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US luxury travel agents so far see underwhelming demand for Olympics



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By Doyinsola Oladipo

NEW YORK, June 13 (Reuters) -Luxury travel agencies in the United States are so far seeing lackluster demand for the Paris Olympics, as wealthier travelers instead opt for nearby destinations in Europe.

Olympic hosts often see a boom in visitors, but travel agents say the bookings for the July 26-Aug. 11 Olympics in Paris are from more modest travelers. European luxury retailers LVMH and Cartier have already said they're banking on more business outside of France from rich travelers avoiding Paris during the games.

As of late May, the U.S. is the origin market with the most tickets issued for arrivals to Paris during the games, according to Valencia, Spain-based Forward Keys, a flight ticketing data firm. Tickets from the U.S. to Paris are on track to increase 37% year-over-year compared with the same period in 2023.

"We are definitely seeing people go to Paris," said luxury travel agency Virtuoso spokesperson Misty Belles. "But is it as robust as it could be? I can’t say that it is."

Virtuoso's summer travel bookings for Paris are up 172% year-over-year, but bookings for France as a whole are down 22% from the year-earlier period. Their clients are flocking to nearby Spain and the UK instead, where summer bookings are up 44% and 10%, respectively, from 2023.

Miami-based luxury travel concierge The Prelude said it has received inquiries about Olympics tickets and packages but the bookings aren't coming yet.

"Given the nature of the clients we deal with and the Olympics not being until July, I expect we will start getting a lot more requests closer towards mid to the end of June," said Stefan Di-Finizio, founder of The Prelude.

The ultra-wealthy are not planning this far out, which is reflected in hotel availability at top properties, including the Four Seasons, he said. The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris declined a request for comment.

However, Accor Group ACCP.PA CEO SebastienBazin told an audience at a New York industry conference in early June that hotel bookings for the Olympics are not "extraordinary".

"In Paris, you are going to have a solid 85% occupancy but it's not that different from the year before without the Olympics... it's not going to be as extraordinary as we would have expected," he said.

Hotel occupancy for luxury and upper upscale hotels in August is expected to increase 9.1% from the year earlier, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate data firm, as 11 days of games are scheduled during that time. Room rates are expected to rise 73% in the same period.

CoStar forecasts July's occupancy will fall 0.5% from the year prior.



Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by David Gaffen and Aurora Ellis

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