Posted on July 6, 2023

Riots Leave France With ‘250 Million Euro Bill’ as Economy Counts Cost of Unrest

Peter Allen, Evening Standard, July 4, 2023

France is facing up to a “quarter-of-a-billion euro bill” following a week of rioting that has seen its international image damaged and foreign tourists fleeing.

Hotel and restaurant bookings have collapsed, as people cancel their trips to the country.

It was exactly a week ago that the shooting dead of a French-Algerian teenager by a Paris policeman triggered consecutive nights of disturbances.

There were just 78 arrests overnight Monday to Tuesday, compared to thousands at the weekend, in a sign that the trouble was abating.

But tourism sector professionals joined politicians in warning that the clean-up would cost multi-millions.

Similar rioting in 2005 cost the country the equivalent of some £200m, while the Yellow Vests revolt that started in 2018 caused around £250m in damage.

A French economy ministry source estimated a similar figure for material damage alone this time round.

“Everything from travel infrastructure to shops have been ransacked or burnt out, and this will cost millions,” he said.

“Add the loss of tourism income, and the overall damage to France’s image, then quarter of a billion euros in losses is a conservative figure.”

At least a dozen major shopping centres, 200 household name retail chains, 250 bank branches and numerous fashion, sportswear and fast food retail chains were attacked, said the source.

Thierry Marx, head of France’s hoteliers and restaurateurs association, said: “Our hotel members have suffered a wave of cancellations of reservations in all the areas affected by the damage and clashes.”

Mr Marx said he received daily reports from colleagues who had suffered “attacks, looting and destruction of their businesses, including some restaurants and cafes.”

Jacques Creyssel, of France’s Retail Federation, said there had been attacks on multiple business, which were “vandalised, looted or burned”.

These incidents “are extremely serious and have an extremely heavy cost”, he said.

Lingerie giant Etam saw dozens of its stores ransacked, with director Laurent Milchior saying: “It’s a million euros in turnover that is lost for the first Saturday of sales.”

Jean-François Rial, president of the Paris Tourist Office, said there had already been “20 per cent to 25 per cent cancellations in Paris by international customers.”

Looking forward to events such as the Rugby World Cup, which opens in Paris in September, and the Olympics next year, Mr Rial said the effect was catastrophic.

“If it continues like this, it can significantly complicate the organisation of the Olympic Games,’ said Mr Rial.

Pointing to the deprived St Denis suburb of Paris – one that was particularly badly hit by the rioting, Mr Rial added: “This is especially since a good part of the [Olympic] events will take place in Seine-Saint-Denis.”

Countries including the UK and United States have already issued travel warnings for their citizens hoping to head to France.

The holiday season reaches its height this month and next, and the British foreign office said: “The places and times of the riots are unpredictable.”

Beyond the security concerns, curfews and travel bans have combined with the cancellations of pop concerts and other events that normally bring thousands to France.