As France's government moves to calm unrest over labour reforms ahead of the European soccer championship next month, hoteliers in Paris are already counting the damage done: they say visitor bookings could be half of what they were a year ago. Ivor Bennett reports.
It's fair to say that when it rains in Paris right now, it pours. Security was the main concern ahead of the summer push for tourists But a wave of strikes mean the upcoming European football championships may be more of a washout than a windfall. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER, SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "France's economy isn't dependent upon tourism but it is a vital part of their economy, particularly if people want to go and see Paris and those areas. And if you can't get the basics right, of having the confidence 'I can travel easily', then people will just say 'thanks, I'll go somewhere else'." Local hoteliers in Paris say bookings for June to August are down by up to 50 percent in some parts. And there's a fear it'll only get worse as protests against labour reforms continue. A strike on the high-speed rail network is expected to cut services by 40 percent. While pilots are busy planning their own. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRIME MINISTER, MANUEL VALLS, SAYING: "Blocking the country, stopping the French people from getting around, from living their normal lives, damaging France's reputation, threatening the economic revival which is undoubtedly taking hold is unacceptable. And that's why we're going to stand firm." But only, that is, on the core principle of giving companies more say on staff pay and conditions. Elsewhere, the government's making concessions. Hoping a pay rise for school teachers will help end the standoff. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO FOUNDER, SEVEN INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART, SAYING: "It's a bit like looking at the tide in the English Channel. it looks as though they're going to carry them forward, and then the politicians back down again. So do any of the politicians actually have the strength of character to see this through? Habit unfortunately shows they'll probably back off." If that's an own goal, then another would be if the government backed down after the tournament. Which starts in just 10 days' time.