Is this a sign of the return to “normal” life in the capital, once very popular with foreign tourist customers?
The buses of the company OpenTour Paris - a subsidiary of RATP and historical operator of the tourist routes market in the capital - will in any case reconnect this Thursday.
This restart will take place after 15 months of almost complete inactivity due to a pandemic.
"Since the first confinement in March 2020, we have resumed our circuits for a month and a half last summer, then for ten days on All Saints' Day ... before stopping again", recalls Benoit Barraud, CEO of OpenTour Paris, specifying that this “stop and go” regime was not linked to health prohibitions.
“We are subject to the same rules as those for public transport.
They did not set a maximum gauge for bus lines.
If we stopped our activities, it is because the clientele had quite simply disappeared ”, he underlines.
OpenTour Paris becomes Tootbus Paris
The tourist operator took advantage of this long interruption to change everything, or almost.
Starting with his name.
Forget the OpenTour Paris!
The RATP subsidiary responsible for showing tourists around Paris from its double-decker buses is now called Tootbus Paris.
This funny name which could lead to laughter (Toot in English means at the same time to honk, to whistle or… the onomatopoeia of “fart”) is the acronym of “The Original Open Tour”, the name of the tourist bus companies similar to that in Paris, which RATP already manages in London, Bath and Bristol, in the United Kingdom.
A “blue-white-red and green” fleet
Another change in the program: the complete renewal of the fleet of open-top buses (but recoverable in the event of rain), now made up exclusively of vehicles with low CO2 emissions.
The 35 old diesel buses from the OpenTour Paris have been put away and replaced by 15 buses that are cleaner and, for some, much quieter.
Nine are indeed equipped with an electric motor.
The other 6 run on biogas.
The tricolor decoration of the old vehicles has been retained for the new models.
But the Tootbus “brand” has broadened its color palette to become a “blue-white-red and green” company, as the messages in Frenglish displayed at the back of the new buses claim.
“We are the first company in this business sector in Paris to have a 100% diesel-free fleet,” says Benoit Barraud.
Circuits for children, at night, in unusual Paris ...
The last major strategic change made during the long period of inactivity: Tootbus, which, like all the other players in the sector, is seeking to adapt to the new tourist deal, will reopen with an expanded tour offer.
The great classics, and in particular the “Paris Discovery” package at 39 euros, which passes through all the major monuments of the hypercentre, remain of course on the program.
But Tootbus customers will now also be able to reserve their place for the “Kids tour” (45 euros for an adult and a child), for a night tour, for a tour of unusual Paris ...
The company's application has been completely redesigned, as have the audio guide comments, accessible from the boxes located on the buses but also now on smartphones.
The objective is obviously to attract new customers, national or even local, which could compensate for the drop in foreign tourist visits to be feared after the pandemic.
Benoit Barraud, CEO of Tootbus, relies on new tailor-made offers to attract new, more local customers.
LP / Benoit Hasse
Before the health crisis, OpenTour recorded an average of 700,000 customers per year, 75% of whom were foreign tourists, originally from North American countries and then from various European countries neighboring France.
If the company does not have statistics on the origin of its "national" customers, it considers that they were mainly provincial.
“We have created new tailor-made products to try to attract a more local clientele, more Ile-de-France,” insists Benoit Barraud, confident in the pace of the recovery.
Read alsoTourism: how Ile-de-France wants to emerge from a “nightmarish” year
The stakes are high.
With four operators in the running (the two “historic” companies OpenTour and Bigbus and the private companies City Sightseeing and Foxity, which arrived more recently), the tourist bus route sector in Paris is ultra-competitive and was developing, before the health crisis, in relative legal uncertainty.
All tourist bus companies restart
If the 4 companies have obtained an authorization from Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), only the two oldest benefit from a “line right” which authorizes them to have stops on the public highway.
The other two in theory do not have the right to make stops to pick up customers during their journey.
Whatever their status, all of these companies are starting up again. Bigbus (formerly the Cars Rouges) has already resumed its rotations since June 4, 2021. But only on Fridays and weekends and on only one of the two “routes” that it offered before the health crisis. Citysightseeing and Foxity are also in the restart phase. "But for now, only at the rate of a few turns per week," says one at the Foxity reservation center.