France's Yellow Vest protestors not scaring away visitors

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Yellow Vest protest
Yellow Vest protestors at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Dec. 1. Photo Credit: Guillaume Louyot Onickz Artworks/Shutterstock

France's Yellow Vest protests haven't had a discernible impact on the country's tourism, according to airline and search data.

The populist protests, in which working- and middle-class participants are taking aim at government policies that they say have benefited the wealthy, have brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets for mass demonstrations that began in mid-November. Protesters have blocked streets, set cars ablaze, fought with police and even briefly halted access to some airports.

Images of chaos in the streets, however, do not appearing to be dissuading travelers.

According to aviation analytics company OAG, scheduled airline seat capacity from France for the winter season is up by more than 10% year-over-year, a figure that OAG senior analyst John Grant called "remarkably strong."

Grant added that early indications are that the Yellow Vest movement won't hurt airlift this summer. "There is no sign of a slowdown," Grant wrote.

The picture seen by Hopper (an app that predicts when fares on specific itineraries will bottom out) is somewhat more complicated. A Hopper analysis of flight searches from early November through Jan. 5 shows that demand for flights to France from the U.S. rose 5% from the fall shoulder season. While that's an increase, it's much smaller than the 15% increase that Hopper says is typical.

Still, the volume of searches for flights from the U.S. to France was up 75% year over year from Nov. 1 through Jan. 5.

"Additionally, no clear correlation can be found between the timing or size of the protests and change in relative interest for the destination," Hopper chief data scientist Patrick Surry wrote. "This combined with the fact that Hopper has not seen a significant change in the number of bookings for such flights would suggest that France remains a very popular destination for Americans, despite the protest still currently underway."

The next day of Yellow Vest protests across France is scheduled for this Saturday, Jan. 12.

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