France's normally booming tourism industry has taken an abject beating during the Covid-19 pandemic. Credit: AFP/France24.

France’s devastated tourism sector received some good news this week, in the form of an €18 billion rescue from the government, Xinhua reported.

“Tourism is facing the worst test in modern history. Its rescue is a national priority,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a press conference, in announcing a US$19.44 billion package of measures.

“The French could leave for holiday in France in the months of July and August,” said Philippe, adding that the free movement might be subjected to “very localized restrictions” in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic.

“The enterprises in tourism and hotel industry are committed to ensuring that they (the customers) are fully reimbursed if the evolution of the epidemic makes it impossible to go on vacation,” he added.

For the whole package of measures, the State’s commitment amounts to €18 billion, said Philippe. These include a €6.2-billion plan of guaranteed loans granted to 50,000 companies in the sector, Xinhua reported.

The “solidarity fund,” set up at the start of the pandemic for enterprises of almost all sectors to weather through the lockdown period, will remain open until the end of 2020 for tourism businesses.

A wider exemption of social security contributions is also announced for employees and employers in the sector, Xinhua reported.

In addition, a post-crisis recovery plan was also envisioned, with an investment pledge totalling €7 billion.

“The government does not want to take the risk of leaving a sector, which represents two million jobs in France and 8 percent of our national wealth, stricken by the disaster,” said the prime minister.

To mitigate the pandemic economic fallout, the French government has been mobilizing over €110 billion to help companies stay afloat through the virus outbreak, consisting, in large part, of a partial unemployment scheme, state loan guarantees and tax and payroll charge deferrals, Xinhua reported.