Eiffel Tower to reopen after longest closure since WWII

PARIS (AP) — Workers are preparing the Eiffel Tower for reopening next week, after the coronavirus pandemic led to the iconic Paris landmark’s longest closure since World War II.

France’s tourism industry is opening back up, but the 324-metre tall wrought-iron tower will not immediately welcome visitors the way it did before the country went into lockdown in March.

Only limited numbers of people will be allowed in when the Eiffel Tower opens again on June 25. Elevators to the top will be out of service, at least at first, and only the first and second floors will be accessible to the public.

“At first, only visits by the stairs will be available,” Victoria Klahr, the spokeswoman for the tower’s management, said on Tuesday.

Everyone over 11 years will be required to wear face masks, and crowd control measures will be in place.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

“We are optimistic that visitor numbers will pick up, even if it will likely be local tourists who visit the monument in the first weeks,” Klahr said.

The tower’s director told The Associated Press (AP) on Tuesday that he hopes access will be back to normal by August.

A stringent cleaning operation is in place and will continue daily from next week.

“There is a new protocol,” said Eiffel Tower Hygiene Consultant Alain Miralles. “The day cleaning teams will be able to clean all the points of contact every two hours, from the opening of the site to its closing,”

Tourists planning trips to the City of Light are advised to book tickets to visit the Eiffel Tower online once the ticket office reopens today.

Paris tourism officials have expressed muted optimism about the city’s reemergence as a travel destination. Since confinement measures were imposed in March, tourism levels have dropped by around 80 per cent compared to the same month in previous years, they said.

“To visit Paris now is quite exceptional, as we of course don’t have many visitors and we don’t expect this summer to be at the same level as previous ones,” Director of Paris’ businesses and tourism office Corinne Menegaux told AP.

Hotel owners are also keen to welcome visitors again, if realistic about the challenges ahead – and the competition among European countries to draw tourists back in the coronavirus era.

“Everyone in Europe is looking to draw the European clientele. The Italians want to bring in the French, the Germans want to attract the Danes,” said President of France’s Astotel Group Serge Cachan.

He pointed out the plexiglass protections in the reception area of one of his hotels and arrows to ensure social distancing. He welcomed the French President’s decision last Sunday to let Paris restaurants reopen earlier than planned. “Without restaurants, there is no conviviality, there is no tourism, there are no clients in hotels,” he said in an interview.

“The message I would like to on-pass to the city of Paris is: Hurry and open up all of the tourist attractions and activities.”