PARIS, JE T’AIME: Paris is striking back. A month after the terrorist attacks that sent the city into shock and sadness, French business giants have united for a global social media campaign to boost the attractiveness of the French capital.
Under the hashtag #ParisWeLoveYou, the city of Paris and roughly 60 French companies, including Galeries Lafayette, Kering, L’Oréal, Centre Georges Pompidou, Opéra de Paris and Air France, are inviting locals, domestic and international visitors as well as Paris fans to join the solidarity movement on parisweloveyou.fr, while connecting via their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Each participant’s profile picture will be added to a giant mosaic of images that will cover a colossal object expected to be placed in a symbolic location of Paris in early January.
Social media followers are also invited to post personal photos taken in the streets of Paris, in the city’s numerous bistros, parks, theaters and other memorable locations.
“We have all been traumatized by the attacks,” Philippe Houzé, executive chairman of Galeries Lafayette Group, told journalists in Paris on Tuesday. “And we wanted simply to say that Paris is still great. It’s still the most beautiful city in the world, it’s alive and it’s worth rediscovering.”
Houzé was keen to note that this was not a “promotional campaign” meant to boost traffic in his department store network, but a “solidarity campaign” with the city, whose image has suffered domestically as well as internationally.
The store’s latest numbers reflect the mood.
“We have lost among individual tourists, [especially from Japan]. The figures are pointing down 20 percent vis-à-vis the same period last year. Our French compatriots have also stayed away,” Houzé revealed. “But we have been able to keep the number of [Chinese] tourist groups stable,” he said, adding that the way to recovery was long and slow.
Frédéric Pierret, chief executive officer of Alliance 46.2, which represents major French companies operating along the tourism value chain, said the city was eager to avoid similar repercussions to those following the 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil, “which left the American economy suffering for many years.”
Meanwhile, France is planning to accommodate 100 million tourists by 2020.
“Our wish is to preserve Paris’ image,” said Pierret. “Paris will always be Paris. It’s the city we love.”
According to the Paris tourism and convention office, hotel bookings in the French capital were down 30 percent at the beginning of December.
“We have been somewhat saved by [the UN Climate Change Conference] COP21,” acknowledged Pierre Schapira, its chairman. “But it’s slowly going up again.”