Eiffel Tower reopens after nine-month closure for Covid

'Almost total absence' of British and American visitors to Paris attraction

The Eiffel Tower reopened to visitors on Friday after the famous structure endured its longest closure since the Second World War.

The lifts of the "Iron Lady" again whisked tourists to its 300-metre summit and its majestic views of the French capital as a marching band played.

The attraction closed nine months ago as another wave of Covid-19 swept the country.

"It's a gift to be here – we really love Paris," said Ila, who came from Hamburg, Germany, and waited more than two hours with her daughter Helena to be among the first to the top.

Jean-Francois Martins, head of the tower's operating company, said, "tourism is coming back to Paris".

"We can again share the happiness with visitors from around the world of this monument and Paris," he said.

Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, about half of the normal level, to respect social distancing.

And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements as Covid cases in France begin to climb.

"Obviously it's an additional operational complication but it's manageable," Mr Martins said.

Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.

Mr Martins said there was an "almost total absence" of British ticket holders, while only 15 per cent were Americans and few were from Asia.

Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.

The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.

It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh €60 million ($70.8m) cash injection to stay afloat, after revenue fell by 75 per cent to €25m in 2020.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.

Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to labourers.

Tests are ongoing and painting is set to resume in the autumn, meaning part of the tower is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.

Updated: July 16th 2021, 2:43 PM
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