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Large number of hotel rooms predicted to be empty during Paris Olympics as tourists stay away

Exclusive: In a typical 300-room hotel, as many as 120 rooms could be empty during the Games – compared with just 28 last July

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 11 March 2024 16:48 GMT
Paris hotel rooms to be empty during Olympics as tourists stay away

British visitors to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris look set to cash in on bargain hotel rates.

The 33rd modern Olympiad opens in the French capital on 26 July 2024, closing on 11 August. While accommodation rates have surged ahead of the Games, The Independent has learnt that officials expect around one in three hotel rooms in the city to be empty during the Olympics.

In an exclusive interview, tourism boss Corinne Menegaux said: “We expect an occupation rate between 60 and 70 per cent.”

According to the French official statistics agency, Insee, Paris hotels averaged 90.7 per cent occupancy in July 2023.

In a typical 300-room hotel, that represents 28 rooms being empty on the average night. But during the 2024 Olympics, there could be as many as 120 unsold rooms.

Ms Menegaux, director-general of Paris je t’aime – the capital’s tourist office – said most visitors during the Games will be “local and national”.

Jeux sans frontières: Simon Calder at Spot 24, a cultural venue for the Paris Olympics 2024 ( Inès de Ferran)

More than 12 million people live in the Ile de France, comprising the capital and the region around it. In addition, day trips from cities such as Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux are feasible with high-speed trains taking around two hours each way – reducing demand for hotels in Paris.

Ms Menegaux said of hotel rates: “During the two weeks of the Olympics, yes, prices have increased a little – but I would say, probably in a reasonable way. That wasn’t [the case] at the beginning. But now it’s affordable.”

She recommended visiting the city during the Games, saying: “It’s always a magic opportunity to be part of it, so being there is key.”

Christophe Decloux, director-general for tourism in the Paris Region – comprising the Ile de France – said: “We have 160,000 rooms in the Paris Region – which is more than London had in 2012. So we have what it takes to accommodate everybody.

“What we compare to is London in 2012 – where the the hotels in London were very expensive at the beginning and they had to bring down the prices,”

He said occupancy bounced back “as soon as the prices met the actual demand of the customer”.

As research by The Independent into previous Olympiads has shown, host cities tend to experience a tourism vacuum during the Games.

Ahead of the London event in 2012, the-then mayor, Boris Johnson warned of “a million extra visitors a day” and said: “Our roads and public transport services are going to be exceptionally busy.” The opposite turned out to be the case, with the UK capital something of a ghost city as “normal” tourists stayed away.

In addition, Heathrow airport predicted that on three specific days before and after the Olympics, every seat on every flight to and from Heathrow would be filled. This would have been a first for international aviation.

In fact, traffic at the UK’s busiest airport in July 2012 fell by 4.4 per cent compared with previous year.

Data from the hotel market analyst, Lighthouse, indicate the average rate for a hotel room in Paris during the Games peaked at €574 (£498) for stays – with five-star properties reaching €1,561 (£1,330) on the opening night.

“Compared to the same time period 2023, Paris is currently at an average of 120 per cent higher per night across all stars,” a spokesperson for Lighthouse said.

Hotel proprietors in the city still appear to be keeping their rates high, on the assumption that visitors will soon flock to book.

At the New Hotel St-Lazare, for example, a double room on the opening night of the Games is selling for €213 (£182). One month earlier, the same room is just €102 (£87).

One four-star property, the 53-room Hotel Mademoiselle close to both Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, has no availability on any night during the Games. But it may turn out to be the exception.

The French officials were speaking to The Independent at Spot 24, a new cultural venue for the Games. The exhibition centre and tourism bureau, beside the Seine and close to the Eiffel Tower, will welcome visitors through the spring and summer.

Ms Menegaux emphasised that tourism to the capital is continuing normally ahead of the Olympics. “It’s Paris, as usual. Everything is open. It’s a good opportunity to see Paris from another side because we are working hard for preparing the Games.”

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