France: Eiffel Tower shuts doors for 4th day

France’s renowned Eiffel Tower remained off-limits for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as disgruntled employees prolonged their strike, citing grievances against the monument’s management. This marks the second shutdown within two months, with unions vehemently protesting what they claim is a glaring lack of investment in the iconic landmark.

The tower’s operator, Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), issued an advisory urging ticket holders to verify the latest updates on its website before planning a visit or consider postponing their trip. E-ticket holders were specifically instructed to scrutinize their emails for additional information, while SETE assured reimbursement for affected ticket holders.

Criticism has been directed at SETE by unions who accuse the company of crafting a business model reliant on an inflated estimate of future visitor numbers while neglecting to allocate adequate resources for repair and maintenance expenses. Union representatives convened with SETE management in the afternoon to address these concerns.

A key point of contention raised by the unions involves the leasing fee imposed by the city of Paris on the Eiffel Tower’s operator. They argue that the fee is exorbitant and undermines the financial stability required for essential maintenance work. The unions implored city hall to reconsider their financial demands, emphasizing the need to secure the survival of both the monument and the company overseeing its operations.

The financial strains on the Eiffel Tower became apparent as it recorded a deficit of approximately 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Despite a subsequent recapitalization of 60 million euros, unions assert that this sum is insufficient, particularly in light of the substantial maintenance tasks, including a much-needed fresh paint job.

The Eiffel Tower, a global symbol of France, experienced a sharp decline in visitor numbers during the Covid-19 pandemic due to closures and travel restrictions. While it saw a partial recovery with 5.9 million visitors in 2022 and 6.3 million last year, the ongoing strife between employees, management, and the city authorities raises concerns about the future of this iconic landmark.

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