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France - Middle East

End of Ramadan saves France's tourist industry from wet summer blues

DR
3 min

The end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan looks set to have saved France’s tourist industry from a miserable year, thanks to rich Middle Eastern tourists descending on luxury hotels in Paris and on the Riviera.

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Economic crisis and unseasonal rain took their toll on the French tourist industry in July. After a healthy start to the month, hotels saw a five per cent drop in bookings later in the month, according to a study by the Protourisme company.

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But with the end of Ramadan on 19 August four-star and five-star hotels saw a new wave of arrivals, mostly from the Gulf states and other Middle Eastern countries, a new study by consultants MKG.

At the beginning of August Asian and American tourists started to arrive. Later in the month wealthy Muslims started checking into luxury hotels in the capital and on the Côte d’Azur.

In the swish Riviera resort of Cannes they saw bookings leap by 4.8 per cent and the average price of a room go up 22.1 per cent to 441.50 euros a night.

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Proprietors no doubt hope that guests will pay their bills, unlike Maha al-Sudani, the former wife of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef ben Abdel Aziz, who tried to sneak out of Paris's swanky Shangri-La hotel at the end of May.

Despite the crisis, Paris is expecting to see another record year, thanks to visitors from the Middle East, the US, the UK, Japan and China.

The city's tourist office predicts a rise of 1.5 per cent in tourists visiting the city. A record 15.6 million came in 2011, 8.4 million of them foreign.

The Château of Versailles is the area's most visited tourist site.

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French holiday-makers, however, cut back on the length of their holidays and the amount they spent, according to Protourisme.

Many complained about prices that were above their budget and the price of petrol and motorway tolls.

The government on Tuesday promised to invest 300 million euros to reduce the price of petrol by six cents, having dropped a promise to freeze it made during this year's election campaigns.

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