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Official speeches and statements - August 12, 2021

Publié le August 12, 2021

1. Tourism - Health pass/COVID-19 - Interview given by Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State for Tourism, French Nationals Abroad and Francophonie, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to RTL (excerpts) (Paris - August 11, 2021)

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How is tourism doing mid-season, nationally? Are the hoteliers getting lots of bookings?

The Minister - Overall, summer is going well - even very well. Let me give you a few figures: in Occitanie, the number of overnight stays in July was 9% higher than in 2019, and 2019 was a record year; I could continue by quoting figures for the South region, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, where French overnight stays were up 17 points on those in 2019; the Americans are back - their numbers are up 326% compared to last summer in that region. Rodolphe Delord, at Beauval Zoo, told me they had 300,000 visitors in July, an absolutely record number.

So there are some very favourable indicators. Nevertheless, we mustn’t hide the fact that in certain areas, for example Paris, Ile-de-France, it’s still very complicated because international long-haul clientele, such as people from Asia, Russia etc., aren’t here and I don’t think they will be for several months. Here too, we’ve put a third of the euro36 billion of support for tourism into Ile-de-France, taking into account the particularly worsened situation, with business tourism not really picking up again yet.

But we’ve got the key to a successful summer and a successful off-season: vaccines. Once again I say get yourselves vaccinated, that’s what will enable us to continue the summer with activities completely safely from a health point of view, and therefore make summer a success for our professionals too.

We’ll come back to that. You were hoping for 50 million foreign tourists this summer; will we get there, are we there?

"The musicians get paid at the end of the ball", so we’ll see at the end of the year where we are because that figure is a target for the whole of 2021. We’ve seen people from nearby European countries in greater numbers than last year or even two years ago - which was, once again, a record year. We’re seeing more Belgians, more Dutch people. These are positive observations, because we’ve also been promoting France as a destination. Nevertheless, there’ll be some clientele - from Asia and Russia, as I said - who won’t be back for several months. On the other hand, the return of the Americans, and incidentally we’ve put in place...

The return of the Americans... Washington has just put France on the blacklist.

That was a few days ago, but since June - because eight weeks have already passed since June - I can tell you that we’ve seen them come back, and this has been really very significant for certain destinations, such as the Côte d’Azur.

Moreover, we’ve put in place a system so that these people, these Canadians, these Americans who’ve been vaccinated can themselves have their health pass because it’s no small matter when you come from far away and you’ve got to deal with this new system in France as well. So we’ve been equipped, as of Monday: we issue a QR code to those who’ve been vaccinated so that their journey can proceed normally.

There you go, a vaccine and not a test, do you agree?

Once they’ve been vaccinated, they’re given the QR code which serves as a health pass.

So, precisely, the health pass: has its implementation gone smoothly so far, in restaurants and bars in the middle of summer?

Well, I was on a visit two days ago in the Landes, in Vieux-Boucau, and I was able to meet restaurant owners. And they told me that things went very well, at any rate overall. It had only been a day [since its introduction], but obviously... In a word, they see that this is the key, once again, to saving the summer and staying open. Because remember, with incidence rates like we sometimes see in some departments, what range of measures were available to us to curb the epidemic a few months ago? We had administrative closures, curfews - those types of measures. So as a result, things are going well.

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Aren’t we reliving the scenario of last summer, only worse? The epidemic has already flared up again and it isn’t even mid-August. We feel like we’re reliving a nightmare, like we won’t see the end of it.

Well, the epidemic takes constant unexpected turns. The virus, as you’ve seen, mutates. Variants, diverse and varied since last summer (...), are emerging so we’ve got to tackle these mutating variants. What I mean is that compared to last summer, there’s a big difference...

We’ve got the vaccine.

We’ve got the vaccine, exactly. And look at the impact: vaccinated people are 12 times less likely to fall ill and end up in hospital.

Yes, except that when you look at what’s actually happening, the hospitals are starting to get overwhelmed.

But that’s why we take all the appropriate measures, once again, with medical evacuations where necessary and the activation of white plans[1]. But vaccines are crucial - they change the situation, all the same. And they’re precisely what allow us to continue having a completely safe summer health-wise. But clearly the summer rests in our hands. If we don’t maintain the barrier measures as well, things are bound to go wrong. Going beyond vaccines, it’s important also to put emphasis on prevention, barrier gestures, hand washing... being careful, that’s what it’s about. It’s these everyday gestures which will help us get through it together. (...)

[1] plans blancs are measures designed to allow hospitals immediately to mobilize extra resources in the event of a sudden rise in the number of COVID-19 patients.