Paris hotels experiment with 'honesty rates': What would you pay for a stay?

(CNN) -- When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.

That's the experiment being tested by several hotels in the French capital during the height of the summer season.

"It's something like a trust contract between the client and the hotel," says Aldric Duval, who came up with the "Payez ce que vous voulez" (Pay what you want) concept as a gimmick to promote Tour d'Auvergne, his three-star hotel in the city's Opera district.

Duval has recruited four other city center hotels, variously rated with three and four stars, to the scheme which runs from July 21 to August 10.

He tells CNN he struck on the idea after successfully running an honesty bar that left it up to guests to declare their booze consumption at check-out. In the City of Light, it seems hotel guests are not generally light fingered.

Allowing them to choose their own room rates -- instead of paying typical charges of about $250 -- will not only bring in the punters, but will also give the hotel valuable feed back, he adds.

"We put guests at the heart of the system and we transform them into a mystery customer. They will look at the hotel with a new eye and if they play true in this game, it can work."

If guests decide their stay is barely worth a dollar -- or euro, this being Paris -- then it could it could also wind up being an embarrassing financial disaster.

Duval doesn't think so.

Friendlier to tourists

"If the client wants to pay one euro, there's nothing I can do, but people will know that this approach is not a good deal, we'll explain it's not fair if they pay one euro."

"We could have run a promotion offering free rooms to the first 15 people to answer a question on our Website, but we've decided to do this instead."

Duval says the scheme has attracted interest from other hotels in Paris and elsewhere in France, with several in Cannes and Nice planning similar deals for the winter low season.

The pay-what-you-want scheme follows recent comments by France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, that the country needs to be friendlier and more accommodating to visitors if it want to protect an annual tourism income of $16 billion.

Duval said his scheme wasn't a response to this and complained that the government should be doing more to help hoteliers during tough economic times.

"To be friendly to the tourists Laurent Fabius must cut the hotel taxes and charges, then Paris will be better and more attractive and not so expensive."

It's unlikely, however, that Fabius will let them set their own tax rates.

What would you pay if you could choose your room rate? Let us know in the comments.

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