Paris was upset to lose the 2012 Olympic Games to London, but it may have won the tourism contest as it expects a record number of visitors this year. While London hoteliers fretted that tourists without Olympic tickets had avoided the city, the Paris tourism office said the numbers of people coming to the French capital were up, with foreign visits growing strongly in the first half of the year – including a surge from Britain. During the two weeks of the games themselves, hotel occupancy in Paris did slip by 2.3 percentage points to just above 70 per cent, compared with the same period last year, the tourism office said. But Paul Roll, director-general, said overall Paris – the original favourite to win the Olympics – suffered no negative effect because the Olympics went to London instead. “We said from the beginning we didn’t feel we would have any problems and we didn’t,” he told the Financial Times. Industry officials said it was difficult to measure the effect of the games on tourists’ decision-making, pointing out that while some might have chosen to visit Paris and other destinations instead of London, other long-haul holidaymakers might have decided to skip a European trip in 2012 altogether. But JacTravel, a British wholesale accommodation provider that books hotel rooms across Europe, said Paris and other cities such as Berlin and Dublin appeared to have benefited from a “displacement effect”. It said its bookings in Paris were up 26 per cent during the two weeks of the Olympics compared with the same period last year – helped by hoteliers who were prepared to lower their rates, having initially increased prices in anticipation of cashing in on the Olympics. “Paris stood out as doing particularly well,” said Angela Skelly, online director at JacTravel. Whatever the exact effect, the Paris tourism office said that after a strong start to the year it now expected the overall number of hotel stays to surpass last year’s record of 15.6m. Business travel accounts for 45 per cent of these stays. According to figures it released this week, hotel nights in Paris in the first half of the year were up 1.4 per cent at 7.8m and the average nightly room price rose by 7 per cent to €164 compared with a year ago. The effects of the eurozone crisis were evident in a 3.2 per cent fall in domestic visits – and a whopping 22 per cent fall in Spanish visitors. But that was more than compensated for by a 15 per cent rise in US tourists – at 670,000, the biggest foreign share – and an 8 per cent jump to 503,000 in those coming across the English channel. Mr Roll said the declining value of the euro against the US dollar and sterling was an important factor driving these increases. Source: Hugh Carnegy Link: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dda56ffe-ede7-11e1-8d72-00144feab49a.html#axzz25aADRS3M
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