PARIS: American couple Oscar Galeas and Stephany Novoa had to cut short their honeymoon in Europe because of COVID-19. This month they were back to try again, part of a trickle of tourists visiting Paris as the pandemic eases.
"We're finishing our honeymoon," said Novoa, on board a Paris tourist boat making its way last Friday along the river Seine past Notre Dame cathedral and the Eiffel Tower.
The flow of tourists to Paris, many of them from Asia and the United States, dried up almost completely last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and governments around the world imposed travel restrictions.
Now, with infection rates falling, France is gradually easing restrictions. A mandate requiring people to wear masks outdoors has been dropped, and a night-time curfew was rescinded.
That has brought some tourists back, though still in numbers well short of pre-pandemic levels.
Alain Thevenet is sales manager for Bateaux Parisiens, which operates tourist boats on the Seine, and he is betting on a strong bounce-back.
From July 1, the company will start operating its boats seven days a week.
"It's starting again, and that's already great," he said. "It's encouraging to see the good weather and that there are many tourists in Paris: Americans, Spanish, Germans."
Last year, Novoa and Galeas had been on the first leg of their honeymoon, in Amsterdam. They had a flight booked on March 14 for the second leg in Paris.
But on the day they were due to fly, the U.S. government declared COVID-19 a national emergency and imposed a ban on travel from Europe. The couple dropped the trip to Paris, and flew home.
"Now we came back," Novoa said on board the tourist boat.
"A year-and-a-half later," said her husband.
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Mike Collett-White)