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AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu
An endangered sight?
DÉSOLÉ PAS DÉSOLÉ

The deputy mayor of Paris says tourist buses are “no longer welcome”

By Natasha Frost

There is probably no more efficient way to see the sights of Paris than from the top of a tourist bus.

All the big hitters—the Eiffel tower, the Louvre museum, Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, the Champs Elysées—one after another, like beads on a string. And all you have to do is sit, snap a few pictures, and possibly hop off (and back on again) to take a closer look at the Mona Lisa or park off in the Champs de Mars. It’s a dream, especially for those who are short on time or have limited mobility.

Dozens of these buses shuttle across the center of Paris every day. But for all they benefit travelers, locals find them a pain, clogging up traffic channels and roundabouts, and generally getting in the way.

If the Paris mayoralty has its say, however, these tour buses may not exist for much longer. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Parisien earlier this week, deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire revealed a plan to remove them from the city’s hotspots altogether.

“We no longer want tourist buses as they are now, wreaking total anarchy throughout Paris,” he said. “We’ll put in outer-city car parks, so that buses stop coming into Paris. They will no longer be welcome in the inner city.” Visitors could make do with public transport like everyone else, Grégoire added, suggesting that tour guides branch out into running cycle tours or leading walking groups with audio guides.

The initiative is part of a city-wide fight against overtourism, which has variously driven up rents, led workers at the Louvre to go on strike, and left tourists queueing for hours at a time to see the city’s sights. At the time of writing, it was impossible to get an afternoon ticket to visit the Eiffel tower at any point in the next three weeks; visitors are increasingly urged to book as much as three months in advance to make sure they are not disappointed. A handful of French elementary schools have been forced to close due to low enrollment in recent months, with parents citing Airbnb’s effect on property prices as the main cause.

The European Parliament last October suggested that overtourism had become enough of an issue for EU countries to warrant its own dedicated task force (pdf), as European cities feel increasing pressure to impose clamp-down measures on their visitors. Last year, Rome banned the practice of dressing up as historical figures and posing with tourists, and limited when tour buses could drive through the city center.