After the Bataclan: Shifting Sands of French Tourism

There’s so much to see and do in France. The country’s national tourism scene is a roaring success and has been so for many decades. In fact, recent statistics show that the French outpace overseas visitors when it comes to spending money on tourism in their own country. Whether it’s exploring the famous attractions of Paris, skiing in the Alps, or soaking up the sun on one of the country’s many beaches, tourists in France are never short of ways to spend their cash.

With all this in mind, we can expect great opportunity for brands to capture a share of the French domestic tourism market. But to do that successfully, they have to understand the opinions and habits that are driving consumer decisions around tourism in France. And how better to do that than by diving into the social conversation data and finding out exactly what French tourists are talking about?
In this post, we’ll dive deep into French social media conversations around:

  • Domestic terrorism
  • The emergence of Airbnb in France
  • The fate of traditional hotels

From Hebdo to the Bataclan

2015 was an unusually challenging year for the French tourism sector. Our data showed a distinct decline in conversation levels around travel-related topics.

This downwards trend could logically be attributed to the spate of terrorist attacks in France in 2015, starting with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January and ending with the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall in November.

The fear created by these incidents influenced conversations well into the following year, with 42% of the terrorism-related discussions between January 2015 and December 2016 around travelling in France expressing a ‘fear’ of travelling. Our data showed a marked difference in sentiment according to age, with people in the older age group (35+) being more likely to express fear of travelling. But although they expressed fear, French tourists were also defiant. Opinions ranged from determination to keep travelling to expressions of disappointment and frustration at cancelled bookings.

Airbnb’s fierce takeover

Cancelled bookings were a major source of frustration among travellers using Airbnb. Nevertheless, the tech challenger has made significant headway in the French domestic tourism market, presenting a severe challenge to hotels and hostels. Our data showed a dramatic shift in the volume of conversations around Airbnb compared to more traditional accommodations.

In 2012, Airbnb was a new player, capturing only 13% of the conversation around tourist accommodations, compared to 58% captured by hotels and 29% by hostels. But by 2016, Airbnb had grabbed a whopping 88% of the social conversations around travel accommodation in France. Hotels and hostels were left trailing behind, attracting just 5% and 7% of share of voice, respectively. But what are French social media users actually saying about Airbnb? And how does that compare to what they’re saying about hotels and hostels?

Sentiment around hotels was largely negative in 2012 (-71%), compared to 44% positive sentiment for Airbnb. This likely stems from the high levels of ‘buzz’ around Airbnb in its early days, when it was still gaining traction. But in 2016, our data showed that, despite the ongoing popularity of Airbnb, negative sentiment around it had increased while positive sentiment had decreased.
We dug deeper into the data to find out why. Opinions from conversations around Airbnb, show people complaining about last-minute booking cancellations. Problems with security, scams and fake accommodation were additional concerns, with people also feeling an ‘invasion of privacy’ due to the large amount of personal data Airbnb asks for.

(Cancellation of a booking 1 week before. This should not be possible. Disappointing)

(As a new client, I am surprised by the number of people offering fake accommodations or fake rooms on Airbnb. I lost so much time trying to book rooms and I think it’s deplorable that Airbnb staff is not proactive in this sense)

Can French hotels regain ground?

The opinion data reveals signs of growing dissatisfaction among French travellers in regards to Airbnb. In light of this, there could be a good opportunity for hotels and hostels to make a comeback. Positive sentiment around hotels has increased, while negative sentiment has decreased. Also, hostels, a key competitor to Airbnb, had a net positive sentiment score of 44% in 2016, beating Airbnb’s 34%.


French tourism, despite being hit hard by factors outside of anyone’s control, is already bouncing back. The French are determined and committed travellers within their own country, and with so much to see, who could blame them. Just like other industries, such as hospitality, tech challengers have driven distinctive shifts in habits, mostly by introducing added convenience. But the new kids on the block are not flawless, and there are signs the tide is starting to turn back towards reliable old favourites. To stay one step ahead of the game, brands should monitor social conversations to anticipate new trends before they happen. Crimson Hexagon makes this possible.
To read more about current tourism trends in France, register to receive our French Consumer Trends Report.

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