Paris hoteliers angered by IOC sponsorship deal with Airbnb

The newest Olympic sponsor has sparked the ire of French hoteliers, who have suspended their collaboration with 2024 Paris Games organizers over fears the IOC's agreement with home-sharing company Airbnb will create unfair competition.

The nine-year, five-Games sponsorship deal announced this week starts in time for next year's Tokyo Olympics and runs through the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Over the course of the deal, the International Olympic Committee is pledging to make at least $28 million worth of Airbnb accommodation available to athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics.

The deal has been criticized by Paris city officials, who believe the platform is responsible for the rise of rents in the French capital. It also triggered a wave of anger across the French hotel industry.

"We are now waiting for clarification before we can restart our working relationship with Paris 2024 organizers," Ophelie Rota, a spokeswoman for the Union of Hotel-related Trades and Industries, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Rota said Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris organizing committee, has already contacted the union to set up a meeting aimed at easing the growing tensions. Paris organizers confirmed Estanguet was set to hold discussions with union officials later Thursday.

According to Rota, the hoteliers want guarantees that Airbnb will be forced to respect the same stringent conditions applied to professionals of the hotels trade.

"In the case Airbnb is confirmed for Paris 2024, will they need to respect the same security standards as us? Will they be asked to offer a 24-hour reception service? Will they be forced to have a breakfast offer?" Rota said. "We have been working with Paris 2024 since they started their bid. They should have warned us that this deal was coming up."

When Paris successfully bid for the Games, the accommodation offer in the French capital was a strong asset. Paris organizers boasted at the time that more than 133,000 hotel rooms were available, 70% of which are located within a 10-kilometer radius of the city center. They also secured a sponsorship deal with hospitality group AccorHotels and negotiated fixed prices for the 2024 Games with hoteliers.

The hotel union, known as UMIH, described the IOC-Airbnb partnership as "totally disrespectful toward the hotel professionals who have been working since the inception of the bidding process with the Paris 2024 organizing team."

"Once again, two different sets of rules for the same match. Where is the fair play?" questioned Roland Heguy, a UMIH official.

Didier Chenet, the head of the GNI union representing hoteliers and restaurateurs, said the deal is an insult to IOC values.

"Among the essential values ​​of Olympism, there is respect. Respect for oneself, others, but also for the rules," Chenet said. "When an athlete does not respect the rules, he is disqualified. Looking at the number of lawsuits pitting Airbnb against [some of] the world's biggest cities, we can seriously question whether Airbnb abides by the rules."

Earlier this year, Paris city officials took legal action against the platform in a bid to have the company fined 12.5 million euros ($14 million) for allowing owners to rent their properties without having them properly registered. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also wrote to IOC president Thomas Bach to "alert him of the risks and consequences" of the deal with Airbnb and is planning to hold a referendum on the platform's presence in Paris if she wins re-election next year.