PARIS: Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower shut visitors out for a third straight day Wednesday as staff extended a strike over the monument’s financing, unions told AFP.

The strike started Monday in protest over what unions say is insufficient investment in the monument.

The tower’s operator, SETE, has advised ticket holders to check its website before showing up, or to postpone their visit. E-ticket holders were asked to check their e-mails for further information.

Ticket holders will be reimbursed, the operator said.

The stoppage is the second strike at the Eiffel Tower within two months for the same reason.

Unions have criticised operator SETE for basing its business model on what they say is an inflated estimate of future visitor numbers, while under-estimating repair and maintenance costs.

They also want the city of Paris to stump up more funds to keep the landmark in good repair.

Visitor numbers at the Eiffel Tower -- one of the world’s best-known tourist sites -- dropped sharply during the Covid pandemic due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.

Three-quarters of the visitors are foreign.

Visitor numbers to Paris are expected to swell this summer as the French capital hosts the Olympic Games.

Unions have called on the city of Paris “to be reasonable with their financial demands to ensure the survival of the monument and the company operating it”.

Their main grievance is that city hall is charging the Eiffel Tower’s operator a leasing fee they say is too high, sapping funds for necessary maintenance work.

Unions have complained that city officials had refused to meet with them since the start of the strike.

“We have a feeling they’re not taking this seriously,“ Nada Bzioui, representative for the FO union, told AFP.

“We are determined,“ she said, adding that she “would be surprised” if the Tower was able to reopen Thursday.

The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid crisis in 2020 and 2021.

Its operator has since received a recapitalisation of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job. -AFP

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