Beijing tourists to France drop 70 percent, ambassador says


BEIJING – The number of Chinese tourists from Beijing to France has fallen by 70 percent in recent weeks, the French ambassador here has said, following attacks on the Olympic torch in Paris.

“The number of visas issued to Chinese tourists has fallen by about two-thirds recently,” French Ambassador Herve Ladsous told Chinese journalists.

The French embassy in Beijing has so far issued only 300-400 tourist visas to Chinese travellers per week in June, down from about 2,000 per week during the same month last year, Ladsous said, according to a transcript of his comments obtained by AFP.

The weekly number of visas issued by the Beijing embassy in the first half of June was also down about 70 percent compared to the first two weeks of April, he said.

Ladsous said the number of tourist visas issued at France’s consulates in China had not seen a similarly significant drop compared to last year.

According to a recent survey cited by the China Daily, many Chinese have developed negative feelings toward France after the Paris leg of the international Beijing Olympic torch relay was thrown into chaos by pro-Tibet protesters in April.

The relay was also dogged around the world by protests against China’s control of the Himalayan region and an ongoing crackdown in Tibet following deadly riots in Lhasa in March.

But the Chinese backlash against France has been particularly strong, with a popular boycott of some of its enterprises in China — such as retail giant Carrefour — lasting several weeks in March and April.

Earlier this month, Paris urged the Chinese government to halt a perceived official boycott of tourist travel to France.

“I have spoken with Chinese tourism officials who told me the Chinese government has not issued any notices discouraging tourists from going to France,” Ladsous said.

Last year, France was the most popular European holiday destination for Chinese tourists, with around 700,000 flocking to the country.