PARIS — Galeries Lafayette has opened a dedicated space for Chinese tour groups across from its main Paris flagship on Boulevard Haussmann, reflecting the French capital’s efforts to court foreign tourists after a year sharply affected by a series of terrorist attacks.
Nicolas Houzé, chief executive officer of Galeries Lafayette Group’s department store division, unveiled plans for the store in September after revealing the retailer’s sales fell 6 percent in the first half due to a sharp decline in foreign visitors, who account for roughly 50 percent of revenues at the Boulevard Haussmann store.
Designed by French architect Ora-Ïto, the 30,000-square-foot Shopping and Welcome Center carries leather goods, beauty, over-the-counter drugs and products, accessories, jewelry, eyewear, small gifts and gourmet foods in a “crisp and harmonious setting,” the retailer said in a statement.
“A key player in Parisian tourism — welcoming 35 million visitors year-round, among which half are from abroad — Galeries Lafayette Haussmann has designed a new store to meet the specific needs of these clients in search of efficient shopping experience matched with their high service standards,” it added.
The store offers bespoke services, including multilingual welcome services, a dedicated application, private rooms to host groups and swift tax refund automated services.
The Paris region alone welcomed 268,000 fewer visitors from China in 2016 than in 2015, a 21.5 percent decline, the Paris Regional Tourism Board has reported. The Paris region lost 1.5 million visitors overall in 2016, with an 8.8 percent drop in hotel stays by foreign guests.
The 46.2 Alliance — which includes 20 major companies impacted by the tourist sector, from hotel groups to luxury players such as Galeries Lafayette and Kering — made sweeping recommendations last month for bolstering France’s attractiveness and ease of access for Chinese visitors, calling for increased air travel, easier visas and a massive publicity campaign.
Galeries Lafayette faces a busy year: in addition to launching a five-year remodeling of its Paris flagship, it is set to start construction on its flagship on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, scheduled to open in September 2018.