Tourism in the time of Coronavirus
The swings at Château Plombis are waiting for this summer’s youngest guests… So what is the latest news from France?
We’re now well into phase 1 of Déconfinement, or the beginning of the end of lockdown. Things could seem almost back to normal judging by the amount of traffic on the roads – although this being rural South West France, we’re hardly talking M25 levels of traffic! Many people are obviously back at work and most of the shops are open again. There’s a great sense of freedom in going out in the car ‘en famille‘ or ‘à deux‘ without fear of being stopped by gendarmes to be asked where we are going, and why. In the green sector of the country (basically everywhere except the North East quarter of the hexagone, including Paris) it is now possible to visit markets, small museums, lakes, parks and gardens, which before the 11th of May were all off limits.
Schools have reopened
Kindergarten and Primary school-age children started school last Tuesday – you may have seen the picture of little children “social distancing” in a French school playground. Collège students (secondary school age) return to classes tomorrow, with lycée students (sixth form) expected to return at the beginning of June. At least if the parents wish, for it is not obligatory to send your child to school and in fact rules of social distancing rely on many children in a class not returning.
Out and about there are lots of people in the streets and shops wearing masks. Masks are not obligatory except in certain circumstances – school, public transport, hospitals, and some workplaces – but people are “strongly advised” to wear them, for the public good. Measures of social distancing and hygiene still apply everywhere in public though, of course.
Contamination numbers are staying encouragingly low, even during this first phase of new-found freedom, and tests are being rolled out across the country to identify new cases quickly so that they and their contacts can quarantine.
Second phase of déconfinement
Because of this positive news, on the 14th of May the Premier Ministre of France, Edouard Philippe, unveiled plans for the next stage of déconfinement, with a special emphasis this time on tourism. France is consistently ranked the most visited country in the world, with tourism accounting for just under 10% of the country’s GDP, so to have the whole of this sector of business currently out of action is quite concerning, as well as devastating for businesses concerned, despite government help.
Bars and restaurants to reopen
In order to address this and to get this sector of the economy rolling again, the Premier Ministre announced that bars and restaurants, in the green zone of the country at least, should be allowed to reopen from the 2nd of June, with a definitive decision to be made on the 25th of May .
French to holiday in France
The French have been told they will be able to go on holiday in July and August, but within France – not such a great hardship, especially since this includes the ‘Outre Mer‘ départements such as Martinique and Guadaloupe, presumably in a bid to kickstart the economy of these overseas regions of France.
As yet, tourism from outside France has not been adressed explicitly by the French government. However France has expressed commitment to Europe-wide measures to restart the industry, including a pledge not to discriminate by nationality in the opening up of European tourist destinations. What this really means will no doubt become clearer in time. In the meantime, like the swings, we are still here, and still waiting…