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French tour operators say Chinese boycott 'catastrophic'

June 1, 2008

AFP
May 30, 2008

PARIS (AFP) -- French tour operators fear a "catastrophic" plunge in
business after an order was apparently given to Chinese travel agents
to stop selling trips to the country.

France is the most popular European holiday destination for Chinese
tourists and some 700,000 flocked to the country last year, with
Paris, the Cote d'Azur and the Loire chateau region the most popular
destinations.

But many cancelled their trips after demonstrators disrupted the
Olympic flame's passage through Paris in April, and travel agents in
Beijing said they had now been advised to remove France from their
destinations from this week.

"It is a catastrophic year for Chinese tourism in France," Philippe
Yao, director of the China Comfort Travel agency in France, told AFP
on Thursday.

He said his agency had already had several cancellations following
the pro-Tibet demonstrations in Paris, and warned of "serious
economic consequences" for the sector.

Among those who cancelled was a group of 35 Chinese couples
travelling to celebrate their weddings in a French chateau.

"The advice to discourage Chinese tourists from visiting France
hasn't been officially confirmed, but it is being applied now by the
travel agencies," said Pierre Shi, director of the China Travel Service agency.

Anti-French actions broke out across China after the chaotic Paris
leg of the torch relay ahead of August's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hundreds of people protested outside branches of the French
supermarket chain Carrefour, prompting French President Nicolas
Sarkozy to send envoys to Beijing in an effort to defuse tensions.

French authorities are trying to confirm that "the Beijing tourism
administration apparently issued a recommendation" to travel agents
to stop selling trips to France, a diplomatic source told AFP on Thursday.

"Chinese tourists who have already received their visas and paid for
their trips won't cancel. The flow of visitors will likely drop in
the months to come," said Paul Roll, director of the Paris Tourism Office.

Maison de la France, the French tourism promotion agency, said its
office in Beijing was "trying, along with the French ambassador in
China, to clarify the situation."
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