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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

Travel agents yet to see big tourism impact from rioting in France


Several Toledo area travel agencies say the rioting in France has not yet had any real impact on their clients' travel plans - primarily because most people from the United States go there in the spring and summer months.

"We haven't received any calls from customers because we have none booked until the spring and summer of next year," said Polly Caumartin, vice president of Central Travel agency, 4540 Heatherdowns Blvd., which has nine branches in the Toledo area.

Gina Garwood, president of Atlas World Travel, 3139 North Republic Blvd., said she had received calls from a couple of business-class clients that are currently booked, but they haven't canceled their trips.

"The feedback we're getting is that Paris itself is not burning," Ms. Garwood said, "but if this continues and spreads to more parts of Paris, I can tell you that it will hurt tourism to France."

French officials are concerned about that possibility. After the United Kingdom, France is the second-most popular destination abroad for Americans.

More than 2.4 million Americans traveled to France last year, according to the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries. France is also the most popular tourist destination among all European countries.

Last week, vehicle fires that have primarily occurred in the poor northeastern suburbs and other areas of the country since rioting began Oct. 27 spread to Paris streets. The U.S. Embassy there warned American tourists not to take the RER train that connects the central tourist area of Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport because it had come under attack as it passed through some suburban areas where violence has occurred.

Most travel agents contacted agreed that the rioting will not hurt travel plans to France in the short-term because people generally have a "wait-and-see" attitude when it comes to making their vacation and travel arrangements.

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