Paris pins its tourism hopes on Americans. . . and shopaholics

Poor Paris. The city was recently voted “most overrated in the world” and tourism is down by 11% (or more, according to some reports) compared with the first half of 2008. The number of British and Japanese visitors dropped nearly 25% each, while the number of tourists from China declined by over 17%.

Mon Dieu! What’s a city to do? Well, according to the AP, the director of the Paris Tourism Office is “counting on Americans” to make up for the drop in visitors from other countries. Because the United States was hit first by the economic crisis, it is expected to recover sooner, which means more American tourists may be looking to travel before others. And the plan for luring those tourists to Paris: the promise of extended shopping hours.

Most French stores are closed on Sunday, but a new law would allow more stores, particularly those in areas popular with tourists, to stay open. The Paris Tourism Office thinks this would encourage visitors to stay through the end of the weekend instead of leaving Sunday morning.

It’s an interesting idea, but somehow I don’t think shopping is the key to the city’s survival. I like to shop as much as the next girl, and I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, but what has stopped me wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t hit the stores on Sunday, so much as a desire to score a better deal on airfare. I can never seem to find Chicago to Paris flights that aren’t at least $200 more than any other European destination. Until that changes, sorry Paris, but you can’t count on this American to help with your tourism troubles.