STORY: On a sunny afternoon, Eli Mwenda happily snapped pictures of his sister Rebekah Mithinji by the Eiffel Tower, two of many tourists enjoying a long overdue break in Paris after freezing holiday plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sisters Susie and Aga Chalecka also got to experience Paris after a two-year delay.
“We were supposed to come here for her eighteenth birthday,” said Susie. “Now I’m 20,” said Aga.
The Paris tourist office is forecasting that foreign visits will increase more than five-fold in May-July compared to the same period last year, mainly thanks to tourists from Spain, Germany, Britain and Italy.
That will, however, still be a third less than pre-pandemic levels, partly because U.S. and Asian tourists are not expected to be back in large numbers yet.
Hotel owners saw a sharp rise in bookings this Spring, with overall activity getting close to pre-pandemic levels in April, and even topping 2019 figures by 3.1% over Easter, according to marketing consulting company MKG Consulting.
"Every weekend is sold out. Every weekend," said Les Jardins du Faubourg hotel manager Jennifer Boccara.
"A lot of countries have totally changed their COVID travel policies, so it was really good for us."