Will coronavirus threaten France’s sacred summer holiday?

The Grand Plage, Biarritz – empty.
The Grand Plage, Biarritz – empty. AFP

The French will fondly tell you that while people in some countries live to work, in France they work to live. And the summer holiday is taken very seriously by some 37 million people. But this year, the coronavirus looks certain to cause disruptions during "les vacances".


This year, several companies in the vacation business in France are offering “Holidays for Heroes” in the form of vouchers or significant discounts for health workers, supermarket cashiers, cleaners and the other key workers who have proved so vital during the coronavirus crisis.  

The holiday industry in France is big business. Three-quarters of French holidaymakers usually choose to take their vacations in France. This year, amid coronavirus restrictions, they could be joined by the 9 million who usually go abroad.

That’s good news for a sector suffering from the loss of foreign tourists.

The government hopes to begin a gradual lifting of some lockdown restrictions in France on 11 May. It’s still unclear when bars and restaurants will reopen but hotels, camping sites and holiday destinations are keen to get back to business with safety restrictions in place.

How will they get there?

Air France will be prioritising internal flights and the company says it hopes to be at 30 percent of capacity by July.

Jean-Pierre Farandou, president of France’s national railway company, the SNCF, hopes that by the beginning of the summer there will be a full service of high speed TGV trains.

The company says It’s likely that all passengers will be required to wear masks and hand sanitiser will be widely available at stations and on trains.

As every year, the roads will be blocked with cars heading off for a well-deserved break.

Where will they go?

Jean-Pierre Mas, Président of Entreprises du voyage, which represents 1,600 businesses in the travel industry, reckons that French people will be especially keen to spend time in the country’s mountain regions or in the countryside this summer.

They will want to experience the great outdoors after being cooped up during lockdown but might prefer to stay away from busy beaches.

France’s Caribbean islands could prove popular too, he thinks.

Where will they stay?

There are 7,900 camping sites in France and camping holidays are likely to be one of the more popular holiday options.

Nicolas Dayot, president of an organisation representing camping site managers and professionals, says the sites will be adapted. Tents will be spaced out and hygiene facilities can be modified to allow distancing.

He hopes some will open as soon as lockdown is eased on 11 May but with fewer amenities. Swimming pools will re open later as well as restaurant facilities and entertainment.   

Hotels too are impatient to open with new arrangements in place to comply with anti-coronavirus regulations. Hoteliers envisage a system where rooms are kept vacant for a period between occupants, and with intensive new cleaning arrangements.

All surfaces including door knobs, remote controls etc will be disinfected after each client, Laurent Duc an official representing hotel industry professionals, told BFMTV. Meals, he said, would be delivered to clients’ rooms.


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