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What #NiceAttack will mean for world's top destination

Travel News

London - During the busy months of July and August, tourist arrivals swell along the Côte d'Azur, with Nice one of the main hubs on this glittering stretch of the Mediterranean coastline.

Britain is the city's biggest international tourist market, a legacy of the resort's popularity as a winter resort when the British aristocracy started wintering here in the late 18th century.

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A replica of Statue of Liberty in front of the sunset in Nice, southeast France.

The Promenade des Anglais, where both French nationals and foreign holidaymakers were celebrating Bastille Day when the attacker struck, was founded by British barrister Lewis Way, who donated funds for its construction in the 19th century; the city's authorities have since applied for it to be recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Inevitably, the Bastille Day atrocity, the third major attack in France in a year and a half, raises questions about the country's tourism industry - a vital part of the national economy, accounting for seven percent of GDP.

The nation remains the world's top destination for holidaymakers and the second most popular for British travellers after Spain. Of 84.5 million arrivals in 2015, just over 10 percent were British.

Previous attacks have had little impact on these figures. The question is, will the Nice attacks change things? While this year's statistics have yet to be announced, specialist travel companies sending British visitors to France are not reporting a significant decline this summer.

Brittany Ferries, which carries just over half a million Brits to and from five ports in northern France during the summer holidays, has received only one Twitter query about security arrangements at French ports since the attack and hasn't reported a drop-off in bookings since last summer.

Its head of communications, Nigel Wonnacott senses “a growing stoicism among the public as more of these ghastly attacks happen across Europe - and beyond. It could be anywhere, anytime and any one of us affected. An awful reality.”

The French tourist office reports that the summer forecast was looking good based on booking indications from its transport partners and tour operators, likely to have been boosted slightly by the Euro 2016 football tournament. However, a decline in future bookings might also be attributed to the devalued pound and fears of Brexit.

Eurostar, which operates a summer service to Marseille - around 200km east of Nice along the coast - hasn't implemented additional security measures since the Nice attack, but says that its staff are available to reassure customers about safety concerns at all times.

The Travel Association ABTA recommends that “all visitors read and follow the latest travel advice for France by talking to their travel agent or tour operator and following Foreign Office advice. As in the UK where the terrorism threat level is severe, travellers should remain alert and vigilant, especially in places where there is a high concentration of people, as advised by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).”

However, the tourist news industry website Tourism Review did report a decline in tourism to France after the Paris attacks last November, with overnight stays significantly down in the capital in the fourth quarter of last year.

While numbers along the coast, in rural and mountainous areas were barely affected, it's likely that there will be a slight decline since the latest attacks.

Frank Brehany, Consumer Director of holiday watchdog HolidayTravelWatch, says that research the firm conducted in January this year reported that 21 percent of 2 000 consumers said they would classify France as a “risk” destination.

And yet “despite this terrible event in Nice, the State of Emergency existed at the time of the recent Euros football competition, when many millions of fans criss-crossed around France. It would be an over-reaction at this time to suggest that travel to France should be abandoned.”

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