Luxury leads tourism rebound

Takings at Paris's luxury hotels, charging around €1,000 a night, have soared to pre-economic crisis levels or more.

TAKINGS at Paris’s luxury hotels, charging around €1,000 a night, have soared to pre-economic crisis levels or more.

The trend is one of the most striking aspects of what tourism experts say has been a fairly good summer generally, thanks to an increased number of foreigners, including Belgians, Britons and the Dutch, and to last-minute bookings in August.

Hotel industry consultants MKG say occupancy in the palaces, which include the likes of the Ritz, George V and Crillon, was an average of 90.5% in July, with an average price of €916.70.

A director, Vanguelis Panayotis, said this was the first time levels were back to those before the crisis, after a low point in February 2009, when occupancy was less than 50%.

As countries emerge from the crisis, big firms are more able financially to send executives to exclusive hotels again, he said. "During the crisis, they reduced travelling expenses and psychologically it did not feel right to them to be doing seminars or incentive events at the George V. It didn’t give the right image.

"Now we are seeing a lot of customers coming back from emerging countries like Russia and Brazil, and a lot of Americans because of the euro/dollar parity."

George V public relations director Caroline Mennetrier said they had their best July for 10 years.

This was due partly to the return of the Americans and to the fact Ramadan started early, so Middle Easterners came in July rather than August, she said.

There were also more Russians and Brazilians.

"Perhaps people are a bit more confident now," she said. The hotel’s luxuries include spending a fortune on floral displays created by a dedicated artistic director.

A Paris tourist office spokeswoman, Marie-Christine Rabot, said: "The palaces have been having astronomical takings but all hotel categories combined it has been a very good summer as well."

Overall in France, August turned out to be better than July, including takings from French tourists, who spent less than usual, but were more numerous. Campsites were especially popular.

Though beach resorts were still the favourite destinations, rural inland spots were were chosen by a larger proportion of holidaymakers than usual.

These included areas like Morbihan, the Gironde, the Orne, the Eure and the Vaucluse.