Guests checking into Rosewood’s Hotel de Crillon this week were likely visiting Paris for all the city’s enduring attractions: food, romance, museums, fashion. But on Thursday evening, their $2,450-a-night rooms became the gateway to massive protests in the adjacent Place de la Concorde, with thousands of citizens speaking out against the government’s use of constitutional provisions to pass its retirement bill, which failed. Assemble a majority of representatives in the lower house of France’s parliament. Garbage collectors have been on strike since March 6, in response to reforms planned by President Emmanuel Macron. Garbage has piled up around Paris after garbage collectors protested the retirement age for their industry was raised from 57 to 59 years. The walkout is set to last at least until March 20, but could last longer.
Until this year, the last time protests on this scale hit the city was in late 2018 and early 2019, when the Yellow Vests clashed with government forces in French cities, sometimes violently. Tourism took a clear hit; Local transit and hotel companies such as Accor SA saw shares fall, and tourist sites such as the Louvre and Orsay museums closed for security.
So far, the protests in Paris have been dangerous for tourists. There is no indication that travelers should consider canceling their plans and the US State Advisory Standard remains at level 2 – almost the same as all popular tourist destinations in Europe or the Caribbean. However, there are some signs of rising tensions. Police used water cannons to disperse protesters on Place de la Concorde, across a bridge from France’s National Assembly, on Thursday.
The stakes are high. In 2022, France’s international tourism spending will reach €50 billion ($53.4 billion), surpassing pre-pandemic levels by €1.2 billion, and representing 10% of France’s GDP. France also remains on track to regain its pre-pandemic title as the world’s most visited country by 2025, according to global data. National carrier Air France is also boosting its services this summer to pre-pandemic levels due to an expected increase in demand and the return of Chinese passengers.
Difficulty getting around
But that doesn’t mean visitors will find Paris unaffected. Some of the city’s sidewalks are impassable, with garbage bags spilling rotting food and broken bottles littering the pavement.
Although France’s interior minister has promised to ask trash collectors to start digging up the backlog, there is no evidence that many of those neighborhoods affected by the strike have returned to work. Meanwhile, the influx of Americans and other international travelers on spring break has prompted visitors to spread pictures, posts and comments about the piles of trash around Paris.
How to plan ahead
Those piles could disappear quickly if collectors are, in fact, forced back to work. For residents and visitors, there’s not much to do about it – except maybe hold your nose. But there are some precautions that travelers can take to ensure that their trips are otherwise unaffected by political unrest.
In anticipation of potential transit strikes, which occurred between protests in 2018 and 2019, it may be wise to schedule airport transfers through your hotel. Not only will you prevent any unplanned changes to public transit service; The hotel will be responsible for guaranteeing your service or communicating clearly about any anticipated challenges should the taxi drivers suddenly join the trash collectors.
Before heading out on a romantic stroll through town, check in with the front desk or concierge; They know where and when the protests are planned, so you don’t walk into a demonstration unknowingly. Note that the next major day of strikes and protests is scheduled for March 23.
Gail Boisclair, founder of the furnished rental company Perfectly Paris, told his customers to avoid areas around the Republic and the Bastille on Saturday because of the demonstration, but the strikes come to the area. “Everybody knows the French strike, and if you come to France, you can get a strike,” she notes. “But it’s not always with our garbage.” Boisclair says she saw trash piled up around the 9th and 17th arrondissements.
Lindsey Tramuta, journalist and author of The New Parisienne, recommends visitors download the Citymapper app. “It’s good to use it to know if public transport is disrupted and which routes in particular, or in case of large demonstrations, if some stations will be closed for safety,” she told Bloomberg. For non-French speakers, she advises keeping an eye on English-language media such as France24 and Local France for up-to-date information on the strikes.
And while it may seem obvious, check social media of destinations like museums to make sure they’re open. You don’t want to travel into town only to find out that museum workers are also on strike. The Paris Tourism Office’s Twitter (@ParisJeTaime) is also a good resource on closures, as is local guide @paris_by_elodie.
But most importantly, tourists should be patient and spend extra time to roam around. Metro services, train schedules and even airport operations have all seen on-off disruptions during recent protests.
This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.