Those wearing burqa in public  now face a fine of ?150 ($214) Those wearing burqa in public now face a fine of ?150 ($214)

Gulf travel companies fear that Middle East tourists to France could see a sharp drop in numbers following the ban on burqas which went into force last month, according to a report in Al Aribiya News.

Those wearing a “niqab” or burqa in public - tourists included - now face a fine of €150 ($214) and could be ordered to take French citizenship classes.

France is the second-most popular destination for tourists from the Middle East, but the burqa ban has provoked a backlash from Muslim communities abroad.

“People from this region are particularly sensitive about their privacy,” said Mohsin Kidwai, manager for holidays at UAE-based Orient Travels. “They want to have fun when they travel and if they fear harassment somewhere they will change their destination.”

Upmarket hotels in Paris  rely heavily on business from the Gulf. In 2009, about 215,000 Middle Easterners visited Paris, and an estimated 11% of guests were from the region last year.

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“There is a lot of high-end tourism from the Gulf, so the economic impact will be huge,” said Chahid Bouamarane, a general manger at Saudi-based Al Tayyar Travel Group.