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UK tourists important but health is priority, says French travel boss

He was reacting to the French government’s decision to ban people living in the UK from visiting for non-essential reasons due to concerns over the Covid Indian variant

A tourist in Paris takes a picture

In a normal, pre-pandemic year, 13million British tourists come to France out of a total of around 91million. Pic: Andrey Yurlov / Shutterstock

New rules banning British tourists from entering France from Monday (May 31) will have a negative impact on France’s tourism sector, but health must be considered the priority, the head of a group representing 1,600 French tourism businesses has said.

“What I think is simple. Health is the priority, over the economy and over tourism,” Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Les Entreprises Du Voyage, told The Connexion.

“I cannot cast judgment on a decision that concerns health security. 

“The decision will have negative consequences on the French economy because the British tourism customer base is one of the biggest for France and the obligation to quarantine is not conducive to tourism.”

The French government announced this week that people travelling from the UK to France will only be able to come from Monday May 31 if they have an “essential” reason, and will then be required to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival.

Travel for leisure is not considered an essential reason, meaning British holidaymakers and those with second homes in France will be barred from entering.

France’s government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the decision was due to concerns over the spread of the Indian variant of Covid-19 in the UK. 

France: UK arrivals must quarantine and have essential reason to visit

Mr Mas said that the British tourist market is important for France.

He stated that in a normal, pre-pandemic year, 13 million British tourists come to France out of a total of around 91 million. He said this generates revenues of around €6 billion for the French tourism sector, out of a total of €57 billion. 

Despite this, he said that Les Entreprises Du Voyage were predicting this summer to be better than last summer due to travel within the EU.

“We are estimating that revenue from tourism this summer will be a little over 50% of what it was in the summer of 2019, which will be better than last year,” he said.

He said that the large majority of people in France will probably choose to stay in the country for their holidays this year, like last year, but there will be more heading to other EU countries.

“The competition between EU countries for tourism, notably the southern countries and the Mediterranean countries, is extremely strong. 

“And as things stand today, French holidaymakers can only really plan for holidays within the EU. The most popular will be the usual countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Greece.”

He said it was important for the EU to create a framework of consistent rules for travel within the Bloc, which it is attempting to do through its Covid-19 travel pass.

The final agreement on the EU passes is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the European Parliament scheduled for June 7-10. The European Commission is aiming to have the passes in place by July 1.

They will help facilitate travel by allowing people to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccination, proof of a recent negative PCR test or proof of Covid-19 immunity to any travel authority within the EU. 

As part of the plan, countries will be obliged to offer PCR tests cheaply and also to not introduce any additional restrictions – such as quarantines on arrival – to tourists who remain in the EU. 

Mr Mas remains hopeful France’s tourism sector will bounce back from what he described as the “enormous impact of the pandemic”.

“The tourism sector has been supported heavily by the government. The return of activity will be complicated but I am hopeful it will work out.”

Read more:

PCR tests to be free for tourists visiting France this summer

Vaccinated non-EU tourists should be able to visit, say EU ambassadors

Digital minister outlines France’s health pass for travel and events

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