The streets are always emptier in Paris in August. It’s when Parisians clear out of the city for their long French vacations.

But this year, certain neighborhoods popular with tourists are even emptier than usual.

“You almost feel like you’re in an episode of 'Walking Dead,'” said Emanuel Afonso, who sells hats, scarves and other accessories at a shop near Notre Dame.

While much of that is the normal eeriness of Paris in August, it’s widely believed that the series of terror attacks around France and neighboring European countries has scared away visitors. Even with the Euro 2016 soccer tournament that brought a lot of out-of-towners in July, Afonso estimates business at the hat shop has fallen 20 to 30 percent for the year.

For France, the world’s most popular tourist destination, the tourism sector made up more than 9 percent of GDP last year — even larger than its importance to the US economy.

Policemen on a boat patrol along the banks of River Seine in Paris.

Charles Platiau/Reuters

Hotel occupancy and visitor figures at museums and monuments have also declined this year.

There was still a line through the plaza outside Notre Dame cathedral on a recent afternoon.

Anne McMillan-Weall, while visiting the UK, said friends expressed concern about her trip.

“When I said we were coming into Paris, they said 'Oh you know make sure you look after yourself and be careful,'” she said. In her opinion, there are risks everywhere.

She had been struck by the level of security on her trip, beginning at Disneyland Paris (where revenues, by the way, were down 11 percent this spring compared to the same period last year).

“The Disney hotels now you have to be body-scanned, whereas at Christmas we didn’t. It’s only since Christmas,” she noted.

Across the street from Notre Dame, four soldiers in camouflage walk past several parked police cars. They’re just a fraction of the security forces patrolling sensitive public spaces.

Following specific threats, an artificial beach created by the city on the right bank of the Seine has become one of the most heavily policed spots in Paris. It’s on a sunken highway that runs along the river.

Police vans block each of the descending on-ramps. Blocking roadways like this has become a regular part of security since the truck attack in Nice. Past a fence, private security guards search visitors’ bags. Groups of soldiers and police patrol with large weapons. Some days, there are also police dinghies going by on the water.

Policemen patrol during the opening day of the Paris Plages beach festival along the banks of River Seine in Paris.

Charles Platiau/Reuters

“There are people who say all of this is creating anxiety and fear, but I find it reassuring,” said Eric Merour, director of the Peniche le Marcounet, a bar on a barge moored just past the end of the “beach.” His business has not suffered this summer and he reported a healthy mix of tourists and locals at his tables.

His view of the level of security as reassuring is common, though not universally shared.

Across the river, Elise Gosselin at the counter of her father’s souvenir shop expressed mix feelings.

“It’s very bizarre,” she said, “and it reinforces this underlying war-like atmosphere.”

“The more there’s a visible police presence,” she pointed out, “the more people have the impression that something’s going on.”

But in most of the city, the atmosphere is nothing like this. This was pointed out by Marie-Christine Forest, who works at another shop in the neighborhood.

“With the attacks, there were a lot of losses of young people, but they continue to go to the cafes, on the terraces, and I find that really courageous,” she said. Of the visitors still visiting Paris, she observed, “I would say ‘bravo tourists.’ In a way you’re showing that we need to continue to live. And that’s a good lesson.”

From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI