Eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower visitor numbers climb to pre-Covid levels

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Paris (AFP)- The Eiffel Tower is seeing visitor numbers not seen since Covid-19 drove most tourists away and gouged a deep hole in its finances, the attraction’s operator said on Thursday.

A major paint job on the “Iron Lady” has resumed after a hiatus during the pandemic due to high lead levels, he said, in a bid to get the emblem looking its best in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

The Eiffel Tower had “a good month of October”, operator Sete told AFP, thanks to the return of tourists to Paris, a flagship destination.

It averaged more than 20,000 visitors a day in October, down from 13,000 during the summer when curbs limited the number of people allowed in the tower’s elevators.

The October weekend numbers were better than 2019, Sete said.

An important factor was the return of American tourists, who accounted for 10% of total visits, as well as tourists from neighboring European countries.

But the total number of visits this year is still expected to reach just 1.5 million, compared to 6.2 million in 2019, leaving the tower in serious financial difficulties.

Sete expects to post a loss of 75 million euros ($87 million) this year, adding to the 2020 loss of 52 million euros.

Sete arranged a recapitalization of almost 60 million euros by the city of Paris, its main shareholder, as well as a state-guaranteed loan of 25 million euros.

To make up for the shortfall, the operator asked for help elsewhere, notably from the French government. “Discussions are ongoing,” he added.

The Eiffel Tower closed from mid-March to late June last year during the first Covid lockdown, then again from late October 2020 to mid-July this year, its longest closure since World War II.