A Chinese tour group was attacked by robbers in a Paris hotel parking lot on Thursday last week. Four assailants sprayed tour group members with tear gas and stole nine shopping bags before fleeing from the scene. The perpetrators are still at large, and all 40 Chinese tour group members have made it back to China. However, the gruesome attack will have long-lasting effects on Chinese travel to Paris, France, and maybe even Europe as a whole.
The attack will have long-lasting effects on Chinese tourism
The highly publicized attack happened at the parking lot of the Kyriad Hotel in Fresnes where the tour group was staying, located across from France’s second-largest prison.
While the memories of the frightening attack are likely to linger with the victims for a long time, it seems inevitable that it will also have lingering effects on Chinese tourism. Unfortunately, it is also not the first high-profile attack on Chinese tourists in France, and therefore strengthens the narrative in China that France is an unsafe destination.
Even though some Chinese media outlets are running unconfirmed reports that the perpetrators made it off with shopping bags full of luxury products, one thing is for certain: the victims were part of a budget tour group. Consequentially, they were staying in a cheap, poorly-rated hotel far from the glamour of Paris proper. This is very much in line with the standard experience for many Chinese travelers who make their first journeys abroad. It is also remarkably different from the travel experience of China’s growing number of independent travelers.
As a result, the unfortunate incident in France last week is much more likely to have negative effects on group travel to Paris—which still represents a significant portion of Chinese travel to the country. In China, such robberies—particularly involving weapons—are highly uncommon, and no doubt dissuades some would-be Chinese tourists because of the perceived danger.
The incident will likely have a stronger negative effect on group tours
While pick pocketing and other petty theft may be common in destinations in Southeast Asia popular among Chinese travelers, it is chilling events such as tear gas robberies and terror attacks that tend to have a more detrimental impact on Chinese tourism. Unfortunately, France has been the subject of multiple such incidents in recent years.
Of course, Chinese media have been quick to react to the news of last week’s attack, and reinforce narratives France is unsafe and doesn’t care enough about the safety of Chinese visitors. Even online travel agencies (OTAs) have weighed in on the news, going on record as saying that the incident will have a negative impact on Chinese tourism to France.
“However, the security situation in some European countries is unlikely to improve in the near future and may even deteriorate as some countries, including France, are suffering from an economic slowdown, which generates social problems such as low employment and welfare cuts,” Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a statement to Global Times. Zhao also claimed that “the flow of migrants into France” is a big challenge to security in the country.
The security situation may even deteriorate further
Unfortunately for France, the Chinese embassy agrees with that assessment. According to the South China Morning Post, the embassy has issued a travel warning for France, calling the security situation “grim.” It is also pushing French police to solve the crime expediently.
In the end, the event means another setback in the Chinese tourism market for France. After beginning to recover from negative Chinese tourism growth following a range of high-profile terror attacks, France is now facing once another PR disaster on its hands.
Unfortunately, much like with terror attacks, there is no quick fix to reducing robberies and other crimes targeting Chinese travelers. With their appetite for luxury shopping and tendency to carry a lot of cash increasingly known to the public, such racially-motivated attacks are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
In 2014, Paris experimented with hosting Chinese police officers at some of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city; an experiment later that was rolled out in Rome as well. While such initiatives may not help against parking lot robberies, it does send the signal to Chinese travelers and tour operators that France takes the issue of racially-motivated crimes against Chinese tourists seriously.