Tourist numbers in Paris fall ahead of the Olympics

Around the construction site of the Place de la Concorde for the Olympic Games, Paris, June 6, 2024.

A brief respite before the Olympic madness. This June in Paris, the crowds around Notre Dame are a little more dispersed than usual and the monuments look a little calmer, much to the delight of visitors. This trend is expected to continue until the Olympics and even intensify in the first three weeks of July. Air arrivals to Paris, a good barometer of tourist activity in the city, are “down 15% compared to the same period in 2023,” said Corinne Menegaux, head of the Paris Tourist Board.

While tourists may be able to benefit from a less crowded city, hoteliers in Paris are feeling the pinch: MKG data for 278 Paris hotels, for example, showed that average occupancy for the week of June 24-30 was 63%. For the same period in 2023, that occupancy rate fluctuated between 80% and 85%.

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Half the rooms are empty for the first two weeks of July. “It's not a very good time. June is usually one of the best months for Paris hotels,” said Olivier Cohn, general manager of Best Western France, whose Paris hotels have seen sales fall 15 percent this month compared with last year.

'Nasty' messages

The phenomenon was expected: London experienced a similar eviction effect in 2012, just before the Olympics. The prospect of the mega-event is deterring tourists who had planned to come to Paris but now want to postpone, anticipating difficulties in traveling and accessing certain sites, as well as skyrocketing prices. “People postpone their plans or come for the Olympics. There are fewer Americans in Paris now, but during the Olympics they are the main foreign tourists,” said the head of the Paris Tourist Board.

Some hoteliers have been critical of the publicity surrounding the Olympics, while Pascal Donat, chairman of the Valotel Group, which owns four Paris hotels, described it as “disgusting”. “We are hearing a lot of anxiety-stimulating messages… People are saying to themselves: 'I'm not coming to Paris this summer',” he said.

The Paris Region Tourist Board is fighting to convince tourists that it's worth visiting the city. “Contrary to what you think, Paris is not closed! Everything is still open, apart from a few sights such as Les Invalides and Concorde,” asserts its director, Christophe Decroux. The board recently launched a promotional campaign aimed at Belgians, Britons, Dutch and Swiss who might decide at the last minute to spend a weekend in Paris. He is trying to attract tourists with 150 events.Number It's the anniversary of the Impressionists, but in the current climate it's not getting much attention.

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