France

Tourists urged not to cancel trips to Paris over ‘yellow vest’ violence fears

"It's important to remember that the protests are only happening in a small area of the city and during a limited time frame," General manager of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau Corinne Menegaux told The Local.

Menegaux's words come as many tourists are wondering whether now is the best time to visit the city after 'unprecedented violence' rocked the centre of the French capital last weekend and the French presidency has revealed it fears there will be 'major violence' this weekend as well at a time when the city's Christmas shopping season would normally be in full swing.

However Mengaux says that tourists have nothing to worry about.

"Everything, including museums, is open and functioning except the Arc de Triomphe," she said. "It's a big city — there are lots of arrondissements to visit that will be completely untouched by the protests and other things to see while easily being able to avoid what is going on in the centre."

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Photo: AFP

"If people are really worried, I would suggest steering clear of the 8th arrondissement," she said, referring to the area of the city where most of the violence occurred on Saturday and where the famous Arc de Triomphe monument became the epicentre of the clashes between protesters and police.

Nevertheless, Menegaux did warn that it was likely there would be closures on Saturday, advising tourists to stay up to date with the latest information to avoid disappointment.

Paris tourist chiefs announced on Thursday morning that the Petit Palais, the Musee d'Art Moderne, Musée Cernuschi, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Maisons Victor Hugo, the Catacombs, the crypt of the Musee Carnavalet, Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Another Paris – Le petit train bleu will be closed due to the protests.

Other shops, tourist sites and Metro stations around the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées could also close on Saturday.

🔴🇬🇧Because of a social protest demonstration expected this Saturday, the following museums & monuments will be exceptionally closed on 8 December: the Catacombs and the Crypt of the @museecarnavalet, Another Paris – Le petit train bleu and @madparisfr 2/2 pic.twitter.com/8UKkhC9kQM

— Paris je t'aime (@ParisJeTaime) December 6, 2018

Menegaux also said she wasn't concerned and that it was "too early to tell" what the effect on tourism in the capital would be.

"It has been a good year so far and it's a bit early to talk about what the effects [of the protests] will be," she said.

"So far, we haven't seen an unexpected dip in tourism, people are still booking.

"There is a lot of chaos in the world at the moment and I think people are used to it so it doesn't affect their holiday plans."

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Photo: AFP

However some representatives of the tourist industry in Paris have come out in recent days to voice their fears over the situation.

"The situation is catastrophic," Didier Chenet president of the national association of independent hotel and catering businesses previously told The Local.

"The cancellations are arriving in droves and at one of the most important times for tourism in Paris. It needs to stop."

The main thing to take into account is that tourists are not the target of protesters' anger. It is the government and those employed to keep law and order – the police.

Katherine Watt said: "Don't cancel! Just choose your venues carefully. I live in 18th and all is good!"

One reader named Chris who lives in Paris said: "For starters, nobody in Paris spends much time on the Champs-Élysées. Most dread going there. The problems were highly concentrated in a small area. Montmartre was far away & calm and plenty of other fun areas were fine. It's easy to avoid the problem areas."

However others pointed out that depending on what you want to see — and particularly if it's your first trip — you might want to cancel.

"My wife and I are heading there Wednesday but taking an early train back to Lyon on Saturday. For first timers, now is not the time to go – wait until early spring," said Jim Lockard.

For those tourists who are already in Paris, you can follow updates on closures, security announcements and the effects on transport at the Paris tourist information account @ParisJeTaime on Twitter.

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