Paris ramps up tourist security amid Chinese concerns

Fri Aug 2, 2013 4:34pm EDT
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By Natalie Huet

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Friday it would work harder to safeguard tourists in Paris after a spate of muggings of Asian visitors made such headlines in China that the Chinese embassy demanded action.

Interior and Tourism Ministers Manuel Valls and Sylvia Pinel said on a tour of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower that 200 police had been put on patrol to protect tourists and steps were being taken to help foreigners prevent and report crime.

France is the world's most-visited country and solid tourism revenues are a bright spot in its depressed economy.

But reports of pickpockets and muggers targeting Chinese tourists have soared of late, tarnishing the French capital's image as a favored destination for love-struck couples and high-end shoppers.

"Paris is a safe city. What we want to say today is: tourists and friends from all over the world, come to Paris, welcome to Paris, bienvenido a Paris!" Valls told journalists.

Petty crimes against Chinese nationals jumped 22 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, a Paris police official told Reuters. He said Asian tourists were targeted because they were known to carry a lot of cash on them.

Staff at the Louvre went on strike in April over a surge in pickpockets, shutting the world's most-visited museum for a day.

Security guards say Chinese tourists visiting France for the first time seem to get more easily distracted than more seasoned European tourists when gazing at works like the Mona Lisa.   Continued...

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (2ndL) and Junior Minister of Crafts, Business and Tourism Sylvia Pinel (C) speaks with French soldiers patrolling near the Eiffel Tower in Paris August 2, 2013 during a tour focused on security at the city's top tourist areas. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier