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Paris tourism to be hurt in near term, but not for long

Recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Egypt are a stark reminder that ISIS has a presence throughout the world and terrorist attacks can take place anywhere.

This reality weighs heavily on the minds of international travelers, but at the moment, many are continuing to book trips.

Korean tourists pose for a selfie outside the Louvre musem on Nov. 15, 2015 in Paris.
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Korean tourists pose for a selfie outside the Louvre musem on Nov. 15, 2015 in Paris.

"I expect people to be concerned about traveling now," said Damian McCabe, CEO of McCabe World Travel of McLean, Virginia. "However, we have not seen travelers actually change their plans. I was in business after 9/11. Americans, in particular, realize that travel is part of their nature and part of their right."

Although French President Francois Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, some airlines continued to operate flights to and from the French capital this past weekend.

"Less than 10 percent of passengers that were traveling to Paris on Saturday did not show up for their flights," said a spokesman from EasyJet. "But we don't expect a long-term impact. Things should be getting back to normal."

This may be true for EasyJet, Europe's second-largest low-cost carrier, which typically has an average of 41 daily flights to Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and 30 flights a day to Orly Airport. Yet, others in the tourism industry are less optimistic and believe it is unlikely that Paris will make a swift recovery.

"Since Sunday, there has been a 20-point drop in occupancy rates so far," said Vanguelis Panayotis, COO of MKG Group, a hospitality research firm headquartered in Paris. "People canceled their trips very quickly, especially international travelers who were coming to Paris for vacation."

Panayotis noted that it is difficult to estimate how long it will take for tourism to get back to where it was because the attacks on Friday were different than the attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo at the beginning of this year.

"Unlike Charlie Hebdo, there was no specific target in last Friday's attacks. France in general was the target," said Panayotis. "Paris will surely see a decline in tourists from countries like Japan who are very sensitive to security issues."

Other large-scale terrorist attacks in European capitals, like the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London subway bombings in 2005, had a limited impact on overall tourism in those countries.

"In the case of Madrid, arrivals to Spain recovered to pre-bombing levels within weeks, and in the case of London there was no notable impact on tourist arrivals to the UK at all," said the World Travel and Tourism Council in a statement.

The French tourism industry hopes to have a similar revival.

The third most popular city for tourism in the world, Paris welcomed about 16 million visitors this year who spent approximately $17 billion based on MasterCard research. According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism in France accounts for about 10 percent of the total GDP and provides around 9.5 percent of jobs throughout the country.

"The somewhat good news for tourism is that the upcoming months are considered the slow season for Paris," said Panayotis. "Also, there is a big conference in a few weeks where a lot of people will be arriving here."


France’s tourism is “resilient”

While it's "too soon to speculate" over the impact, France's tourism offices tell CNBC they remain confident that the country's tourism will weather this storm.

"The tourism industry is a resilient industry and it is expected that France and Paris will recover from this," Anne Pedersen, head of Public Relations at Atout France, France tourism development agency, told CNBC via email.

"Every year 2.1 million Brits visit Paris, with many more for the rest of France and 2015 is on course to have a good rise in overall visitor numbers year on year," Pedersen added.

Paris' Convention and Visitors Bureau echoed this, telling CNBC that "life continues in Paris; Parisians take metro and buses, go to cinema and restaurants." To help during this difficult time, the Bureau has been providing up-to-date information on Paris' key tourist spots and travel links to visitors.


Almost 50,000 people are expected to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. One of the largest international conferences, the conference, known as COP 21, is viewed as a pivotal meeting that could bring a global agreement on climate change.

"I am always surprised at how little the plans of people who do travel around the world are affected by events like this," said McCabe. "When Americans traveled after 9/11, it was incredible how the world embraced us and how life went on. Paris is still a good idea. At the holidays, it is beautiful."

CORRECTION: This version reflects two corrections: Visitors to Paris spent approximately $17 billion this year, which was incorrect in a report published by MasterCard, and an upcoming conference scheduled in that city is the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs contributed to this report.