PARIS — The decline in foreign visitors to France is accelerating, setting the stage for a morose “rentrée,” when the French return to work and school after their traditional August break.
Overnight stays by foreigners sank 8.7 percent in the second quarter, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, or INSEE.
The drop in occupancy was larger than the first quarter, when visitor stays dropped 2.7 percent, and “similar to that in Q4 2015, after the terrorist attacks of November,” the institute noted.
The country is still reeling from that and a July 14 massacre, when a truck plowed through thick crowds gathered on the seaside of Nice for Bastille Day festivities, leaving 83 people dead.
The so-called Islamic State took claim for the attack, carried out by a Tunisian man living in France. Three more people have since died in the hospital due to injuries, according to the BBC.
Paris has been particularly affected by the drop in foreigners, a fact reflected in weak results from a wide swath of European luxury players dependent on spending by tourists. The number of nights spent by foreign customers in the French capital fell 12.9 percent in the quarter compared to a drop of 3.5 percent for all of metropolitan France.
“Overnight stays in hotels increased only in provincial towns thanks to the Euro 2016 football championship which attracted French and foreign customers,” INSEE noted.
Overall, the room occupancy rate sank 1.6 points year-over-year to stand at 61.2 percent. The statistics agency also blamed a dearth of public holidays — two this year versus five in 2015 — and inclement weather for adversely affecting occupancy levels in April and May. The Euro 2016 goosed numbers in June.
Paris remained the number-one tourist destination in the world in 2015, with 16 million visitors.
According to the most recent Global Blue data, interpreted by Barclays, tax-free tourist spending in France dropped 24.3 percent in July, a steeper fall than June, at 17.6 percent. Tourism spending was weak almost everywhere, down 13 percent globally and 20 percent in Europe.