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TOURISM

Which parts of France will benefit from €93 million tourist tax paid by Airbnb?

Short-term property rental website Airbnb collected nearly €93million in tourist taxes (taxe de séjour )this year in France - but where will all that money go?

A hiker with a pair of hiking sticks reads a sign on a mountain trail, with a valley floor visible behind him
A hiker enjoys his holiday in France. Airbnb, the rentals giant, has collected close to €93 million in tourism taxes this in the 12-month period to November 2021. (Photo by Olivier Chassignole / AFP

Tourists staying in French Airbnb properties between November 1st 2020 and October 31st 2021 paid just under €93million in taxes de séjour – or tourism taxes. This is a huge rise on the €58million it collected in 2019, before the pandemic.

The holiday rentals giant is obliged to forward these payments on to the French state. The money will go into the coffers of some 29,000 communes across the country. 

Unsurprisingly, Paris will take the lion’s share of the tourist tax – payable by visitors for every night they stay in a hotel, B&B, campsite or other furnished tourist accommodation. 

The capital’s City Hall is expected to be boosted by €9.4 million tourist tax windfall from Airbnb. This will be less than the capital received in 2019, when the property rental portal alone paid it a handsome €15.3 million.

Marseille, meanwhile, is set for a €1.9 million taxe de séjour bonus this year.

READ MORE What are the rules on renting out French property on Airbnb?

Airbnb began automatically collecting the taxe de séjour when guests made a booking in 2015 in Paris and the Alpine resort of Chamonix, and then extended the measure to 19 French towns and cities in 2016. Today it collects the tourist tax for communes across the country.

This year, nearly one-third of the total payment – some €27 million – will be shared between towns and villages with fewer than 3,500 inhabitants, up from €10.5 million in 2019, and well ahead of the €3.2 million that small-town France received in 2018.

The increase in payments to smaller, rural towns, according to Airbnb, is because French people sought to escape the big cities in search of space and peace after the lockdowns.

“Larger French cities suffered from a lack of international tourists even if they began to return in the second part of the year, especially the Americans,” Emmanuel Marill, CEO of Airbnb France, explained.

People were inclined to book longer stays, Marill added, in more expensive accommodation. This added to the sums collected in tax – and, while the return of European travellers has helped the taxe de sejours’ bottom line, the fact domestic tourists have tended to stay in France has meant that more money is being spent in internally.

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TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

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