French tourism trade hopes Brits will still come after Brexit
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Tourism operators in northern France are optimistic about the future after Brexit, despite being heavily dependent on British visitors, just a hop, skip and a jump over the Channel.
English visitors in particular are the biggest foreign tourist market on the coast ... accounting for nearly half of all tourists to the newly baptised Hauts-de-France region.
From some 20 million Brits who cross the Channel every year, nearly half a million English trippers stay at the coast’s hotels and campsites for an average of a week, according to the regional tourist authority.
Ferry loads arrive in Calais every quarter of an hour while the seaside resort of Le Touquet to the south has been a magnet for holidaying English for a century.
Tourism officials and hoteliers agree it is too early to measure any real impact from the result of the UK's EU referendum on hotels.
For this summer at least the British had already booked their holidays ahead of the Brexit vote.
Sinking pound hits spending power
But some are concerned that with slipping spending power and devaluation of the pound, British tourists will opt for cheaper holidays elsewhere.
“It’s such an unknown quantity still, what’s going to happen as far as the effect for tourism,” says Dan Sowden, a British restaurant owner at L’Hovercraft in Calais.
While the leading hospitality employers’ group, the UMIH, believes the British will continue to come to France but cut their hotel budgets.
“We already saw that in the 2008 financial crisis, so we could see a similar thing with Brexit,” says the organisation’s regional president Thierry Gregoire, who runs Le Caddy hotel in Le Touquet.
Not just hotels but shops too - the British represent 30-40 percent of their turnover.
They typically leave local wine shops laden with 50 to 60 bottles. Now they might be limited to as little as a dozen with possible changes to customs laws leading to hikes in import tax.
For their part, Brits seem determined that their exit from Europe will not lead to diminished spending or drinking power in France.
But the slump in the pound could tighten the holiday belt of even the most faithful of British travellers to the region, no matter how determined they are to weather the choppy seas.
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