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Simon Calder reveals there will be Paris travel bargains during the Olympics

Simon Calder’s Travel

On Friday 26 July, the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics will begin – with all the airports serving the French capital closed during the event.

Yet once the competitions get under way, Paris could feel like a ghost town – with expected visitor numbers way down on a normal summer. That spells bargains for British tourists during the Games.

Almost half the rooms in the French capital are still unsold during the Olympics, which run to 11 August. Rates for double rooms in mainstream budget hotels are now starting to fall below £100 per night.

Air France says it is “experiencing pressure on projected unit revenues for the summer season due to the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, with traffic to and from the French capital lagging behind other major European cities”.

The French national carrier says: “International markets show a significant avoidance of Paris.”

From a tourist perspective, the city is likely to be empty. There will be challenges getting around, but the reward will be enjoying the attractions of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities in splendid isolation.

These are the key questions and answers.

Won’t Paris be brim-full with athletes, organisers, media and spectators?

All of those cohorts will certainly be there in large numbers – but many of the millions who normally holiday in Paris in July and August will stay away. This is the same pattern as we saw 12 years ago at London 2012, with large tour groups staying away en masse.

The big difference is that the tourism authorities are being open about the scale of the slump. Corinne Menegaux, who’s director-general of Paris Region Tourism, told me she expects at most seven out of 10 hotel rooms to be filled – compared with 91 per cent in July last year.

While there will be many spectators, most of them will be from around Paris or coming in for the day on high-speed trains from cities such as Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lyon – with no need to stay overnight.

What does that mean for hotel rates?

Many hotels have been pricing their rooms extremely high, believing the Olympics will prove the best get-rich-quick scheme ever. Some will do very well, having sold large numbers of rooms to delegations, the media or specialist sports tour companies.

But in the past couple of weeks some of the hotels that I am watching and which were showing as “sold out” have…

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