Editorial: Open the borders!

We’re fed up: After almost 2 months of confinement, the French need some air. You can see it just by looking at the few patches of grass on the Champ de Mars or the Esplanade des Invalides taken over by picnickers in need of a lawn.

Social distancing put to the test of deconfinement in ultra-dense areas like Paris

In the field of tourism, the situation is grim: air traffic figures, a good indicator of global tourism activity, are in free fall.

Admittedly, there are major differences by geographical plate, and, strangely enough, China is the one where the decrease is the smallest… But for the rest, more than 90% decrease in the Western countries. The fall is terrible and with it, that of the entire international tourism industry.

The fall has been terrible since mid-March 2020

Not to mention the barrier measures that will scare off most people who have not yet booked their holidays… Please do something!

Exhausted economies, France’s in first place

The world’s economies are in total meltdown following the COVID-19 outbreak. The IMF therefore expects world GDP to fall by 3% and that of the euro zone by 7.5%.

In France, the most optimistic estimates are for a decrease of 8% in 2020.

In a country where tourism represents nearly 7 points of GDP, the impact of the epidemic is colossal. To date, some sectors such as the hotel and restaurant industry or shows and museums are still at a standstill.

The hotel and restaurant industry, a sector at a complete standstill

But for how long? While the peak of the epidemic has been over for almost 45 days, bars and restaurants have still not reopened, and French people still have to fill in stupid certificates to get around!

Where are you going, sir? Are you within 100 km of your home?

The chances of the epidemic rebounding are very low in the short term, based on historical analysis of past epidemics, but also on observation of what happened in the initial outbreaks of COVID-19.

The whole sector needs a reopening of the borders, so that tourists, with a higher purchasing power, can again occupy restaurant rooms and terraces.

Our neighbours reopened their borders at the beginning of June, and that’s not all!

A fortiori, our neighbours have understood this… And for good reason!

Many European countries, such as France, are heavily dependent on tourism and, beyond that, on the economy that revolves around the tourism sector.

Also, the opening of borders has begun or is planned for May or early July in many of our European neighbours.

Italy will therefore be accessible to the French from the beginning of June, and Spain and Greece from July 1st, without restrictions (except for barrier gestures). And for good reason, these countries depend on the tourism sector for at least 10% formally, and up to 30 to 70% formally and informally for certain regions of these countries (Spanish coast, Sardinia, Sicily, Greek Islands).

Portugal has never closed, as have Sweden and the Netherlands. Germany and Switzerland will reopen their borders with France on 15 June.

However, in France, travel certificates are still required for any movement of more than 100km outside the home department… A nonsense when the circulation of the virus is so low.

Can we really deprive ourselves of EU tourists with high purchasing power for the whole summer season? I don’t think so.

Not everyone wants to and can go to France

I can already hear the wolves shouting: “Go to France, buy French, it’s a shame to want to go abroad for holidays when the French economy has suffered.

Or the eternal “You just have to go to France, there are so many beautiful regions to discover”.

Firstly, you should know that at TravelGuys, mainly me, I regularly go to discover the French regions. So be it. Very nice.

Secondly, and this is an opinion, the level of service in France is generally worse than in our neighbours, or elsewhere in the world.

  • In restaurants, although the quality of the food is good if you pay the price, the intermediate offer is often of very average quality, and the service not very attentive. It is often necessary to ask for help because there are not enough staff or enough engagement (trained, well paid) to do the job properly. There are exceptions of course, and a strong distortion between Paris and the province, but this is my objective view after visiting 54 countries around the world.
Louis de Funès already illustrated “French-style” service in Le Grand Restaurant
  • In hotels, overall, the size of the rooms, the services expected, the quality of the cleaning carried out are also less good than abroad. The same causes (numbers, engagement, training, pay) produce the same effects. And the absolutely insane property prices in some places do not encourage the expansion of rooms…
I can imagine the contortions of the photographer to succeed in taking the picture of this 11m2 room…
  • On tourist sites, disorganisation often reigns, and commercial pressure from street vendors is incessant in all the major tourist sites in France, which are certainly not large enough to accommodate the flow of tourists.
A certain commercial pressure, and security conditions to be perfected

Thirdly, the price of a holiday in France, for a service equivalent to that obtainable abroad, is often much higher.

Indeed, if you add up the cost of transport, catering and accommodation for a family of four, the bill is high. And so most French people going to France have to compromise their comfort, choosing camping or holiday rentals rather than a hotel… And therefore having to cook during their holidays as if they were at home… Is this really a choice for everyone?

Bottom line

Please open the borders! Allow foreigners, from EU or not, to discover our beautiful country! And allow French people who want to go abroad to do so! Don’t they need it, after 2 months of confinement and often more intense work than usual?

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.
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