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Paris Airbnb goldrush ends as Olympics approach

Olympic rings on display at Paris' Orly airport - but fewer visitors to the Games are renting privately-owned apartments than expected (Emmanuel DUNAND)
Olympic rings on display at Paris' Orly airport - but fewer visitors to the Games are renting privately-owned apartments than expected (Emmanuel DUNAND)

Parisians looking to pocket a fortune by renting out their apartments to tourists visiting the French capital for the Olympics have been left disappointed as prices crash close to the start of the Games.

With a month to go before the opening ceremony, many say they have been forced to dramatically lower their prices to attract renters, while others have given up altogether.

After listing her flat on the short-term letting website Airbnb, 28-year-old real estate worker Giulia "could already picture the bundles of cash we could go on holiday with."

But the lucrative booking she dreamt never materialised.


In January, Giulia was asking for an "exorbitant" 550 euros ($588) a night to rent her place in the working-class 18th district of northern Paris.

"After that, it went down to 350, then 250, and still nobody," she told AFP.

It was only when she dropped the price to 160 euros -- just 30 euros above the normal rate for the July and August -- that a reservation came through from an American who booked her apartment for a fortnight.

While not as much as she had hoped for, "it'll allow us to have a good holiday", she said.

Advertising executive Adrien Coucaud was not so lucky.

He decided to entrust his eastern Paris flat where he lives by himself to a concierge service, so it could welcome tourists while he went on holiday.

But that experience -- which he admits was motivated by greed -- quickly soured.

The concierge service set the prices far too high to attract bookings between July 26 and August 11, when the Olympics will be in full swing.

When he tried to contact the concierge service, no one answered.

Even after he took back control of the listing and lowered the price to 166 euros a night, he was unable to find any takers.

"At that point I put an end to this endeavour," Coucaud confided, adding that he was "disgusted" by the experience.

- No golden egg goose -

The failure of rental prices to match Parisian dreams is likely down to many of the French capital's residents having the same idea at the same time.

While they did rise significantly at the beginning of the year, they have since dropped back -- to no surprise from the Parisian authorities.

"We kind of saw it coming," Barbara Gomes, who is in charge of regulating furnished tourist accommodation in the capital, told AFP.

"There was inflation at first, with a lot of fantasies about the rental prices that could be charged during the Games," the Communist Party politician said.

But that was followed by a drop she attributes to the wave of Parisians renting out their vacant accommodation while on holiday, coupled with an abundance of hotel rooms.

The councillor added that she was being "careful" to ensure compliance with Parisian regulations, which make it very difficult to rent out accommodation that is not a principal residence.

While short-term rentals are highly regulated in France, that has not deterred Parisians from trying to cash in.

"As expected, the increase in the supply available during the Games is regulating prices," Airbnb told AFP, while declining to reveal any details.

Despite this, the US-based tourism rental giant said that "Paris 2024 is on track to become the biggest event in Airbnb's history".

"Overnight stays booked in the first quarter for stays during the Games period were more than five times higher than they were in the Paris region during the same period the previous year," it added.

But for many Parisians, the problem is that "out of 15 million tourists 13 million are French", said Raphael Lorin, the chairman of luxury tourist rental group specialist Archides.

He pointed out that French people attending the Olympic Games are more likely to stay with friends and family.

"On the other hand, foreigners can be people with very big budgets who are customers of the very top-of-the-range hotels," Lorin added.

"For everything that's at the lower or middle end of the market, there is no goose that lays the golden egg."