Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Airbnb Lures France Travelers While Hotels Lose on Terrorism

  • Visitors staying in Airbnb’s shared homes rose 86% this summer
  • Occupancy at traditional hotels dropped to 64% in August

Airbnb Inc. gained market share in France, the world’s most visited tourist destination, despite a string of terrorist attacks that depressed summer bookings at traditional hotels.

The San Francisco-based company’s apartment-sharing website drew 3.6 million travelers to France in June, July and August, 86 percent more than a year earlier, it said in a statement on Tuesday. Travel across France fell this summer in the aftermath of deadly attacks that shook Paris and Nice, even as the European soccer championship drew hundreds of thousands of fans to games held throughout the country.

Budget travelers are flocking to digital platforms and bucking traditional travel patterns, which tend to dip following security threats. Terrorist attacks in Paris in November and the seaside resort of Nice in July claimed more than 200 lives. Fears of renewed incidents have depressed hotel occupancy, which dropped to a summer low of 63.7 percent in August, compared with 90 percent a year earlier, according to data provider STR. 

Hotel reservations in the area around Nice plunged as much as 30 percent after the killings there, the French government said in July.

The world’s biggest travel companies are scrambling to compete with new market entrants that appeal to young, web-focused consumers. France’s largest hotel operator Accor SA has made it a priority to defend itself against digital competitors and said in April it’s buying upscale Airbnb rival Onefinestay for 148 million euros ($165 million).

Airbnb gained market share even as strikes by civil servants and walkouts by airline and rail workers disrupted travel in the country. Traffic at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport slipped for a fourth consecutive month in August, the first time that has happened since the global financial crisis roiled travel markets in 2009.

Terrorism concerns are keeping away Chinese, Japanese and U.S. tourists in particular, Air France-KLM Group said on Tuesday. Bookings from these nationals fell as much as 10 percent in the first eight months of the year, the Paris-based airline said.

After France, Airbnb served the highest number of guests in Italy and Spain this summer. The U.K. posted the biggest gain, with stays almost doubling after the referendum to leave the European Union depressed the value of the pound and made trips cheaper for foreigners, the company said.

Airbnb’s overall guest arrivals to homes in Europe rose 74 percent to 16 million, it said.

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