Attack on Nice Is Latest Blow to French Tourism Industry Reeling in Wake of Terror Onslaught

For French tourism, the effect of terrorism is felt long after an attack.

— -- Henry Grishman was close to wrapping up his day when his phone began to make alert sounds.

It was a Friday afternoon in the middle of November, and Grishman -- the superintendent of the Jericho School District on Long Island, New York -- was looking forward to the weekend.

Over the next few hours, as breaking news updates repeatedly pinged his phone and the severity of the attack became clear, Grishman began a series of conversations with his staff about a planned trip for students.

The trip, scheduled for April, had been in the works for months and the 30 or so students who would be attending it were excited to take in the sights and sounds of the world’s most popular tourism destination -- Paris.

“After Paris, we pulled the plug at that point,” he told ABC News.

Grishman’s story isn’t unique. The series of attacks in France over the past two years have cast a shroud of anxiety over the tourism industry in France, with people across the world reconsidering trips.

In the week following the attacks in November, net reservations for air travel into Paris plummeted by 101 percent (factoring in cancellations), according to Helen Marano, senior vice president of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Over the following three months, the reaction softened, but net reservations remained down 22 percent.

Reservation levels hadn’t returned to normal until just a few weeks before last night’s attacks in Nice, Marano told ABC News.

It’s a similar story for the hotel industry in France.

According to STR, a data analytics provider for the hotel industry, in the month after the attacks in Paris, hotel occupancy was down nearly 20 percent compared to the year before. Occupancy rates remained down versus the previous year throughout the winter.

The effect on tourism hits France in a particularly important sector.

France is the world’s top tourist destination, welcoming 83 million international travelers each year, according to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Those visitors support 275,000 businesses and over 2 million jobs, the ministry says.

And, according Maron, these businesses and workers account for about 9 percent of France’s total GDP.

As would be expected, the travel and tourism sector takes a hit in the wake of attacks and other crises.

“I like to think of tourism globally as a zero-sum game, so destinations that are being attacked or are going through crisis, are likely to be short-term losers in overall demand where people will make a decision to travel to safe destinations in light of recent events,” Lori Pennington-Gray, the director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative at the University of Florida, told ABC News today.

To mitigate the effect that terrorism can have on tourism, she said local officials need to make a concerted effort in telling tourists that “this can happen anywhere, but we are prepared to be able to provide a safe trip for you, and these are the things we’re doing -- both ongoing and now that there has been an attack -- that show that we are here to keep you safe."

Still, for many tourists, the threat of terror has not deterred them taking trips -- quite the opposite.

“For me, they have had the opposite effect. I am motivated to visit more now,” Colin DeVaughan, a consultant in St. Louis, told ABC News in the hours after the attack. “It is a show of solidarity with one of our allies, it is a civilian's way of standing undaunted in the face of our enemies.”

“Naturally, I'm worried about terrorism -- but in the same way that I'm worried about a drunk driver when I get into my car,” he said.

Still, others remain wary.

Grishman, the school superintendent, said that he and his colleagues are still evaluating whether they will sponsor a trip for students in the spring.

“I’m perfectly comfortable making that decision for my family, but when I’m making a decision for 30 kids and five or six staff members, I have a different hat on and a different level of responsibility and would respond far more conservatively,” he said.