Independent hotels urge travelers to ‘choose France’ to offset impact of Covid-19

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                Les voyageurs qui réservent directement auprès d'un hôtel pourront bientôt retirer de l'argent de leur facture pour les encourager à donner la priorité aux hôtels indépendants par rapport aux agences de voyages en ligne.
            

On espère que le programme «Je choisis la France» donnera un coup de fouet à l'industrie du tourisme locale frappée par Covid en encourageant les voyageurs à choisir la France pour leurs vacances d'été.

“More and more people are buying locally thanks to the Covid-19″, explains the owner of the independent hotel Thomas Richard at the origin of the new program. “We wanted to take advantage of this emerging trend. ”

The program, which brings together 300 independent hotels under one platform, attempts to encourage customers to book directly with hotels by offering them discounts at special rates.

In particular, customers benefit from a 4 euros reduction on their next reservation when they book a hotel room directly with the owner.

“We wanted to make people aware of the importance of supporting independent hotels,” continues Richard, forced to close his Petit Vatel hotel in the Norman city of Le Havre on March 17.

“For two months, we hardly had any income,” he told RFI.

High Commission

The plight of independent hotels has been compounded by the high commission fees imposed by online travel agencies like Expedia and booking.com.

“I pay around 17% in commissions,” says Richard, admitting that he wouldn’t be able to attract some foreign visitors without the online service.

But after Covid-19, every penny counts.

“It’s the difference between keeping a hotel employee at work or paying a commission fee. Many hotel owners cannot afford to do both. ”

Hoteliers in France are eager to bounce back from the pandemic, and many are hoping to attract potential customers from this weekend’s big summer getaway.

“We don’t expect a huge rush,” comments Richard, whose hotel is located away from busy roads.

“Our biggest activity is when tourists from Belgium and the Netherlands stop over in Le Havre on their way to Brittany. ”

Covid-19 measures

Since July, many Parisian tourists have also started to enter its premises, which can accommodate up to 50 people.

While getting them to respect social distancing measures was not a problem, getting them to wear a mask was more difficult.

“A lot of people don’t play by the rules, so we have to repeat them,” he says.

The current heat wave is unlikely to improve matters, with many travelers complaining that wearing a mask makes them hot.

However, their custom is absolutely necessary for independent hotels.

Competing with online travel agencies on price alone is not easy, however.

No middleman

For Richard, who employs around 4 staff, he hopes to attract customers by providing them with an authentic travel experience that cuts out the middleman.

“Independent hotels are the face of an open family industry tailored to the needs of each guest,” he says.

This industry is disappearing as the big chains develop.

“Unfortunately, our margins are tight and we have to make cuts. The first to go are the employees, whose labor costs are the highest in the hospitality industry, ”he said.

            

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