Eiffel tower

The Eiffel Tower faces “another difficult year”, despite the recovery

The Eiffel Tower is preparing for “another difficult year” in 2022, says Jean-François Martins, president of its operating company Sete.

Despite a recent surge in visitor numbers, a lack of Asian tourists, expensive restoration work and police problems have hampered the Paris monument’s recovery, Martins said in an interview with AFP.

He said more money from public shareholders would be needed to recapitalize the tourist attraction.

Although tourism in France has almost reached pre-pandemic levels, thanks in large part to an increase in European and French visitors, there is an absence of “distant markets”, especially Asian ones, Martins said.

The Eiffel Tower, which has welcomed 1.6 million visitors since the start of the year, is aiming for 5.5 million admissions in 2022, which would represent 10% less than in 2019.

“It may sound overwhelmingly positive, but the 10% that’s missing is our margin,” Martins said, though he added that the deficit for 2021 was lower than expected thanks to “a strong year-end “.

Built in 1887, the tower is facing exorbitant costs for its 20th paint job in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games.

From an initial estimate of 50 million euros ($53.3 million), costs have now risen to 92 million euros ($98.2 million), after the discovery of toxic lead in the layers of previous painting.

Last week a major police operation was launched around the tower to crack down on pickpockets, unauthorized street vendors and performers.

“The problem is real, both for our visitors and for our collaborators,” Martins said, calling for a “permanent” police presence at the site.

Martins said these combined problems, particularly depressed visitor numbers, mean the tower needs more money.

After an initial financing of 60 million euros in 2021, “this new deficit situation will most likely require a new recapitalization” by the shareholders of the operator Sete (the City of Paris and the Greater Paris Metropolis), has-t -He specifies.

Martins continued that the “amount [of money] remains to be determined” and expressed hope for state aid.

A large number of Europeans and a “good presence of Americans”, who accounted for 60 and 17% respectively of all visitors to the monument, were behind the recent revival.

He also called the return of French visitors after the COVID-19 pandemic a “real novelty”. 15% of all visits to the tower in 2022 were from French citizens.

“School holidays and sunny weekends have confirmed the attractiveness of the tower on the French and nearby European market,” said Martins.

France has been the world’s leading tourist destination for more than 30 years.

In 2019, 90 million international tourists visited France, with tourism accounting for 8% of the country’s GDP.