PARIS (Reuters) - Business travelers fueled a return to growth in the French hotel industry in 2010, but stays at upscale accommodation have not fully recovered to pre-crisis levels.
France, which attracts more foreign visitors than any other country in the world, saw 192.2 million overnight hotel stays in 2010, a rise of 2.2 percent, with business travelers accounting for nearly 90 percent of the growth, according to government statistics office INSEE.
That recouped some of the losses from 2009, when overnight hotel stays dropped 4.9 percent, but the industry remains below the levels of 2008, when France received some 197.6 million overnight hotel stays.
"It's a pretty rich clientele and made up mostly of business travelers coming into the big cities, notably Paris. It's perhaps this segment that has been less affected by the crisis," said Louis de Gimel, head of research at INSEE.
While French travelers made up the bulk of the hotel stays, visits by travelers from the Americas, Asia and Africa saw higher growth rates.
Four- and five-star hotels enjoyed a 12 percent rise in overnight stays, versus just 3.7 percent at 3-star hotels and a drop of -0.7 percent at two-star hotels.
One weak point in 2010 was the relative dearth of visitors from the United Kingdom.
Perhaps deterred by the weak euro and British austerity measures, their hotel stay rates dropped off 6.7 percent in 2010 from 2009, versus a 3.3 percent rise in stays by Americans.
"It's not the same clientele at all," said de Gimel. "We've seen a revival in the high category hotels, because in general Americans stay in higher-rated hotels."
Reporting by Vicky Buffery and Alexandria Sage