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France

Paris tourism hit by attacks, protests

File photo of people exploring Paris
File photo of people exploring Paris Getty Images/BSIP/UIG

French tourism officials said on Monday that Paris's lucrative tourism industry has suffered from the impact of last year's jihadist attacks and is facing a fresh challenge from the current wave of violent strikes and protests across the country. 

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According to Paris's tourist board, hotel bookings by Japanese visitors were down 56 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, while bookings by Russians were down by 35 per cent. Chinese tourists had been a major driver of growth last year -- reaching a new record of 1.2 million -- but their numbers had also dropped by 13.9 per cent.

"The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015," the tourism board said in a statement.

France is the world's most visited country.

In addition to last year's terror attacks, the country is also facing an outburst of social unrest over controversial labour reforms. Three months of student and union-led protests have descended into violent clashes between demonstrators and police around the country.

"The scenes of guerrilla-type action in the middle of Paris, beamed around the world, reinforce the feeling of fear and misunderstanding," the tourist board said.

Unions have threatened to disrupt transport for the millions of visitors to the Euro 2016 football championship which kicks off across France on 10 June.

Frederic Valletoux, head of the Paris tourist board called for an end to the blockades, saying, "It's the entire tourism and leisure network that is penalised. The challenge for employees is immense because 500,000 of them depend on the sector in the Paris region."

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