French Official Tells Tourists to 'Treat Themselves' With Trip to France as Country Reopens

France is opening back up, much to the delight of businesses catering to the tourism industry, along with restaurants, cafes and gyms allowed to resume indoor service on Wednesday in the latest reopening steps.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France's tourism minister, told would-be travelers on Wednesday to "Treat yourself, reserve now." Americans and other tourists from most countries outside Europe must show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.

France is only accepting the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which means tourism from the lucrative markets of China and Russia, which use vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency, will not return immediately.

"We want to hear Dutch, German, English, Italian, Spanish being spoken everywhere in the country," Baptiste said. "We miss it. We miss you."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

ROck Climb
A climber takes part in the reopening of a climbing club in Paris early on June 9 as cases of COVID-19 fall and vaccinations rise. People in France will on June 9 be able to enjoy indoor dining and staying out until 11:00 p.m. for the first time in months under a new relaxation of COVID rules, as cases fall and vaccinations rise. ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

After "a very bad year," Paris tour operator Marc Vernhet sees a ray of light with the promised return of tourists from the United States and elsewhere who are welcome in France as of Wednesday if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

His agency, 2CVParisTour.com, is starting to get bookings again from Americans for its sightseeing tours conducted in quirky, bug-eyed Citroen cars. June is still very lean, but July is looking better, Vernhet said as France took the first steps toward rebuilding its position as a top destination for foreign tourists.

Before the pandemic, Vernhet ran three or four tours of the capital per day. The work dried up when France locked down, and he's only doing around three tours per week now, nearly exclusively for French visitors. Vernhet hailed the reopening of France's borders for vaccinated tourists as "excellent news" but said it is going to take a few more weeks for business to pick up and that "I'm not expecting to work correctly before mid-July."

"We've been waiting for this for months and months," he said.

Without one of the those four vaccines, most non-EU visitors will still need to prove they have a compelling reason to visit France and must quarantine on arrival.

But European visitors and those from a handful of low-risk countries are being welcomed back with open arms, even if they are not vaccinated. These so-called "green" countries include Japan, South Korea and Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Lebanon and Israel. All EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are also "green." Vaccinated tourists from these countries can waltz right in; the unvaccinated need a recent negative test.

Would-be tourists from so-called "orange" countries—which includes most of the rest of the world outside Europe, including the United States and Britain—still need a recent negative PCR or antigen test as well as proof of vaccination.

If unvaccinated, or inoculated with jabs not approved in Europe, would-be visitors from orange countries are not allowed to enter France unless they have a compelling professional or other reason. Sightseeing isn't one of them.

Fifteen months after he last took American tourists on one of his Paris walking tours, guide and blogger Richard Nahem now has two bookings for July.

"People definitely want to come back," said the former New Yorker, who's been living in the capital since 2005.

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People enjoy a meal in a restaurant during the nationwide reopening of the restaurants interior, in Lille, northern France on Wednesday. Michel Spingler/AP Photo