Workers are prepping the Eiffel Tower in Paris. In March, response to the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the iconic landmark. After the longest closure since World War II, the tower is set to reopen this week—sort of.
As coronavirus restrictions ease in Europe, France’s tourism industry is opening back up. But the 1,063-foot-tall, wrought-iron lattice Eiffel Tower won’t immediately welcome visitors the way it did before the March lockdown.
France built the Eiffel Tower as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. It quickly became a globally recognized structure and is currently the most popular paid monument in the world.
But limited numbers of people will be admitted when the tower opens on Thursday, June 25. Elevators to the top will be out of service. “At first, only visits by the stairs will be available,” says tower spokesperson Victoria Klahr.
Only the first and second floors will be even be open to the public at all. Everyone over 11 years old will be required to wear face masks, and crowd control measures will be in place.
Tower officials hope access will be back to normal by August. In the meantime, Eiffel Tower hygiene consultant Alain Miralles says, “The day cleaning teams will be able to clean all the points of contact every two hours, from the opening of the site to its closing.”
Paris tourism levels have dropped by around 80% compared to the same month in previous years. But for those who don’t like crowds, travel experts say this could be a great time to visit the City of Light.
“To visit Paris now is quite exceptional, as we of course don’t have many visitors, and we don’t expect this summer to be at the same level as previous ones,” says Corinne Menegaux, the director of Paris’s businesses and tourism office.
France’s hotel owners are also eager to welcome visitors. However, they’re realistic about the challenges ahead—and the competition among European countries to regain tourists.
Serge Cachan, president of a hotel group, welcomed French president Emmanuel Macron’s decision to let Paris restaurants reopen earlier than planned.
Cachan says, “The message I would like to on-pass to the city of Paris is: Hurry and open up all of the tourist attractions and activities.”
(People stroll near the closed Eiffel Tower in Paris on Monday, May 25, 2020, as France gradually lifts its virus lockdown restrictions. AP Photo/Michel Euler)