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France's tourism sector takes a hit from Yellow Vest violence

Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt, AFP | Employees clean up the entrance of the Cartier jewellery store marked with a graffiti reading "See you next week", on the Champs-Élysées, Paris, on March 17, 2019.

French business leaders are calling for urgent action following Saturday's violent Yellow Vest protests, with the country’s critical tourism sector sounding the alarm as the spring travel season starts.


Trails of smoke, smashed storefronts and ransacked shops are not the vision tourists expect on the Champs-Élysées, known as one of the world’s most beautiful avenues. But following a particularly destructive protest on Saturday in the French capital that occured during the Yellow Vest's "Act 18", businesses are concerned that violence will deter customers.

"There are clearly fewer customers, especially higher-end clients, people who come for the weekend. So I am hopingthat there will be a return to calm after this latesteruption of violence comes to an end," said Serge Cachan, owner of 17 hotels in Paris.

His hotel on the Champs-Élysées has lost nearly 20 percent of its turnover in December and January.

Fewer customers, less commission

Saturdays used to be a busy day for the Paris tourist bus industry, but not anymore.

"We're not full. Buses are empty," said one driver, Mahamout Mahamat."I'm worried about my pay. Because if there are fewer customers, I earn less. The more we sell, the more commission we get," he said, explaining that the Saturday protestshave resulted in 50 percent fewer customers.

The French finance ministry estimates that the impact of the Yellow Vest protests overall could slice 0.2 percent off France'seconomic growth.

The French government is under extra pressure following the latest Saturday protest, when the police appeared overrun as protesters swarmed the Champs-Élysées area, vandalising and later setting fire to Fouquet's brasserie – a favourite hangout of the rich and famous for the past century – as well as luxury handbag store Longchamp.

Clothing outlets Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Celio were also damaged as well as a bank, a chocolatier and several newsstands.

"Enough is enough. And this Saturday went too far!" raged Bernard Stalter, president of CMA France, a national network of trade and crafts associations.

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