Skip to Content

Will travelers cross France off their list after Paris attack?

French soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of the "Vigipirate" security planFrench soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of the "Vigipirate" security plan
French soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris Photograph by Gonzalo Fuentes — Reuters

Images of shootings, manhunts and hostage stand-offs in Paris this week replaced the usual picture postcard views of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine.

France’s tourism industry may be another victim. As is the case following almost all high-profile terrorist attacks, some would-be visitors may stay clear.

“There’s a lot at stake,” said Luke Bujarski, the director of research at Phocuswright, a firm that specializes in research about travel, tourism and hospitality.

France is a prime destination for U.S. travelers. The country accounted for 19.9% of all American trips to Europe in 2013, second only to the United Kingdom with 26.3%, according to a Commerce Department report.

Tourism generates around 7% of France’s gross domestic product, or nearly $200 billion in spending annually, based on data from the World Bank and the French foreign affairs and international development ministry.

More people visited France in 2013 – 84.7 million – than the United States, which had 69.8 million visitors, The Telegraph said.

How much of an impact there will be is unclear. The attacks – which included a dozen murdered at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine along with several hostages killed during raids that left the chief suspects and an ally dead – certainly tarnished the country’s image for safety. Travel agents and analysts expect that some people will cancel trips to France or check the country off their list this year.

Bujarski pointed out that ramped up security by the French government may make it more difficult for tourists to enjoy the country. High-profile locations such as museums are almost guaranteed to get extra police and tougher screening. The result may be more “congestion” and “inconvenience” that’s off-putting to those who visit France in the future, he said.

Laura Rodriguez, a director with American Society of Travel Agents, told Fortune that visitors to regions with a history of violence should take safety precautions and make use of the expertise of tour guides. She added that travelers should stay aware of their surroundings and buy travel insurance so they can be reimbursed if they have to cancel their trip because of dangerous events on the ground.

Rodriguez, who is also owner of Marina Tours and Travel in Phoenix, which specializes in tour group vacations to France, said she wouldn’t want to scare her customers.

“Things like this could happen in any part of the world,” she said. “And let us hope things don’t happen again.”

Mike McCormick, the executive director of the Global Business Travel Association, which represents the corporate travel industry, explained that businesses post-9/11 have had a “wake-up call” in terms of how protective they are of employees who travel abroad.

In 2013, business travelers spent $35 billion dollars on travel in France, marking three years of negative growth, according to a Global Business Travel Association report. But it said corporate travel spending was expected to start rising again, to $37 billion in 2014.

“My expectation is that largely it would be the same,” McCormick said about the attacks’ impact on business travel to Europe and France, specifically. “Leisure tends to be a little more reactive to situations, for sure.”

He continued: “But the other thing that I think that has happened is there’s a resilence and awareness that wasn’t there before. Ultimately, we are very aware now of happenings in every part of the world. I think there’s just much more of an understanding.”