Is French-run independent hotel disappearing?

From the annual analysis of the French hotel supply conducted by MKG Hospitality, France counts less than 18,500 classified hotels for a total number of less than 648,000 rooms. This last figure sees a net loss of 6,400 hotel rooms. This loss may be added to the 8,500 rooms lost the previous year.

MKG reports that the constant shrinkage of the French hotel supply is mainly due to the decrease within the economy independent-hotel category. In this category alone, there are 634 fewer hotels and 12,300 fewer rooms than last year. MKG opined that the new supply coming mostly from hotel chains is not sufficient to compensate the losses. It is getting increasingly difficult to launch new construction projects and to compete with long-stay residences.

The overall shrinkage of France’s capacity to accommodate foreigner travelers means that international clients might relocate to countries better equipped than France. The industry calls for a realistic and dynamic tourist strategy in favor of new constructions and new hotel concepts, commented Georges Panayotis, president and CEO of MKG Group.

The economic crisis, the cost of marketing and consumer expectations have undermined the profitability of a growing number of economy hotels, Panayotis said. However, the slump in the independent hotel sector does not condemn all operations. The same inventory also shows that growth in the independent supply is very significant in the 3-, 4- and 5-star categories, which together experienced net growth of more than 5,000 rooms. This movement is the continuation of the decade-long trend that marks the return of independent hoteliers to there area of expertise: full-service hotels in city centers.

Moreover, hotel groups have decided to place franchising amongst their developmental priorities, Panayotis added. Due to internal movements between chains, the growing power of franchisees in the supplies of corporate chains is not visible in the figures representing global growth. Growth, even marginal, for chain hotels on a shrinking global market allows them to cross another threshold of market share. Today, more than 43% of the global supply operates under a hotel brand, and certainly more than 50% if we add the main consortia, which require the flying of their banner.

The analysis of the global lodging supply in France is pertinent only to classified hotels. However, they are not the only ones to address a commercial clientele, Panayotis said. Parallel types of accommodations are increasingly poaching on these markets. Tax incentives remain strong for stimulating investments in new tourism residences, and especially urban residences, which have the advantage of being less seasonal. Despite the succession of high profile failures of operators such as Mona Lisa, Maison de Biarritz and Residhotel, real estate promotion is doing well: Adagio by Pierre&Vacances/Accor, Citadines, Appart’City, Park&Suites, Odalys City, Cerise by Exhore and Hipark are all multiplying their openings.

While the tension with hoteliers may have subsided, it is clear that the residence-hotel model is absorbing a significant share of developers’ resources as they focus less on the hotel industry. “It is urgent to sound the alarm when the situation is going from worse to worst at an accelerated pace,” commented Panayotis.

“One should not be sorry about the restructuring of the French hotel supply that is taking place,” he continued. “However, one should be sorry about the measures taken in the past to protect independent hotels against the so-called ‘invasion’ of hotel chains have only slowed down the conversion of hotels that cannot bear the new economic situation, without preparing for the future. It is urgent to create a newly built hotel supply, financed by independent or institutional investors. One might be used to thinking that it is impossible to relocate jobs in tourism, but in the end, the result is the same if the clientele opts for other destinations, due to lack of available rooms, as it is already the case in Paris during large MICE events.”