- Title: Parisian guide sees a dry summer for tourism and livelihood in peril
- Date: 6th July 2020
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (JULY 2, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF OWNER OF TOURISM AGENCY SACREBLEU PARIS, STEPHANIE BOUTET-FAJOL, LOOKING AT COMPUTER
- Embargoed: 20th July 2020 13:07
- Keywords: France coronavirus hotels profile summer season tour guide tourism
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA003CLOA7GN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CAN BE USED WITH EDIT 1162-HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/FRANCE-TOURISM-PROTEST WHICH CONTAINS IMAGES OF TOUR GUIDE PROTEST OUTSIDE LOUVRE
Paris' Marais district is a usual pit stop for Manuella Feuchot-Gazquez's city tours, its lesser known gardens, galleries and churches a delight for curious tourists in peak summer season.
But this year, Feuchot-Gazquez has not set foot on the neighbourhood for nearly four months, as the French capital's tourism industry has suffered a huge blow due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Feuchot-Gazquez, an independent tour guide since 2007, halted her professional activity in early March, a few days before the government announced on March 17 the start of what would be a strict eight-week lockdown that aimed to topple the virus' spread.
Now, the 37-year-old has found herself jobless, just like around 10,000 other tour guides with varying employment statuses around the country who all depend on the influx of foreigners, now severely lessened by closed borders and ongoing lockdowns in some nations.
Many of them joined a flash mob on Monday (July 6), raising Mona Lisa images outside the newly re-opened Louvre museum, on Monday (July 6) to call for more government aid and official recognition of their profession. Most say they have been "forgotten" throughout the crisis.
When France commenced softening lockdown rules on May 11, tour guides regained permission to resume tours.
But there were several problems, Feuchot-Gazquez said. Group sizes were severely limited, although the restrictions gradually eased.
Many cultural sites remain closed, and attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and Louvre museum, have just recently re-opened. And although Europe last week opened its borders to 15 countries outside the European Union, two of the biggest sources of tourist for Paris - the United States and China - remain absent from the list.
Nearly 18 million tourists visit Paris each year, according to the city's tourism office, with peak season between mid-March and September, Feuchot-Gazequez said, although arrivals will definitely be reduced this summer.
"I at least hope to work a bit in the winter," she said.
Tourism agencies are also hard hit by the crisis. The Sacrebleu Paris agency, which usually offers tours for 3,000 euros a head, has not earned a cent from tours since March. Instead, it had to deal with cancellations or postponements of bookings into the next year.
"It was really exceptional, and right now, we're trying to maintain our ties with our agents so that we're not forgotten," Sacrebleu Paris owner Stephanie Boutet-Fajol said.
Hotels, too, are impacted. Since its re-opening on July 1, the prestigious Hotel Fauchon has made available 54 suites with views over Paris. This year, they project total revenues of 3 million euros, far behind the initially expected 10 million euros before the crisis.
For the moment, the hotel's treasury is still holding, general manager Jerome Montanteme said, but he is wary.
"Today's market is relatively low, so we can at least carry our weight, but tomorrow, when all are colleagues will re-openâ€¦ how do we cut the cake?," he said.
Signs of "COVID certification" signs hung on the hotel room doors and the receptionist at the front desk wore a mask. Inside one of the rooms, Montanteme played a vinyl record of David Bowie, a seemingly comforting gesture.
"Any day now," Bowie's voice sang.
(Production: Noemie Olive, Emilie Delwarde, Ardee Napolitano)
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