Paris seeing signs of 'healthy' travel demand ahead of Summer Olympics, but deals still galore


summary:

  • The 2024 Paris Summer Olympics are just around the corner, but if you're thinking about traveling there, it might not be too late to find a good deal.
  • The Paris government is spending an estimated $9.7 billion preparing for the Olympics, which it expects to attract 15 million visitors between late July and early September.
  • The average flight from the United States to Paris over the opening weekend is costing about $877 per ticket, according to airfares tracked by digital booking site Hopper.

With large numbers of attendees expected for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, travel data shows there's still an opportunity for last-minute deal hunters to take advantage of current market trends.

With roughly a month until the opening weekend of the Olympics, including the torch lighting ceremony on Friday, July 26, more than 75% of hotel rooms in the Paris area tracked by analytics firm CoStar are booked for the opening weekend of the games, compared with roughly 42% occupancy for the same weekend in 2023.

“Three out of four rooms being sold is certainly a healthy performance,” said Jan Freitag, national director of hospitality market analysis at CoStar.

Freitag said overnight stays are likely to rise as the Olympics approach, especially as Europeans with access to cars and trains make last-minute decisions to attend the games — the continent hasn't hosted the Summer Olympics since Athens in 2004.

The Paris government is spending an estimated $9.7 billion preparing for the Olympics, which it expects to attract 15 million visitors between late July and early September.

Unprecedented security and clean-up efforts are being carried out, including plans to prepare the Seine for the games, and President Emmanuel Macron has highlighted the efforts by promising to swim in the river himself.

But nothing is guaranteed, and some people planning to visit the City of Lights may decide to forgo their trip to avoid crowds, Freitag said.

“This is a very special event, but it will be interesting to see how the numbers compare to past Augusts,” he said. “There are always going to be people who avoid these events.”

Other travel sites are showing a number of discounted hotel deals still available, with at least one three-star hotel in central Paris offering 50% off its regular midsummer rate, according to Google.

The average flight from the United States to Paris over the opening weekend is costing about $877 per ticket, according to airfares tracked by digital booking site Hopper.

That's a 27% drop from the same period last year, but Hopper economist Haley Berg said that mainly reflects a drop from inflated prices seen during the post-pandemic “revenge travel” surge that lasted into 2023, as well as the increased number of seats airlines are offering.

“This realignment of supply and demand, combined with unusually high prices for 2023, means airfares to Paris this summer will be cheaper than last year, despite the Olympics coming up,” Berg said in a statement.

“As Olympic qualifying concludes and the Games draw closer, we expect flights for certain travel dates to start selling out and prices to skyrocket,” Berg added.

In fact, bookings on the Hopper app for trips to Paris around the Olympics have doubled compared to the same period last year.

France's tourism minister recently said that international air arrivals to Paris have already increased by 24 percent during the Summer Olympics.

U.S. airfares fell 16% in May from last year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index, but are overall back to pre-pandemic levels.

But for low- and middle-income travelers, a trip to Paris this summer is probably out of reach, Freitag said.

“The headlines are polarizing,” he said. “For ultra-luxury people, there's still a lot of interest and money in luxury leisure and luxury accommodation.”

But households earning less than about $75,000 a year are “feeling the pain of higher inflation,” Freitag said. Inflation has fallen significantly from its peak in the summer of 2022 but remains just above the Fed's 2% target.

“When you compare what you have to buy versus what you want, things like car insurance are becoming much more expensive than things like wants, like weekend getaways,” he said. “So we're seeing demand slow down, especially for mid-range properties.”

French officials say the economic boost from tourism is likely to be significant — more than $1 billion under the most conservative estimates — but have warned that it could take more than a year to tally up the true impact.

And historically, cities that host the Olympics have seen mixed results in the final economic impact: While the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics is often held up as a tourism success story, roughly half of cities have benefited from hosting the Olympics, while others have not, according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations.



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