The Eiffel Tower against a mesmerizing pink cloudy sky
The Eiffel Tower against a mesmerizing pink cloudy sky
Image: Supplied

As the world’s spotlight turns to Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics from July 26 to August 11, SA travellers have a unique opportunity to witness the global spectacle first-hand. Whether travelling to experience the event or heading to Paris for other reasons, here’s how you can work around increased prices and accommodation. From potential Airbnb cancellations to evolving regulations, the Olympics presents unique travel challenges that require an expert eye.

Where to sleep

Paris officials have embraced a sustainable and eco-friendly approach, transforming iconic landmarks around the city into competition sites. Equestrian events will take place in the historic chateau of Versailles, while beach volleyball matches will unfold under the iconic Eiffel Tower. In a groundbreaking move, the Seine, which has been off-limits for bathing for more than a century due to pollution, will host diving and swimming events.

“The Paris Olympics have allowed us to accelerate the city’s transformation and respond to environmental challenges,” said the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. “We have new tram lines, thanks to the Games, and all the trees and flower beds that go with that. The cycle paths have accelerated. We have 1,400km of cycle lanes now.”

With events scattered across the city, Lynette Machiri, Flight Centre customer experience leader, advises travellers to carefully consider their accommodation options. “Choose a location that allows for easy access to the venues you wish to attend, either via public transportation or by taking advantage of Paris’ extensive cycle lanes,” Machiri says. “Striking a balance between budget and convenience will be key. However, if you don’t mind a longer transit time to get to venues, staying further from the city centre will present more budget friendly options.”

How much for a bed?

With an influx of more than 15-million visitors expected, accommodation prices continue to be way above the norm — and fluctuate without warning. Some hotels in Paris were forecasted to increase their rates an average 9% during the Olympics, with some brands such as Hyatt Regency, Hilton, and Marriott predicted to skyrocket nearly 73%, according to the real estate database CoStar.

However, an article in French publication Le Monde suggested that hotel prices were no longer soaring, as an influx of Airbnb listings had led to an increase in overall accommodation supply, causing hotel prices to stabilise. The article noted that the average rate for one night in Greater Paris during the Olympics period had dropped from €759 (R14,989) in September to a reasonable €522 (R10,308) in early February. And according to insurance firm Réassurez-moi, the price of a one-night stay in the capital stood at €436 (R8,612) in April, indicating a further drop in hotel pricing due to excess supply.

Airbnb, initially seen as a more affordable alternative, is also facing challenges. Numerous stories have come up detailing instances of confirmed Airbnb bookings being cancelled as hosts seek to capitalise on higher demand. Furthermore, regulations surrounding houseboat stays (a popular — and romantic — self-catering option) and other alternative accommodation options are evolving. For example, the French government is reportedly set to impose sanctions and further taxation structures on Airbnb owners, adding another layer of complexity to the accommodation planning process.

Paris aerial view
Paris aerial view
Image: Supplied

Expert guidance: key tips for a successful Olympic adventure

To navigate these challenges, SA travellers should consider the following expert advice:

  • Secure accommodation. Reputable accommodation suppliers offer reliability, security, and peace of mind — essential factors when navigating a major event such as the Olympics. By booking through trusted travel experts and tour operators, you can ensure your accommodation is confirmed and less susceptible to last-minute cancellations or changes. Antoinette Turner, general manager of Flight Centre SA, emphasises the importance of securing hotel accommodation early. “While prices may have initially seemed prohibitive, the recent decline in rates presents an opportunity for SA travellers. However, availability will continue to dwindle as the Olympics approach, so it’s crucial to book your hotel stays as soon as possible.”
  • Work with reputable travel experts. “During major events such as the Olympics, having a knowledgeable travel expert on your side can make all the difference,” says Turner. “They can help you navigate changing regulations, find alternative accommodation options, and provide guidance every step of the way.”
  • Secure comprehensive travel insurance. Investing in comprehensive travel insurance is crucial, especially during a major event such as the Olympics. Unforeseen circumstances, such as cancellations or medical emergencies, can be mitigated with the right coverage. Make sure you understand the policy inclusions for your chosen cover.
  • Be flexible. With high demand and limited availability, it’s essential to book all travel elements well in advance. However, flexibility is equally important. Consider alternative airports, smaller cities connected by Europe’s excellent rail networks, or travelling slightly off-season in late August and September to catch the tail-end of summer.
  • Monitor regulations and advisories. Stay updated on the latest regulations and advisories from official sources, such as the SA department of international relations & co-operation and the French authorities. These guidelines can help you plan accordingly and avoid potential complications during your trip.
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