Paris pickpockets target tourists from China; Paris may be irrepressibly beautiful and intoxicatingly romantic, but it is still not heaven on earth

August 23, 2013 3:55 pm

Paris pickpockets target tourists from China

By Adam Thomson in Paris

For years, Paris has traded on its reputation as the City of Light and even as the city ofl’amour. But for a growing number of Chinese tourists, it is becoming the city of crime. Chinese visitors are descending on Paris in record numbers and their lavish spending on luxury brands has made them an irresistible target for thieves. Petty crime between January and the end of June in one of the world’s most-visited cities jumped 7.8 per cent compared with the same period in 2012 – but it was up by more than 24 per cent when it came to Chinese tourists. Jean-Francois Zhou, a tour operator based on the Champs-Elyseés, says that thieves see the hordes of Chinese as prime targets because they carry far more cash than visitors from other countries – in large part because of the significant fees involved in using their plastic cards abroad.They also load up on luxury goods, which are often much cheaper than at home and are highly prized by China’s burgeoning middle classes for their ability to reflect newly acquired wealth. “They’re not just buying one bag for themselves,” says Mr Zhou. “They’re buying in large numbers and for all their friends and relatives.” He says that Chinese tourists will usually spend between €2,000 and €3,000 on their holiday package but about three times that much on luxury goods during their stay.

The crime wave, which comes as the Chinese government has told its citizens to mind their manners while abroad amid fears a rude minority may tarnish its reputation, is a particular concern for Paris’s luxury goods companies. Faced with a tough environment in Europe, the companies have relied on sales to tourists, particularly to Chinese, to support the domestic market.

LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group by sales, said this week that it did not discuss security issues. But in May, the Comité Colbert, an 78-member association, including Hermès, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Céline, Givenchy and Guerlain, said that things were getting critical. “Paris is acquiring a reputation for absolute insecurity,” the Comité’s Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes said at the time.

Paris officials say that typical crimes consist of pickpocketing and bag-snatching, particularly around the city’s biggest tourist and shopping attractions – the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elyseés with its luxury stores and the bustling Printemps and Galeries Lafayette department stores.

Pick-pocketing became such a problem at the Louvre this year that staff went on strike in April to raise the alarm. Luxury companies’ attractive and distinctive gift bags, meanwhile, act as beacons for the city’s criminal element. “If the companies used plain white bags, it might help,” says Xavier Castaing of the Paris police prefecture. “But we can’t exactly ask them to do that.”

Some attacks are more violent. Mr Zhou says that one particularly dangerous area is a tunnel near the Stade de France, which coach drivers use to ferry some Chinese visitors back to their budget digs on the outskirts of town. “They stop the minibuses there, break the windows with hammers and steal the goods,” Mr Zhou says.

In response to the spike, local police this summer launched a 26-point plan to protect tourists from petty crime. The measures include an extra 200 officers walking the streets of Paris as well as beefed-up surveillance around hotels.

Authorities have even translated the latest edition of a security manual for tourists into Chinese and created tourist complaints centres, known as SAVE by their French acronym, in police stations.

Mr Castaing of the city’s police prefecture says that it is still too early to say how effective the measures have been. In the meantime, authorities are urging tourists to stay on their toes. The message? Paris may be irrepressibly beautiful and intoxicatingly romantic, but it is still not heaven on earth.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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