Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, the head of the French business group MEDEF, said that hundreds of members have reported being attacked during the rioting, with 300 bank branches, 200 stores and 250 tobacco shops among those affected.
Speaking to Le Parisien, he said the cost of the damage already exceeds a billion euros, but the true damage will ultimately be much harder to measure as footage of the violence impacts France’s tourism industry.
Tourism makes up around 10 percent of France’s GDP, and tourist spending hit a record of 58 billion euros last year. This year, however, it could take a sharp downturn if the continued rioting keeps visitors away.
Paris Tourist Office Head Jean-Francois Rial reports that a lot of tourists have already changed their plans. He stated: "We've already had thousands of cancellations. At the start of July, I think we're already looking at 20 to 25 percent cancellations in Paris among international customers, and I wouldn't be surprised if the figures were the same for the whole of France."
Tourists have already been victims of the violence, with the Chinese Consulate General complaining to the government of France that a tour bus of its citizens came under attack in Marseilles. Some of those on the bus were injured as windows were smashed, and the footage of the incident went viral.
France is so concerned about the loss of tourists that its Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, has been making appearances on foreign media insisting that the rioting is not going to impact tourists. While countries like the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have been encouraging citizens to exercise great caution while traveling there, Le Maire is downplaying the threat.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph yesterday, he said: "All the major democracies today are faced with this kind of problem" and added that "our British friends should be happy to visit France and have no fear."
He is also trying to convince foreign investors that the riots will not have an effect on the economy, saying the violence “has no impact on the daily life of the 65 million French citizens and this will not have a deep impact on the French growth and the French economy."
Although specific numbers are still pending, more than 1,000 buildings have been damaged, burned or looted in the week of riots so far, including 254 police stations, several town halls, and 243 schools, dozens of which have been damaged significantly. It is believed that more than 5,800 vehicles have been burned, including not only private cars but also public transportation buses and trucks.
The rioting began in response to an incident on June 27 in which police shot a 17-year-old boy of Algerian descent during a traffic stop in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre. His death added fuel to tensions that have been brewing for many years about policing and racial profiling in some of the country’s lower-income suburbs, especially those made up of multiple ethnicities and migrants.
Last year, 13 people were killed in police traffic stops, and most of them were black or of Arab origin.
The officer who shot the young man has already been hit with a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide and placed in custody.
Most of the violence being seen right now is being carried out by minors, who are setting fires, looting, and throwing fireworks. In one high-profile incident, rioters fired rockets at the home of a mayor, injuring his children and wife in the process.
Sources for this article include: