the City of Light, and we can’t let darkness kill our light,” Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing told WWD.
A month later, French officials are seeking to restore confidence following a sharp drop in tourism after the attacks, in which suicide bombers and gunmen targeted the Stade de France, cafés, restaurants and a music venue. It was the deadliest attack on France since World War II.
Tourism fell 32 percent and revenues were down 28 percent in Paris in November, according to a monthly survey by the Regional Tourism Committee for the Paris Ile-de-France area.
“French and international visitors are sharply down versus November 2014, in particular Italians, Japanese and Brazilians,” it said. “The outlook for the month of December and the year-end holidays — traditionally a period of strong tourism — is not encouraging.”
Major attractions including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre museum and Disneyland Paris were temporarily closed after French President François Hollande declared a national state of emergency and reinstated border controls in the immediate aftermath of the deadly attacks. Some shopping centers and department stores, including Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, also remained shut on Nov. 14, as Hollande pledged to step up air strikes against the militant group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in retaliation for what he described as an “act of war.”
Even though the attacks were in Paris, the rest of the world saw stepped-up military and police presence in popular tourist areas, for instance in Times Square, near Macy’s and other key shopping destinations in New York.
French tourism officials predict it will be months before normality returns. “We have no reason to be optimistic for the time being,” said Thomas Deschamps, statistics research manager at the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are going to remain in the red for another three to four months, perhaps. We’ll be able to take stock and see if things are looking up — if tourists return despite the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads — after Easter, which is traditionally the beginning of the high season for Paris.”
Tourism is a strategic sector for the French economy, accounting for 7.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2014, according to the Directorate General for Enterprise, a government agency. France is the world’s top tourist destination, with more than 83 million visitors per year.
The French economy was barely recovering when the terrorists struck, scuppering previous forecasts that households would increase spending for the season.
French retail sales fell at their sharpest rate in seven months in November, according to the monthly retail purchasing managers’ index produced by financial services company Markit.
The headline retail PMI stood at 47.8 percent versus 51.9 percent in October, with panelists citing the Paris attacks as well as weak economic conditions, lower customer footfall and a lack of consumer spending power.
Luca Solca, managing director at Exane BNP Paribas, said the Paris attacks should have a negative effect of 1 to 2 percent on global luxury demand in the fourth quarter, on the basis that Paris accounts for 5 to 6 percent of luxury sales and could see revenues fall 30 percent year-over-year in the quarter.
That would leave worldwide demand for luxury goods flat “or even slightly down,” the analyst noted.
Air France estimated the attacks cost it around 50 million euros, or $53.7 million at average exchange for the period, in lost revenues in November. Deschamps said no major cancellations were recorded for the holiday period, but flight bookings are stagnating, and overall attendance is expected to fall by 15 to 20 percent in December, and another 12 to 15 percent in the first quarter.
The city’s hotel occupancy rate will fall by a further 5 percent in the first quarter, predicted Vanguelis Panayotis, director of development at MKG Hospitality, a research firm for the hotel and tourism industry. But with security at an all-time high, he said, overseas visitors will gradually return.
“People have an emotional relationship with France,” he noted. “If nothing further happens, from March onward, it will be business as usual.”
Deschamps at the Convention and Visitors Bureau was confident the French capital would recover in time: “The Eiffel Tower is still standing. You are not going to erase the history of Paris by killing people.