France plans government version of Airbnb and Booking.com

Ministers want to ‘regain link’ with foreign tourists without US giants getting in the way

Adam Forrest
Thursday 21 May 2020 16:37
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The French tourist industry has been hit hard by the lockdown
The French tourist industry has been hit hard by the lockdown

The French government is planning to create a state-run travel booking website in an attempt to rival popular US platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

Aiming to revive the French tourist industry after coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted, Emmanuel Macron’s government hopes to attract more foreign visitors without American tech companies acting as online agents.

Ministers have long been irritated by the success of US firms in gaining revenue from French hotels, holiday lets and tourist attractions.

“This sector has been very much de-intermediated by the large US platforms, Airbnb, Booking.com,” said Eric Lombard, the head of the Deposits and Consignments Fund, a public sector financial institution.

Mr Lombard told French television channel BFM TV: “We need to regain that link with clients.”

While some politicians reportedly want an extensive state-run platform including hotel and Airbnb-type rental bookings, others are said to want a more limited website promoting museums and other attractions.

Mr Lombard said the government would collaborate on the website with French tourist industry bodies and may take several months to launch, according to Bloomberg News.

Last week, French prime minister Édouard Philippe announced a rescue package for the tourist industry worth around £16bn.

Describing the sector as “one of the crown jewels of the French economy”, Mr Philippe said: “This very French pleasure, which is at the heart of our identity, to meet up, eat well and have a chat, has been compromised by the lockdown.”

Paris metro commuters return but keep distance

Some of the country’s big tourist attractions, such as the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre — the world’s most visited museum, remain closed despite the easing of some lockdown restrictions on 11 May.

Studies by UNESCO and the International Council of Museums show 90 per cent of the planet’s museums, some 85,000 institutions, have had to shut at least temporarily since the pandemic began.

“Nearly 13 per cent of museums around the world may never reopen,” UNESCO and ICOM said in a joint statement.

Additional reporting by agencies

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