SUNDAY opening for famous Paris shopping streets is vital to boost tourism, the government says.
Concluding a round-table discussion on tourism, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he wanted to see the city turn popular shopping hotspots like the Boulevard Haussmann – home to Printemps and Galeries Lafayette – into designated tourist zones, offering Sunday opening.
This has been possible since 2009, but councils must apply to set up a tourist zone and Paris has been reluctant to do it, even refusing applications by department stores to extend opening hours in 2010.
Mr Fabius said “tourist shopping” could bring in more visitors – and he wanted to aim for 100 million tourists a year, up from 83m in 2012. “I think we can fix a simple and motivating objective – to be the premier tourist country in the world.”
The government wished to see the big shopping zones reclassified after a consulatation exercise with the concerned parties, and he added that he also wanted to see similar changes for France’s largest railway stations.
“The logic is simple – a dissatisfied tourist is a tourist who doesn’t come back,” he said.
The move is likely to see stiff opposition and there have already been calls for strike action.
Members of inter-union body Clic-P – which was involved in a series of legal actions to stop Sunday and late-evening opening – told journalists that unions at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette were opposed to Sunday opening.
Clic-P said the plan would “destroy workers’ rights to a life outside work”.
Sunday opening has been a thorny topic for years, with France traditionally protecting the day of rest.
President Sarkozy relaxed the rules in 2009 so that designated tourist zones may permit Sunday opening, as well as certain other busy shopping areas in cities – but local authorities must apply to the prefect for permission to create such zones.
The law already allows sole traders to open all-day Sunday and supermarkets can open until 13.00 while a concession was made earlier this year to allow Sunday opening for DIY shops until July 2015, by which time the situation will be reviewed.
The government has previously said it plans an overhaul of the laws in the second half of this year.
Photo: Groupe Galeries Lafayette