The year 2021 has not been very good for the hotel sector in Occitanie, as elsewhere in France. The average occupancy rate rose by 11.2 points compared to the end of 2020. But remains down compared to 2019, the reference year. Toulouse is particularly suffering.
It’s getting better, but it’s not there yet. According to a study by MKG, the occupancy rate in France is up 11.2 points compared to 2020, which was a catastrophic year for the hotel sector. But the level of 2019 has not yet been caught up, no more in Occitania than elsewhere.
It should be noted that France is resisting better than our European neighbors who have suffered greatly from the absence of a tourist clientele. France and the Occitanie region benefit from solid local tourism, with a buoyant summer 2021 in particular. Not to mention, the seminars which have partially resumed.
But there are significant contrasts depending on the agglomerations. Toulouse, for example, suffered greatly from the lack of hotel reservations. In the pink city, turnover fell by 40 to 50% compared to 2019. Few cities are so far from their past performance. Montpellier, for example, also suffered, but to a lesser extent. It shows a drop of 30 to 40% compared to the turnover of two years ago. As for the city of Perpignan, we seem very close to the scores for 2019, with a drop of between 0 and 10% in 2021.
The situation of Toulouse is particular. First, it still does not have access to the TGV, which attracts many tourists (like Bordeaux, for example). In fact, the capital of Occitania is divided in two, between individual tourism which concentrates on the city center and the airport zone which receives business tourism. And it is this area that has suffered the most from the Covid crisis since its beginnings in 2020.
Jean-Claude Darderet is not really surprised by the figures published by the firm. The President of the Toulouse-Métropole Economic Development Agency makes the following observation: “70% of our tourism in Toulouse is business tourism, 30% leisure tourism. Inevitably, we are more impacted than other major cities.” Added to this, according to him, is the fact that Toulouse has a large hotel capacity, in other words a lot of places available, which explains an occupancy rate – even in good years – below the average.
The outlook for business tourism is not good at the start of 2022. “We had a dozen events – symposiums, summits, round tables – scheduled for November alone” explains Jean-Claude Darderet. “They are being reformatted, with a mix of face-to-face and remote, on-site speakers, participants in front of their screens. This represents a certain shortfall for hotels specializing in business tourism.” Beyond the decline in turnover, it is this climate of permanent uncertainty that weighs on the morale of hoteliers.
But the president of the Toulouse-Métropole economic development agency remains optimistic for the future. “The month of December 2021 was particularly good in terms of tourism. The attraction for urban tourism is real, the number of guided tours, for example, has doubled during this period. Leisure tourism is gradually becoming a real pole development, especially since the hotels are or have been able to adapt to this new demand, especially those which until now mainly received customers coming for business”.
But that will probably take some time. Prospects are hazy for 2022 and we cannot say that the month of January is very encouraged. “For the current month, we have an occupancy rate of 20%, which is very far from the usual turnover” explains Frédéric Michel, the manager of the Hôtel Héliot, in downtown Toulouse. The one who is also the president of the hotel branch at UMIH 31 (Union of trades and hotel industries of Haute-Garonne) takes stock: “The year 2021 was cut in two, with a good and a bad semester. Between July and mid-December, we found a very good level, comparable to the good years. Then, from mid-December, the the situation has become more unstable, unpredictable”.
“It is the entire hotel sector that has suffered. Lourdes, for example, has suffered a lot, due to the absence of foreign tourists. The “health crisis” effect has had an impact on our activity” explains Frédéric Michel. And to call for an easing of sanitary measures, which does a lot of harm to hotel managers.