Wealthy Americans are holding off on booking trips to Paris as the war in the Middle East and its wider repercussions dent demand for tourism.
Sales of premium class airfares for trips between New York and Paris jumped 44% in the three weeks prior to Oct. 7 compared to the same period in 2019, the last normal year before Covid-19 disrupted air travel patterns. That number slid to 4% in the three weeks that followed the attacks, according to ForwardKeys, a travel analytics firm.
“The numbers show that many wealthy Americans who can afford to fly premium and above have held off from booking trips between New York and Paris,” once the conflict broke out, says Juan Gomez, head of market intelligence at ForwardKeys. Premium class tickets refer to premium economy, business and first classes.
Since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel, France has raised its terror alert to the highest level, a decision highlighted by the US embassy, which urged its citizens to “remain vigilant of their surroundings” while traveling in the country and in particular to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place.
France also saw the fatal stabbing on Oct. 13 of a teacher which was described as an Islamist terror attack by President Emmanuel Macron. Airports and landmarks such as the Louvre and the Chateau de Versailles have also been evacuated following bomb alerts.
France is the most visited country in the world and its capital is a major shopping destination with some of the biggest flagship stores worldwide. Luxury giants LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE and Hermes International are headquartered in Paris.
“We know from tour operators and the high-end hospitality players that they’ve started seeing some cancellations in European capitals,” amid fears of terrorism, Bain partner Claudia d’Arpizio tells Bloomberg. D’Arpizio looks after luxury industry clients.
Indeed those cancellations are not limited to the French capital. Jack Ezon, founder of the luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, says his company has seen cancellations for 53% of its planned trips to Europe from the US over the next two months, including itineraries to Paris, London and Rome. Besides fears of antisemitic attacks, he says, “The top reasons that clients are canceling are Islamophobia, fear of getting stuck abroad if there is a war, feeling uncomfortable about being ‘put in danger’ with chaos everywhere, and the worry that many people abroad are not just anti-Jewish but also anti-American.”
In conversations at the World Travel Market convention in London in early November, Maria Elena Rossi, marketing director at the Italian National Tourism Board also tells Bloomberg the war in the Middle East had led to cancellations in Italy’s hospitality industry and has become a source of concern.
The observations are echoed by exclusive Parisian hotels such the Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice, which have seen cancellations from US customers since the attacks, a person familiar with the hotels’ bookings told Bloomberg this month. A representative for the Dorchester Collection, the group behind Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice declined to comment.
The luxury palace hotel Le Bristol also saw a “small wave of cancellations” which lasted for about ten days following Oct. 7, according to Catherine Hodoul-Baudry, who oversees sales and marketing. New reservations made up for these cancellations with the overall performance of October described as a “record,” she says. Americans are the hotel’s largest market source by nationality, representing around 35% of its clientele.