Normandy's silent beaches on D-Day anniversary

Canadian-born Eric Leboeuf would usually spend the anniversary of the D-Day beach landings guiding North American tourists in a vintage military jeep to the sites where allied forces invaded France to drive out Nazi Germany in World War Two.

For the second year running however, the COVID-19 crisis will be keeping away the foreign visitors who drive the local economy along this 50-mile stretch of the northern French coast.

For many in the industry, it is the big-spending North American tourists who offer the biggest prize.

Leboeuf's company, the Gold Beach Company, has depended on government aid for its survival after tough COVID-19 border restrictions wiped out 80% of its business.

Only he and the two founders remain on the payroll, down from 10 in early 2020.

"I can't wait to get my first Americans back on tour," Leboeuf told Reuters at the wheel of a restored U.S. Army Willys jeep.

Omaha Beach, where U.S. soldiers set foot in the first hours of June 6, 1944, was completely empty a few days before the anniversary of the landings.

Sylvain Kast, a freelance tour guide, would expect to have full-time work over the summer. Instead, he has only three bookings between June and October.

When France went under a nationwide lockdown and closed its borders last year, it was hard for Kast to imagine the impact on his trade.

He said that despite generous state financial support, he had worked night shifts as a welder and as a standby history teacher to help make ends meet during the crisis.