Of the 12 luxury Parisian hotels classed as “palaces” by French tourism body Atout France, only La Réserve plans to open this summer.
Others - including Le Bristol Paris, Le Meurice, and the Four Seasons Hotel George V - will stay closed in July and August due to lack of reservations.
The ranking of “palace” is a unique distinction given to five-star hotels in France that have “exceptional characteristics”. According to Atout France, this may include an establishment's location, historical interest, unique aesthetic, or exceptional service.
In France, there are 31 “palace” hotels, 12 of which are in Paris.
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Absence of non-EU travellers
Although the "palaces" in Paris were open for reservations in July, Christophe Laure, president of the luxury hotels federation Umih Prestige, told news source Le Figaro that demand was “practically non-existent” due to a lack of international visitors.
Although French residents and Europeans can currently take holidays in France, at least 80% of luxury hotels’ guests in the capital normally come from overseas, notably North America (25-35%), as well as Asia and the Middle East.
European and French borders have only just opened to non-EU travellers coming from a limited number of countries outside the EU today (July 1).
However, the US is not one of these countries, as European officials do not consider the Covid-19 crisis in the US to be under control. As such, US residents cannot currently visit France on holiday.
Read more: Europe confirms list of non-EU borders set to open on July 1
Read more: EU external borders now open to some countries, but not US
Holiday-makers not coming to Paris
François Delahaye, COO at hotel group the Dorchester Collection (which runs two palaces in Paris: Le Meurice and Plaza Athénée) also notes, that even if non-EU travellers do come to France, they are unlikely to want to spend summer in the French capital.
He told news source Le Figaro: “If they do come to France this summer, the English and the Americans will go to Cannes, Saint-Tropez, or Biarritz, not to Paris. At this stage we’re thinking of reopening on September 1.”
The only Parisian palace to open for summer, La Réserve, did so on May 5. The hotel has 40 rooms and says it is currently operating at 75% occupancy during the week, and 45% at weekends. Most guests are business travellers from France, Belgium, Germany and Monaco, it said.
Palaces may not recover until 2023
In Le Meurice and Plaza Athénée, 95% of employees are currently on partial unemployment (a government scheme that pays 80% of the usual salary). But while they remain closed, Le Meurice is losing €4 million per month, and Plaza Athénée €3 million.
Although, according to Mr Delahaye, it helps that such hotels often have wealthy owners. He said: “Our owner has injected tens of millions into Plaza Athénée and Le Meurice. All the other owners have done the same thing.”
Mr Delahaye believes it is possible that the luxury hotel sector could recover early in 2021, as Paris is a “must-see” destination. Although, he admits: “As long as there isn’t a [Covid-19] vaccine, it will be difficult.”
Meanwhile, Mr Laure, of Umih Prestige, thinks recovery could take until 2023. He said: “After budget hotels, mid-range and high end, the palaces will be the last to recover.”
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