The Charlie Hebdo attack accentuated a longer-term decline in trade for the French capital’s high-end accommodation sector.
Rather than yield to the ambient gloom – the most recent of Paris’s luxury hotels – the Peninsula – chose to crack open the bubbly and forget about the crisis. Having opened last August on Avenue Kléber – the management held an official launch party in April. Two thousand happy people – including the chain’s top customers and celebrities such as actors Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh – gathered – savouring champagne – canapes – and buckets of caviar.
But this beano was no more than a ray of sunshine in a very cloudy sky. Luxury hotels in the French capital have been having a hard time since the new year. Clement Kwok – CEO of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels – which owns the Peninsula group – acknowledged this quite openly: ‘In January February and March 2015 the market was weak’ he said during a brief visit to Paris. Nor is he alone. Didier Le Calvez – general manager of Le Bristol – puts it rather more bluntly: ‘The first quarter was catastrophic’.
This is partly the fault of the terror attacks in early January – which scared off much of the luxury hotels’ custom – in particular foreign visitors – who make up 80% to 90% of their clientele. Above all it affected ‘the two core targets for luxury hotels: visitors from the United States and the Middle East’ says Gwenola Donet – head of the hotels and hospitality department for France – at Jones Long Lasalle – a specialist in luxury property. The tension sparked by the Charlie Hebdo attack also discouraged Asian and South American visitors.