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Coronavirus Takes Toll on Tourism in France

People walk by the Louvre Museum, in Paris, March 13, 2020.

For tourists visiting Paris, the coronavirus outbreak is narrowing their options more each day.

Museums have been asked to reduce their activities or simply shut their doors. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, for example, are closed to the public until further notice, and attractions like Disneyland Paris are closed until at least the end of March.

The situation worries business owners working in tourism.

Jean-Marc Banquet d’Orx, who heads a group of hotel industry leaders in the Paris area, told VOA that reservations were down 70 percent for foreign visitors since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hotels in Paris are experiencing a 30 percent decrease in revenues, he added.

Chinese and Italian tourists have deserted Paris in the past few weeks.

A masked worker wipes the pavement of the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, March 13, 2020.
A masked worker wipes the pavement of the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, March 13, 2020.

Officials say 2.2 million Chinese visitors spent $4.4 billion last year in France. Following word of the outbreak late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, though, China has restricted the movement of its people to contain the infection.

Some 835,000 Italians traveled to Paris in 2018. Italy is now on lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak, and the long-term impact on its neighbor remains unclear. More than 1,200 people in Italy have died from coronavirus infection.

American visitors are reducing their travel plans, too. Aude Deboaisne, a member of the French Guides Federation, said she has been out of work because of cancellations.

"For Chinese visitors, we have seen 100 percent cancellations since mid-February," she said. "None of them can travel. Italians cannot travel either. And now, since France also has become a cluster for the coronavirus outbreak, people do not dare come to visit France."

The economic effects are expected to be tremendous.

"At the end of the day, it will cost dozens of billions of euros. That's how much we can expect," said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, giving the clearest picture yet on how much the crisis would cost the government.

France had 3,661 confirmed cases of the virus and 79 deaths at last report.