[Fwd: NYTimes.com Article: Tourists Think Twice About Travel to Europe During War]
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Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Tourists Think Twice About Travel to
Europe During War
Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 09:39:58 -0500 (EST)
Tourists Think Twice About Travel to Europe During War
April 2, 2003
By JOHN TAGLIABUE
NICE, France, March 28 - Akim Djabri knows it is springtime
when the Americans come.
"In April, May, June, traditionally it's the Americans and
Canadians," he said, sipping coffee in the upstairs cafe of
his slender 28-room hotel near the center of this
This year, spring may be later than usual. Already, several
cancellations have arrived from the United States. One, he
said, began, "In view of the war . . ."
The situation of Mr. Djabri, 38, who sold his gas station
in Algeria seven years ago, brought his family to Nice and
bought the Hotel du Centre, is emblematic of European
tourism on the whole.
Last year was "magnifique," he said, with visitors to Nice
on the rise, even if they spent less in restaurants and on
souvenirs. Now, he said, all bets are off.
Dominique Bourdais of HVS International Hotel Consultants
said: "Travel had rebounded in the past year, and now it's
going to level down. The question with the war is, Will it
For Europe, with its stagnant economies and a need to
replace traditional manufacturing with services, tourism is
crucial. Yet wars frighten travelers. If the Iraq war ends
soon, which few now expect, American animosity toward
France and Germany, opponents of the war, may continue to
Economists at Oxford Economic Forecasting, a research
group, recently estimated that a prolonged war could cost
the European Union's 15 member countries as many as 260,000
jobs, and slice economic output by as much as 0.7 percent.
That could drive some regions into recession.
In France, the world's leading tourist destination, travel
and tourism account for more than $190 billion of business
directly and indirectly, or almost 12 percent of gross
domestic product, they estimated. In Italy, Spain and
Britain, the industry does not lag far behind.
Moreover, as global economies have slumped, the battle
among cities organizing trade fairs and conventions has
intensified. Business travelers who frequent them are
sought-after prizes, far outspending tourists.
In London, one foreign visitor in four now comes for
business, said Louise Wood of the London Convention Bureau,
yet these travelers generate a third of total tourist
revenue. In France, they are 10 percent of the total, yet
bring 35 percent of revenue. "It's definitely an industry
with the wind aft," said Emmanuel Dupart, of
France-Congrès, an industry association.
The Côte d'Azur, with Nice at its heart, provides an
example. A traditional beach resort area, the region now
lures trade fairs and conventions to fill hotels in the
off-season. Convention centers here and in Cannes, the site
of the annual film festival, are being expanded and
modernized; in nearby Monaco, a big new one, the Grimaldi
Forum, just opened.
"There are few cancellations," said Mr. Dupart, whose
organization represents 50 cities. "What we're seeing is a
wait-and-see attitude. Rather than canceling orders,
they're postponing them."
That is scant consolation for hoteliers and restaurateurs.
And recent weeks have resounded with a cry of pain from the
In Germany, the hotel federation announced that the
industry might have to cut as many as 10,000 jobs. In Rome,
Florence and Venice, ordinarily throbbing in springtime
with art lovers and business travelers, hotel bookings are
down by half so far this year compared with last year,
according to Federalberghi, the largest Italian hotel
In Paris, occupancy rates at luxury hotels dropped
significantly last month, the industry association said.
The posh Crillon, on the broad Place de la Concorde, was
deserted, a victim of the huge barricades erected to shield
the American Embassy nearby. Less expensive hotels were
down by 10 percent.
Officials in Paris attributed the drop mainly to the
absence of Americans, who accounted for 19 percent of all
foreign visitors to Paris last year - the largest foreign
contingent. The pain is deep, since Americans spend more -
an average 328 euros ($358) a trip, compared with 133 euros
by British tourists, and 78 euros for Germans. (Only the
Japanese, at 652 euros, spend more.)
Tour organizers are also hurting. In Germany, TUI, the
world leader, recently announced a $287 million
cost-cutting program for next year, and the possible loss
of 2,000 jobs, more than double the $122 million of cuts it
plans this year.
European airlines are suffering, though they are not nearly
so close to the edge as rivals in the United States like
American Airlines. Europe's biggest carriers, including
British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France, have all
announced capacity cuts. Swiss, the airline that arose last
year out of the ashes of Swissair, said recently that it
was unable to operate profitably and would cut investment
in new aircraft by 1 billion Swiss francs ($739,000).
Still, some experts say it is too early to say how lasting
or deep the pain will be.
Some business travelers must stay aloft, or risk crippling
"My only concern was, if something happened, I might have
difficulty getting back home," said Bruce Frigeri, an
executive from Parsippany, N.J., who visited a trade fair
in France recently. In September 2001, Mr. Frigeri was in
Toronto on business but left on Sept. 10; some associates
stayed and were stranded for days. "That was my worry," he
The war is battering hotel chains just as the busy
springtime sets in, "when they build up cash reserves after
a slower winter season," wrote Eun Jee Park of Moody's
Investors Service in a recent note to clients. Yet slower
hotel construction, which is expected to rise 1.5 percent
this year, down from almost 2 percent in 2002, would
assuage the pain, Moody's said.
Then, too, many travelers will not cancel vacations, but
simply go elsewhere. Travel agencies across Europe reported
shifts from Middle Eastern and North African trips to the
Caribbean and the United States, where, thanks to the weak
dollar, travel is cheap for Europeans. Spur-of-the-moment
services like lastminute.com, the British booking agency,
Francesco Frangialli, the secretary general of the World
Tourism Organization in Madrid, remains optimistic. Sept.
11, he wrote in a recent letter to member states, provoked
"the most serious crisis in the history of world tourism,"
yet the industry rebounded. In 2001, tourist arrivals fell
globally by 0.5 percent, he noted, yet they rose 3 percent
last year, to 715 million, despite a sour world economy.
Adjusting to crises accelerates shifts in consumer habits,
Mr. Frangialli wrote, and encourages the creation of new
operators, like low-cost airlines. "The need to travel,
whether for business or leisure, is too deeply ingrained in
our societies to be easily effaced," he said.
In the near term, of course, many European experts expect
fear of violence and a threat of terrorism to have an
impact. "When the whiff of cordite is in the air, the
Americans tend to stay home," said Steve Martin, of
Conference Advice and Management, a British company
specializing in business meetings.
Harder to gauge is just how lasting an effect American
anger at Germany and France will have on tourism.
Patrick Vece, the director of research at the Tourism
Observatory, a government agency in Nice, said visitors
from North America amounted to about 600,000 in 2001, and
slightly fewer last year, or about 7 percent of the total,
compared with 1 million each from Britain and Italy, the
largest foreign groups.
"We observed in the past a very particular pattern," Mr.
Vece said. "American tourism increased, then something
happens and it goes down, by, say, 50 percent, and you
In 1986, he noted, American visits collapsed after
terrorist attacks in France; in 1991, they declined after
the first gulf war.
"Now, again, we have to wait," he said. "We're just a
tourist destination. But business will be down."
Mr. Djabri agrees. "We'll have to see - some say they won't
come. They remain welcome. It's in your head. That's all."
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