With Russians Gone, French Riviera Woos Other Big Spenders
Faizan Hashmi Published May 12, 2022 | 02:08 PM
Private chef Selim M'nasri used to cook for wealthy Russians on the French Riviera once a month, but he says it has been "radio silence" from them since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine
Nice, France, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 12th May, 2022 ) :Private chef Selim M'nasri used to cook for wealthy Russians on the French Riviera once a month, but he says it has been "radio silence" from them since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
The pandemic had already caused an 80 percent drop in the number of Russian tourists in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, according to the head of the local tourism committee, Francois de Canson.
After Paris, it is the second most popular French destination for Russian visitors. And it is a historic hotspot, too -- Russian visitors have stayed here in "sumptuous villas since the 19th century," de Canson added.
Russia may not account for the largest number of tourists, but in the past, they could be relied on to bring enormous wealth to the coast.
"It's not a huge volume," said Denis Zanon, general manager of the Nice metropolitan tourist office.
"But there is a fringe of this market with a lot of money, who live on the coast and whose guests rent villas nearby, bringing work to the luxury hoteliers, yacht rental companies, and private caterers," Zanon said.
French Riviera workers in these industries have noticed the change.
Lea Combelonge, who worked as a private chef during the pandemic, has lost her rich Russian customers, too.
They could be complicated clients -- sometimes making last-minute orders for caviar -- but they were also generous, she said.
It hasn't been difficult to make up the lost business though, she added, because "there are rich people everywhere".
"There's plenty of work," he said.
- Replacing Russian visitors - The European Union has blacklisted hundreds of Russian oligarchs and politicians since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding many more following the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
"You can still hear Russian spoken on the Croisette," he said, referring to the city's famous beachfront promenade.
The tourism sector had been courting new customers, including Scandinavian and Canadian visitors, even before the pandemic began.
Promotional campaigns have helped "limit the damage", said president of the region Renaud Muselier.
In Cannes, high-end rental specialist Romain Benichou said "not a single villa is available" for July-August.
"It feels like the 2022 season will be a good one," he said.