France pledges more aid for struggling tourism sector

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government on Tuesday pledged more aid to help the country’s struggling tourism sector cope after a wave of Islamist attacks, bringing to 10 million euros its contribution to a campaign to promote the country abroad.

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The sector represents between 7-8 percent of France’s gross domestic product and employs about 2 million people.

Last month, regional and business officials asked the government for a rescue plan for the sector, saying the attacks had cost the French capital about 750 million euros in lost revenue.

“Our message is that we are mobilized and that we do not resign ourselves. We will have an ambitious tourism promotion campaign,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a news conference.

Foreign tourists have shunned France since Islamic State gunmen killed 130 people in an attack in Paris last November. In July, a gunman drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on July 14 in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 86.

Ayrault said on Tuesday foreign tourist arrivals to France were down 8 percent on average compared with last year.

The government had so far announced it would provide 1.5 million euros to a public-private initiative unveiled in March to promote France as a tourist destination.

Ayrault announced the government’s contribution would be brought to 10 million euros after he met key tourism players, ranging from AccorHotels to department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and local government officials.

Revenue per available hotel room plunged 21.2 percent in Paris year-on-year for the July 1-Aug. 20 period, according to data from hotel research firm MKG Group. Overall revenue per room fell 9.4 percent on average in France during the period.

France is the most-visited country in the world, with almost 85 million foreigners last year. France is still targeting 100 million foreign tourists by 2020, Ayrault said.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Ingrid Melander