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French rail cancels Airbnb partnership after hotels complain

© AFP archive | Airbnb is not popular with hotel owners in France

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-12-15

France’s state railway on Tuesday cancelled a partnership with flat-sharing website Airbnb after the hotel industry, which says its profits have been plunging due to unfair competition from the site, called the move “shocking”.

Until Tuesday, French travellers booking train tickets online through SNCF subsidiary had been receiving a follow-up email titled: “Your journey can earn you money”.

“Is your property empty during your voyage?” the message asked. “Become an Airbnb host to cover the cost of your trip.”

The message added that as soon as travellers had booked in their first guest, Airbnb would offer them “a free return ticket for their next outing in France”.

French hotels, suffering from falling visitor numbers as a consequence of terror attacks in Paris and competition from flat-sharing sites like Airbnb, were not amused that a publicly-owned company had entered into this “disloyal” partnership with the US-based company.

“How can the SNCF, which relies on government subsidies, defend and promote a company that is damaging an important sector of the French economy?” asked Didier Le Calvez, chief executive at the Bristol Hotel in Paris and head of the French Umih French hotel association.

“[Airbnb] only declares two percent of its turnover in France and doesn’t create any jobs,” he said.

“Train tickets in France are too expensive, so the SNCF is asking its customers to rent out their apartments to cover the cost while benefitting a company that doesn’t respect French tax rules,” he added. “We just don’t get it. We are shocked and angry.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the SNCF announced that in response to the complaints, the campaign with Airbnb had been stopped.

Even before the November 13 Paris attacks, the French capital’s luxury hotels were feeling the pinch.

The Bristol suffered a 20 percent drop in revenue in the first half of this year and had an occupancy rate that fell to 61.2 percent from 69.2 percent.The renowned Four Seasons George V saw a five percent point drop in occupancy to 66 percent in the same period. These factors saw The Plaza Athénée cut its prices by 20 percent last winter.

At the same time, Paris has become the world’s top destination for Airbnb users: the flat-sharing site now has on offer some 50,000 properties in the French capital, versus some 80,000 hotel rooms.

Contacted by FRANCE 24, a spokesman for said the partnership with Airbnb was “an experiment” that had been conceived independently of the SNCF.

He also noted that through the site, which can also be used to reserve hotel stays, more than 10 million rooms had been booked in the site’s 10-year history.

Date created : 2015-12-15


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