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France tourist spending dips in wake of Paris terrorist attacks

The Paris terrorist attacks in mid-November had an immediate impact on tourism spending, and in the days following the attacks many visitors cancelled trips or redirected flights to other European destinations.

Visitors from the US, China, Spain and Italy generated the most reactions, according to travel bookings specialist ForwardKeys. Cancellations (and changes to issued bookings) recovered to normal levels within one week of the tragedy, but new bookings fell dramatically below the previous year’s figures, the company stated in a special report. Bookings for the Christmas period were down -13% in December vs just -2% in November comparing year-on-year (YoY) figures for the period, according to the company. International flight bookings to Paris fell -54% in the month following the attack, while hotel bookings remain subdued, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

According to Global Blue Tax Free Shopping (TFS) data, eight out of our top 10 globe shopper nationalities dropped into negative growth for TFS spending in France for December.

While Chinese and American spending on TFS remained in single-digit growth of +9% and +2% respectively for the month immediately following the attacks vs +13% each for November, globe shoppers from UAE (-6% in December vs +21% in November), Taiwan (-23% in December vs -5% in November), Hong Kong (-5% in December vs +9% in November), and Japan (-56% in December vs -48% in November) saw the greatest dips in sales compared with the previous month

Overall our data shows France TFS sales are down -13% in December and over both November and December, cumulative growth decline was -20% YoY.

The Paris attacks will cost the French economy some €2bn due to subdued tourism and reduced consumer spending, according to business website Quartz, which cites a French treasury analysis from November.

The negative impact of the attacks was highlighted by Markit, an economic research firm that produces a monthly purchasing managers index for France. Its November report showed that France’s economy slowed slightly to a reading of 51.3, indicating it is edging closer to stagnation. The Wall Street Journal commented on the Markit report that the events ‘certainly did not help the country’s already stuttering economy’, and would ‘impact its service sector hardest’.

Commentators on the global luxury goods market were quick to assess the impact of the attacks, with Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, calling it ‘a clear negative on what was already a difficult market for luxury goods’, according to a Bloomberg report.

However, France’s winter sales this January have provided a welcome boost to retailers there. YoY revenues rose up to 15% during the first few trading days of the six-week sale period, according to a Reuters report, which also said that the increased trading had led to a boost in consumer confidence. ‘The psychological impact of the attacks is fading and the warm winter weather led consumers to postpone purchases. We are rather optimistic for the rest of the year provided there are no other dramas,’ the head of the National Association of Shopping Centres, Jean-Michel Silberstein, told Reuters.


GB takeouts:

  • While the Paris terrorist attacks had an immediate impact on tourism spending in the days that followed, travel companies report visitor numbers have returned to normal.
  • The attacks had a negative impact on TFS sales progression by -20% over both November and December YoY.