(Nice) Chef at home, Selim M’nasri cooks for wealthy customers on the Côte d’Azur and used to treat wealthy Russian customers once a month. But since the war in Ukraine, it’s “radio silence”.

This 34-year-old chef who says he has “more than three tricks up his sleeve” nevertheless believes that you have to adapt to any type of client “because there is work”. He now cooks to feed top athletes and big fortunes who stay on the coast.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, France has lost some loyal and spendthrift tourists: Russians are missing on the Côte d’Azur and the Côte d’Azur has mobilized to attract visitors. other vacationers.

Second French destination for Russians after Paris, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region has lost 80% of this historic clientele with health restrictions, “who had lived in sumptuous villas since the 19th century”, notes the president. of the Regional Tourism Committee, François de Canson.

In numbers, Russians in the region ranked only 8th in 2019 behind the French and Europeans in particular, but their spending supported an entire ecosystem on the coast.

“In volume it’s not a huge amount,” explains Denis Zanon, general manager of the Nice metropolitan tourist office. “But there is a segment of this market who have a lot of money, who live on the coast and whose guests rented villas around, making work for luxury hoteliers, yacht charter companies, private caterers… “.

Léa Combelonge, also a chef at home during the COVID-19 epidemic, has also lost this Russian clientele, “generous, but complicated”, she says, like this “lady who asked one day at 5 p.m. for caviar for the having dinner… “

But for her, “there are rich people everywhere” and Russian customers have not been difficult to replace.

The Hotel de Paris, in Monaco, had no trouble renting out its two 1,000 square meter suites to equally high-priced guests, says general manager Ivan Artolli.

A new “high-contribution” clientele, coming from Qatar and the United States in particular, has allowed tourism to rebound since the reopening of the borders, explains Thomas de Pariente, Cannes tourism assistant. And “we still hear Russian spoken on the Croisette!” “.

The European Union has drawn up a blacklist of hundreds of Russian oligarchs and parliamentarians since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014, greatly lengthened since the war in Ukraine, but many ordinary Russian families residing in France have remained on the list. the side.

Tourism players (PACA region, professionals, etc.) have courted new clienteles, particularly Scandinavians or Canadians, by launching promotional campaigns “already well before the pandemic”, which have made it possible to “limit damage”, assures Renaud Muselier, regional president.

“After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine”, they “resumed these communication campaigns and made considerable efforts towards the United States”, says Mr. de Canson, who welcomes the opening of three daily direct flights from Nice -New York. A Nice-Montréal has also opened.

At the end of April 2022, reservations in the region were 21% higher than in 2019 at the same period, according to the CRT.

In Cannes, Romain Benichou, specialist in high-end villa rentals (Century 21), points out that “for July-August, there is no longer a villa available”. On the yachting side, “the Old Port and Port Canto are full […] We feel that the 2022 season will be good”, adds Fabrice Viard, at Liberty-Yachts.

Full card also on the side of the French, who returned to the coast in the summer of 2021.

The villas resold by the Russians since the war in Ukraine have been able to find buyers among the French, “who capitalized during the pandemic and whose safe haven was real estate”, notes Nicolas Dos Passos, of the Albert Immobilier agency at Cannes.

The French clientele may not yet occupy the palaces, but have answered the call from the south. The Côte d’Azur hopes to retain her beyond COVID-19.



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