By Jonah Tuck:
On a typical Monday 20 years ago, Marie-Claude Bidegainberry’s jewelry and keepsake shop would have a steady stream of wealthy American customers.
Despite not having many domestic tourists, the area still did well largely due to the North American and Russian tourists, she said.
Now, Mondays are different. Bidegainberry’s store, Pyrdecor, remains relatively empty. People come and go, but it doesn’t have the same feel it did 20 years ago.
“May is usually my best month, but this year it was catastrophic,” Bidegainberry said. Although she doesn’t expect to have official numbers until the end of the year, she stated that the difference isn’t anything to scoff at. Bidegainberry suggested that Eze is now in an economic crisis.
Bidegainberry blames the decline on the terrorist attacks that took place in November of last year. She said that her regular American clients are avoiding Paris airports because of the attacks and as a result haven’t made it to Eze.
Jean-Paul Galli, who also owns a business in Eze that sells a variety of souvenirs with artistic qualities, agreed with her sentiment, saying that the way people see Paris is the way they see all of France. People are afraid of all of France because of the attacks last year, and that tourists’ unwillingness to go to Paris’ airport has affected his business, Galli said.“We have had 10-15 per cent fewer customers this year compared to last year.”
One of Galli’s employees, Nathalie Angely, said that this year is special. Despite the attacks, tourists have come because of the Euro Cup soccer tournament taking place in France. Even though they have lost business from Americans, Russians and Japanese, they have gained business from Turkish, Italian and Dutch tourists.
In a year that has involved a lot of economic decline for Eze, representatives from Métropole de Nice, informed businesses the road leading up to Eze Village, is being shut down from September 14th-18th for the European Championship of Cycling. The closure will stop buses from travelling to and from the village and force the businesses to lose profit.
“When they close the road, people will be here for the race, not business,” Galli said.
Patrick Le Tiec, the manager of the tourism board for Eze, said that the positive for the race is that it will give the area international coverage. “It will give people the chance to see how beautiful the area is,” he said. Currently, Eze, a city that gets approximately 1 million tourists each year, is down about 10 per cent from last year.
Judith Krief has worked at Mineral Travel, a business that sells jewelry and other product made from rocks and minerals in Eze, and said she has noticed a decline in business this year after the Paris attacks compared to years past.
“People are frightened,” Krief said. “In the winter there were much fewer tourists. We’re still recovering from it now.”
People are drawn to the atmosphere of Eze and its simple lifestyle and Krief believes that tourism will return to normal at some point, she said. “It’s just a question of time and confidence.”
Krief acknowledged that she has noticed a decline in American and Russian tourists this year, which she attributes to misinformation about safety in the media. Mineral Travel has maintained roughly the same amount of French customers.
Krief doesn’t believe there is much risk in travel to France, specifically the south of France, she said. “People are frightened. It’s all about your spirit. . . . Everyone has to open up to travel in France and not be closed off because of the events of last year.”