France's Louvre Museum reopened on Monday after closing in March due to the coronavirus. But things are far from business as usual.
The world's most visited museum has implemented new measures, including a mask requirement and an online-only reservation system to protect art lovers from the virus.
One unintended consequence of these restrictions has been an experience devoid of the usual crowds of tourists, which normally reach up to 50,000 people a day.
Freddie Keen, visiting from London with some friends, told NPR it was easy to take his time seeing some of the Louvre's top attractions.
"It was definitely a much more comfortable experience seeing the Mona Lisa without having any peer pressure from hundreds of people staring at you and waiting for you to move on," Keen said.
Floor markers in the Salle des Etats, where the Mona Lisa is held, have been put in place to ensure guests adhere to a physical distance of at least 3 feet. Visitors must also follow a one-way path through the building. A third of the museum is still closed to the public.
The Louvre said it expected 7,000 people on the first day of reopening. International tourists made up around 70% of the 9.6 million visitors in 2019.
Museum Director Jean-Luc Martinez said he was hoping to attract more French tourists this summer because of the current travel restrictions.
"We are going to be at best 20 to 30% down on last summer," Martinez told Agence France-Presse, adding that the museum expects between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day.
During the four-month shutdown, the iconic art destination lost an equivalent of $45 million in ticket sales this year, the museum director was quoted as saying.
France's tourism industry could soon get a much-needed boost. Last week, the European Union lifted travel restrictions on visitors from more than a dozen countries considered low risk for spreading the coronavirus.
Because of the rising level of virus infections among Americans, the United States was not included on the list. The EU says it will continue to reexamine the situation every two weeks.
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