France is the world’s most popular tourist destination, and the travel industry makes up 3.6 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the World Travel Tourism Council. Numbers like that make for high stakes as the holiday travel season approaches.
The impact of the attacks on travel plans are playing out now at the American company McCabe World Travel, where a lot of worried clients have been reaching out.
“We certainly have gotten a lot of calls from people who are planning to travel next month, who are debating changing their plans,” said travel adviser Beth Jenkins.
Some have canceled trips to Paris altogether. Attacks on Western countries generally don’t have big overall economic impact. But terrorism can hit tourism especially hard.
“That effect will probably be up to three to six months,” said Todd Sandler, a University of Texas at Dallas economics professor who studies the impact of terrorism.
It’s something the popular travel guide creator Rick Steves thinks about a lot. A post on his Facebook page urging people not to be afraid to visit Paris has drawn a big response.
“Fear is for people who don’t get out very much,” Steves said in an interview. “The flip side of fear is understanding and we gain understanding through travel.”
Those with the most to lose from a Paris tourism slump are small businesses there. Big global airlines and hotel chains saw their stock prices suffer in the wake of the attacks. But they at least can draw on revenue from other countries if visits to France suffer. A tiny Paris café can’t do the same.
“People’s livelihoods, people’s futures, people’s dreams are on the line,” Steves said. “There are huge ramifications for small mom and pop businesses. I’ve seen it in many places as I travel. People shake their heads and wonder, ‘why is nobody coming?’”
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