French gov't promises 18 bln euros in aid for pandemic-hit tourism sector
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Thursday announced a package of measures totalling 18 billion euros (US$19.44 billion) to rescue the tourism sector which was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Tourism is facing the worst test in modern history. Its rescue is a national priority," Philippe told a press conference following an inter-ministerial meeting.
"The French could leave for holiday in France in the months of July and August," said Philippe, adding that the free movement might be subjected to "very localized restrictions" in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic.
"The enterprises in tourism and hotel industry are committed to ensuring that they (the customers) are fully reimbursed if the evolution of the epidemic makes it impossible to go on vacation," he added.
For the whole package of measures, the State's commitment amounts to 18 billion euros, said Philippe. These include a 6.2-billion-euro plan of guaranteed loans granted to 50,000 companies in the sector.
The "solidarity fund," set up at the start of the pandemic for enterprises of almost all sectors to weather through the lockdown period, will remain open until the end of 2020 for tourism businesses. A wider exemption of social security contributions is also announced for employees and employers in the sector.
In addition, a post-crisis recovery plan was also envisioned, with an investment pledge totalling 7 billion euros.
"The government does not want to take the risk of leaving a sector, which represents 2 million jobs in France and 8 percent of our national wealth, stricken by the disaster," said the prime minister.
To mitigate the pandemic economic fallout, the French government has been mobilizing over 110 billion euros to help companies stay afloat through the virus outbreak, consisting, in large part, of partial unemployment scheme, state loan guarantees and tax and payroll charge deferrals.
Beyond the general support plan, the government had launched in March two specific measures to support the tourism sector: allowing tourism professionals to offer their customers the issuance of a credit note valid for 18 months, instead of reimbursement; and adapting registration, classification and labelling procedures during the health emergency period.