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The Riviera Times: August Hiking

Summer Counting on the French Riviera

Not yet back to school on the French Riviera It's September.

The French Riviera is chatting about the "rentrée scolaire", the back-to-school day. Kiddies, it's tomorrow, September 2nd.

And we're beginning to hear about the Côte d'Azur's "bilan touristique." How many visitors did the region count this summer? How are the hotels, campgrounds, restaurants and snacks of the French Riviera doing? After all, the PACA (Provence Azur) region counts about 150,000 jobs during the high season that are linked to tourism.

The tone? Mild disappointment. According to Jean-Marc Coppola and Comite Regional du Tourisme PACA, 2008 was not a block-buster summer for folks in the tourism industry. But it was reasonable.

Skeptics among you will say that this is the usual tone when summer draws to an end. OK. But still, a few trends emerged for 2008 tourism on the French Côte d'Azur. More commentary will come by the end of September:

  • Number of visitors is stable as compared to last year.
  • Visitors opted for shorter stays on tighter budgets.
  • Visitors focused on urban areas as well as the coast and beach, as opposed to the mountains or back-country. Anecdotally, we noticed few hikers in the back-country but that's not a trend. It's always been that way (and we're not complaining ;-).
  • Restaurants felt most of the impact of economic worries and wallet squeezing. Folks opted for salads, sandwiches and picnics on the beach rather than outings at restaurants.
  • On the other hand, five star exclusive hotels and palaces sprinkled around the Côte d'Azur (such as those on Cap d'Antibes, St Tropez) did very well with affluent clients. If you don't care about the number of trailing zeros on the bill for that sea-view suite that wraps around the cape, be sure to reserve early.

SunonseaIncidentally, Summer is not over. September makes for one of the best months to visit. It's still warm and, after the summer crowds, the sea feels like it's yours exclusively.

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