Published on www.ft.com I 30/12/2016 I Direct Link
Traditionally, room rental by the hour has been the preserve of seedy establishments or, more recently, “love hotels” found in countries from Argentina to Japan. But luxury hotel groups have embraced the hourly model in France.
Hotel chains, including Accor and Marriott, have signed up to a French start-up online booking platform called Dayuse.com, with the number of hotels in France using the service doubling to 600 this year, according to the company.
“Hotels in France have been struggling, but we are offering them another source of revenue,” says David Lebée, the founder and chief executive of dayuse.com. “Ten years ago hotels would not have dreamt of doing this, but times change.”
According to Dayuse, which launched in 2010, 70 per cent of rooms are empty during the day and it says it has generated more than $20m in revenue for those hotels signed up to its service. Accor and Marriott confirmed that they have signed up to the service, although declined to comment further.
Maud Ruault, the manager of Les Plumes, an independent Paris hotel signed up to Dayuse, says the site brings in 30 to 40 bookings a month, and has been a “great source of new business” at a “difficult time”, referring to the drop in bookings prompted by a spate of terrorist attacks in France.
“People are not there to sleep, they want an experience . . . Many are couples who want to have fun without their children,” she says, adding that users are mostly domestic customers rather than tourists.
On the site customers can, for example, rent an €800-a-night room at the four-star Marriott Opera Ambassador in central Paris for €99 between 11am and 4pm. To have a “Love Box” filled with adult toys is an extra €40 and a bottle of Champagne €70.
The increasing adoption of Dayuse comes as terrorist attacks in France have hit profits across the country’s hotel industry, with the number of tourists visiting the country falling steeply.
Accor, Europe’s largest hotel operator, reported a 4.7 per cent fall in revenue in France in the third quarter because of a “climate of insecurity since the beginning of the year”. Jean-Jacques Morin, chief financial officer of Accor, said fears of terrorism had “massively affected leisure travel” to France.
This shows little signs of changing. The summer was “catastrophic” for hotels in France, according to Deloitte, with occupancy rates down and revenue per available room — the industry’s preferred sales measure — falling 28 per cent in August for mid-range hotels and 48 per cent for luxury and palace hotels. In October, there was another decline in occupancy rates.
Hoteliers in France are also being squeezed by digital upstarts such as Airbnb, which can turn any home into a competing mini-hotel. They are being challenged as well by online travel agents such as Booking.com and Expedia, which have hurt brand loyalty.
Mr Lebée estimates that Airbnb and similar rental sites have led to a 15 per cent fall in revenues on average across the hotel industry, and that signing up to Dayuse can restore 10 per cent of this by opening up a new income stream.
He says that there are couples — “faithful or unfaithful” — who use the service for “discreet rendezvous”, but there are also business people looking for a place to conduct interviews or travellers wanting to relax before a late flight.
Jean-Bernard Falco, the head of AhTop, an industry group for the hotel sector, says that renting out rooms during the day is just “one solution” to improving the fortunes of the French hotel industry.
AhTop is trying to pressure lawmakers to tighten rules governing home-sharing websites such as Airbnb, wanting them to make it harder for renters to avoid taxes and also for them to pay more taxes on their rental income.
Dayuse late last year closed a €15m fundraising with venture capital firms Idinvest Partners and Partech Ventures. It is supported by angel investors Paul Dubrule, the co-founder of Accor and Charles Petruccelli, the former chief executive of American Express Travel.
The company has 3,000 hotel partners in 16 countries. It says it wants to have a presence in 50 countries by 2020. This year the company also signed up Mövenpick, a Swiss hotel company.