Airbnb seeks French growth beyond resilient Paris

Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:46am EDT
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By Dominique Vidalon and Pascale Denis

PARIS (Reuters) - Vacation rental marketplace Airbnb said guest arrivals in its biggest market Paris rose this summer despite an overall decline in foreign visitors due to security fears, and it now aims to expand into lesser known corners of France.

The online business recorded an annual rise in guest arrivals of 20 percent in the French capital and of 80 percent elsewhere in France between June 1 and Sept. 1 2016, in sharp contrast to the hotel sector, with which it competes.

Hoteliers suffered a marked decline in business that they blame on fears of more Islamist militant attacks, like those that claimed the lives of over 230 people since early 2015.

Foreign tourist arrivals to France could fall 4-5 percent this year and research firm KPMG warned that French hotels could suffer a revenue fall of 10 percent in 2016.

Airbnb country manager for France and Belgium Emmanuel Marill told Reuters in an interview Airbnb had also been hit by the tourism downturn as it had expected growth above 20 percent.

"But we resist because we are at the heart of a new phenomenon backed by strong brand recognition," he said.

The 35-year-old former Facebook executive who took over last month said the site's resilience in Paris was also down to the fact hosts and travelers can exchange information and hosts can reassure visitors of the safety of their neighborhood.

Founded in 2008 in San-Francisco, Airbnb matches people wishing to rent out all or part of their homes to temporary guests. It appeals to young, web-focused consumers looking for a cheaper price, but also the experience of living like a local.   Continued...

Emmanuel Marill, country manager France and Belgium of the online lodging service Airbnb, poses in the company's offices in Paris, France, October 11, 2016. Picture taken October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier