Savvy traveller can avoid shock of Paris hotel prices
For the tourist on a strict budget, Paris hotels can be affordable, if decidedly modest.
But not everyone wants to settle for a garret in the insalubrious surroundings of Europe's busiest railway terminus, the Gare du Nord.
The business visitor to Paris may well have other needs, from convenience of location to space and efficient facilities, and it is at this end of the accommodation market that the City of Light becomes a gloomier proposition.
A survey for Paris's tourism office shows that for higher-class accommodation, Paris is very nearly in a league of its own. The average room price in this study was €379 (Dh1,840) for Paris, ahead of London and New York and behind only Geneva, at approximately Dh2,000.
Nor do "average" prices tell the full story, as one recent business traveller from the UAE discovered. He stayed in a decent but not extravagantly luxurious hotel in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, and paid more than Dh2,700 a night without breakfast.
The visitor was amazed. But the rate raised no eyebrows among those with everyday knowledge of Parisian hotel prices.
"It is not a surprise," says Alain Coffre, the editor of Business Traveller France, who points out that pricing and availability are greatly affected by trade fairs and exhibitions taking place at certain times.
So is there serious under-provision, at least in central areas? "Absolutely," Mr Coffre says, "and this was confirmed to me by someone from the tourism board of Paris.
"There is a shortage of business hotels in the centre of Paris because it is difficult to build new hotels there."
The Knight Frank property agency puts the average Paris hotel price at Dh845, but this reflects the wide disparity between the two ends of the market. Occupancy rates are more than 75 per cent in the four to five-star bracket.
In league tables from the World Tourism Organisation, France is the world's most popular destination (74.2 million arrivals last year), with the US and Spain lagging far behind on 54.9 million and 52.2 million, respectively), while Paris (14.8 million) leads London (14.1 million) and Singapore (9.7 million) as the most popular city.
Some people adore the Paris spring, others love the autumn or prefer the height of summer, when the Parisians themselves stage their annual holiday exodus, and there are fairs, exhibitions and events all year.
"There is not really a low season," says Giuseppina Tricoli, the Paris account manager for the online hotel reservations company EasyToBook.com, which deals in every price bracket.
This year, Ms Tricoli noted that virtually all city centre hotels for September had been fully booked by July. One reason, she says, is that the city is the natural business centre for all French-language congresses. Add the architectural, cultural and culinary attractions, and the pressure on space - and therefore on prices - can more readily be understood.
Business Traveller's Mr Coffre offers respite for those willing to stay outside the smart central arrondissements, with "numerous new projects in the suburbs … generally a good place to stay if you want lower prices".
While endorsing Ms Tricoli's observations on September as a particularly busy month, to which he adds April-June and October-November, Mr Coffre believes the market is kinder in July and August and from December to February, when business travel to Paris dips.
He suggests that greater value for money can often be found by venturing out to northern and eastern arrondissements, though he does not recommend poorer parts of the city (the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements).
Beyond that, his advice would probably apply anywhere: book ahead if visiting in high seasons, or be alert for exceptional bargains.
The man from Abu Dhabi who paid Dh2,700 a night in the Rue Faubourg du Saint-Honore may not be consoled to hear from Mr Coffre that only a few months ago, and just around the corner, the majestic Hotel de Crillon, dripping with history and fabulously placed on the Place de la Concorde, had rooms for only a third as much.
Published: December 14, 2010 04:00 AM