It was a lucky coincidence that Paris’ mayor, Anne Hidalgo, was promoting Disneyland Paris on Friday when Donald Trump took a jab at the French capital in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In all of France, there is probably no bigger symbol of American influence than the iconic theme park, apart from perhaps the hundreds of McDonald’s (aka “McDo”) restaurants that pepper the country.
During his CPAC speech, Donald characterized the city as “overrun by foreign terrorists,” going as far as to say that “Paris is no longer Paris.” Trump said that he borrowed these words from a friend of his who is a “very, very substantial guy.” He referred to this friend only by his first name, Jim. Although he says Jim previously visited the city at least once a year, he no longer finds it has the same charm.
“No matter the issue, Trump knows a guy” https://t.co/cIOonfB7Hy
Meet Jim, “a very, very substantial guy” who says Paris is no longer Paris pic.twitter.com/u2H7kiCbon
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 24, 2017
As it so happens, Anne was that very day at the Eiffel Tower working on a tourism campaign in conjunction with Disneyland Paris. With Mickey and Minnie Mouse at her side, Hidalgo found it the perfect time for a photo opportunity to let the American president know that both he and his “substantial friend” Jim were more than safe to visit the French capital. She even posted the message in English.
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) February 24, 2017
But Anne wasn’t done yet. Although Jim might not be walking through the gates of Disneyland anytime soon, Paris is still either the most or one of the most visited cities on the planet, occasionally coming in behind Bangkok or London in the rankings, but still significantly ahead of New York City. Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index estimated that at least 18 million people visited in 2016 alone, while NYC offered closer to 12.75 million, reported Conde Nast Traveler.
Hildago, having lived in Paris for much of her life, is, of course, well aware of the city’s reputation as a tourism capital. She was prepared with a statistic to bring Trump up to speed on where the city’s tourism industry stands among people from the president’s own country.
“In the first semester of 2017, American tourist reservations to Paris are up 30 percent from the same period last year. #DonaldandJim.”
— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) February 24, 2017
That comparison may strike some as odd considering tourism was down significantly during this semester in 2016. While Anne Hidalgo may have taken offense to Donald Trump’s comments, the city of Paris experienced a sharp drop in tourism last year following a spate of terrorist attacks. Around 1.5 million fewer people visited the city and its surrounding area in 2016 than in 2015, totaling a loss of around 1.3 billion euros in tourism revenue, reported the Independent.
Disneyland Paris, as well as the rest of Euro Disney, was also hit by the trend. The Walt Disney Company recently made the decision to buy the majority of the business’ stock from Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Tala in order to have more control in keeping it afloat. Attendance was down in 2015 when it was closed following the November attacks, as well as last year. The global entertainment brand plans to invest at least 1.5 million euros to improve the park ahead of its 25th anniversary next year, reported USA Today.
“The (Euro Disney group’s) financial condition has been significantly and negatively impacted by the November 2015 events in Paris and the challenging business conditions that continued through 2016 in France and throughout Europe. The comprehensive proposal announced by Disney affords maximum flexibility to shareholders, addresses the Group’s financial needs and reflects its ongoing support for the long-term success of Disneyland Paris.”
In the U.S., Disneyland may be facing its own drama over a drop in tourism that those in the industry are referring to as “the Trump slump.” Frommer’s published an editorial on Thursday that cast blame on the president and his immigration ban on several Muslim-majority countries. The article referred to the measures as “an attack on one group of tourists” that was, in turn, not being received well by others. The decline in foreign tourism to the U.S. is currently registered at about 6.8 percent by Travel Weekly, with the trend expected to nosedive further in light of an additional 17 percent decrease in searches for airline flights to the U.S.
“While, earlier in the year, the Administration had boasted of saving 800 jobs in the Carrier Corporation, the drop-off in employment resulting from the travel ban would eclipse that figure. According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.”
Anne Hidalgo might soon have to deal more closely with Donald Trump if far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen, who many have compared to the Republican president, emerges triumphant from elections that will take place in April. Although some analysts have questioned the affinity between the two politicians, Le Pen stopped by Trump Tower during a recent trip to New York — a move that many in both the French and American press believed to be a calculated act of symbolism. If she wins, perhaps Trump will stop by Disneyland Paris to return the favor.
[Featured Image by Richard Bord/Getty Images]