By Georges Panayotis
Recent events – demonstrations, strikes, attacks – have shown us that the safety of our businesses and destinations is paramount. France had recovered from the dark years it experienced following the terrorist acts committed on its territory. Despite a month of November with a lacklustre end and an unfestive Christmas period, 2018 will be a very good year in terms of performance in the region. The Strasbourg event and the violent acts committed during the Yellow Vests demonstrations will not be able to reverse the positive trend.
The RevPAR in France grew by nearly +8% in the first 11 months of the year. This confirms the obvious fact that France is an attractive destination, as are many other European countries. Tourists – whether travelling for business or pleasure – are not about to stop travelling. However, make no mistake, if nothing is done to reassure them, they will choose other destinations.
It is therefore necessary to rethink the hotel product from the outset, keeping guest safety and security in mind at all times. Just like castles in the Middle Ages, hotels must become inviolable sanctuaries, where hospitality is king. Staff must be trained en masse to respond to this new situation and know how to deal with what is no longer so extraordinary. Intemperance in public streets at best, terrorist attacks at worst.
The French State has made considerable progress managing terrorist threats by carrying out constant surveillance. However, zero risk does not exist, as the tragedy of the Strasbourg Christmas market has shown us. This institution, which dates back to the Middle Ages in Alsace, attracts millions of visitors every year, and the security measures put in place did not prevent the massacre that took place there. It is imperative that we learn from these experiences to further enhance the safety of the French people and tourists. The fan zone system during the World Cup is a good example of effective measures taken to secure visitors. The redevelopment of the area around the Eiffel Tower is another.
There must be places in the world that are inviolable, where one feels safe and secure. It is incredible that the yellow vests are demonstrating on the Champs Elysées, one of the most famous avenues in the world, during the Christmas season.
Let us not be naive, fear does not avert danger, but a complete overhaul of our security measures, proper training for employees working in hotels and awareness of each citizen will enable us to continue working calmly, and not succumb to panic. Because nothing would be worse than to withdraw into oneself. That would prove them right, and put us in their ranks, and we all agree to say and write that this is out of the question. Our civilizations that live, celebrate, exchange and grow must preserve their identities and their openness to the world. The survival of our sector in the short and medium term depends on it, but also and above all on the survival of our values of freedom, equality, sharing and exchange, which enable us to progress a little further every day.
Let’s ensure that the worst is behind us and the best has yet to come. That’s what we all wish for.