- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

Americans are still traveling to Paris despite 12 straight days of violence that has spread from the city’s northern suburbs to central Paris and other European cities.

Groups of young Parisians have been setting cars and buildings ablaze since Oct. 27, when two young teenagers were fatally shocked while trying to avoid an identity checkpoint set up by police.

Rioting began in the town of Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris. It has spread to central Paris and the French towns of Normandy and coastal regions near the Mediterranean Sea. Riots also have broken out in Belgium and Germany.

A growing list of countries have issued warnings to its citizens traveling to Paris: Australia, Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia and the Czech Republic have told travelers to avoid the riot areas, especially at night.

The U.S. State Department has not issued a travel advisory for Paris but plans to issue a public announcement warning tourists to avoid the riot areas and trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport into the city, said spokeswoman Laura Tischler. Trains pass through the riot areas and have been disrupted.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris issued a similar warning and advises travelers to take a bus or taxi into Paris.

Some media reports this weekend wrongly said a travel advisory had been issued. They referred to previously released standard safety information, the State Department said.

Americans are still traveling to Paris, though Europe is not a popular winter destination.

“We haven’t seen any lack of interest,” said Suzanne Jones, a travel agent at Friendly Travel in Alexandria.

“In the fall and winter, European destinations are not as eagerly sought. People are looking for warm weather alternatives,” she said.

Last year, 2.4 million Americans visited France, up 28 percent from 2003, according to the European Travel Commission. Tourism makes up 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and provides 2 million jobs.

“[The riots] can’t be good,” said Stuart Carroll, owner of Carroll Travel in Northeast. “It’s not going to help. People have choices of where they want to go.”

After the terrorist bombings in London in March, hotel occupancy levels there quickly bounced back to pre-attack levels, but hotel rates remained depressed for months, according to research from Smith Travel Research.

Paris hotels probably will cut rates if they believe hotel occupancy will fall because of the rioting.

“What hotels do is recognize the situation is pretty bad and say ‘how can we entice people to come here?’ We’ll cut the rate,” said Jan Freitag, a spokesman at Smith Travel Research, a hotel industry research firm in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Arcadia University, a study-abroad program in Glenside, Pa., has three American college students studying inParis now. All are staying with host families far from the riots, said spokeswoman Lori Bauer.

The students keep in daily contact with program directors in Paris and the United States.

“Even when nothing is happening, they’re in contact with in-country residence directors. Here, we’re looking at the [U.S.] State Department, CNN and the news to see what’s happening,” Ms. Bauer said.

So far, none of the students isconsidering leaving France, she said.

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