“Radio Silence”. On the Côte d’Azur, tourism without the Russians.

Home chef, Selim M’nasri cooks for wealthy clients on the Côte d’Azur and treated wealthy Russian clients once a month. But since the war in Ukraine it has been “radio silence”.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, France has lost a number of loyal and wasteful tourists: Russians are missing from the Côte d’Azur and the latter has been mobilized to attract visitors and other holidaymakers.

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This 34-year-old chef who says he has “more than three tricks up his sleeve” nevertheless feels he has to adapt to each type of customer “because there is work”. He now cooks to feed elite athletes and fortunes who remain on the coast.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, France has lost a number of loyal and wasteful tourists: Russians are missing from the Côte d’Azur and the latter has been mobilized to attract visitors and other holidaymakers.

Second French destination for Russians after Paris, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region has lost 80% of this historic clientele with health restrictions, “who have lived in lavish villas since the 19th century,” notes the president. of the Regional Tourism Committee, François de Canson.

In number, Russians in the region were only 8th behind the French and Europeans in particular in 2019, but their spending supported an entire coastal ecosystem.

“In volume it is not a huge amount,” explains Denis Zanon, general manager of the metropolitan tourist office of Nice. “But there is an edge of this market that has a lot of money, that lives on the coast and whose guests have rented villas in the area, who work for luxury hoteliers, yacht rental companies, private caterers. †

Léa Combelonge, also a chef at home during the Covid-19 epidemic, has also lost this Russian clientele, “generous but complicated,” she says, like this “lady who asked for caviar for dinner one day at 5 p.m. …»

But for her, “there are rich people everywhere” and Russian customers were not difficult to replace.

The Hotel de Paris, in Monaco, had no trouble renting out its two 1,000-square-meter suites to equally expensive clients, says general manager Ivan Artolli.

The French react

A new “high-contribution” clientele, coming from Qatar and the United States in particular, has enabled tourism since the reopening of the borders, explains Thomas de Pariente, Cannes tourism assistant. And “on the Croisette we still hear Russian!”.

The European Union has blacklisted hundreds of Russian oligarchs and parliamentarians since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, significantly extended since the war in Ukraine, but many ordinary Russian families living in France have remained on the list.

Tourism players (PACA region, professionals, etc.) have courted new customers, especially Scandinavian or Canadian, by launching promotional campaigns “long before the pandemic”, which have made it possible to “limit the break”. assures Renaud. , president of the region.

“After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine,” they “resumed these communication campaigns and made significant efforts towards the United States,” said Mr. De Canson, who welcomed the opening of three daily direct flights from Nice-New York. A Nice-Montréal has also opened.

At the end of April 2022, reservations in the region were 21% higher than in 2019 in the same period, according to the CRT.

In Cannes, Romain Benichou, specialist in high-end villa rental (21st century), points out that “no more villas are available before July-August”. As for the yachts, “the old port and the port Canto are full (…) We have a feeling that the 2022 season will be good”, adds Fabrice Viard of Liberty-Yachts.

Full card also on the side of the French, who returned to the coast in the summer of 2021.

The villas that have been resold by the Russians since the war in Ukraine have been able to find buyers among the French, “who capitalized during the pandemic and whose safe haven was real estate,” notes Nicolas Dos Passos of the Albert Immobilier agency in Cannes.

French clients are not yet allowed to occupy the palaces, but have heeded the call from the south. The Côte d’Azur hopes to keep it out of the Covid.

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