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Spotlight on the 2022 edition of the Lyon's Fête des Lumières

Lyon lit up last weekend for the famous Fête des Lumières, an event that honours the traditions of the City of Gones. After a cancelled 2020 edition and a more restrained 2021 edition, it seems that this year marks a return to normal for this event, which is so much awaited in France and internationally. An initial positive assessment supported by data from MKG Consulting and confirmed by ONLYLYON Tourisme et Congrès as well as professionals from the destination.

An ode to art and poetry, the traditional Festival of Lights was back in Lyon on Thursday 8 December for four days of illuminations and shows. An event that attracts French people from all over France as well as foreign tourists, as the Festival has become known and recognised on the international cultural scene over the years. Philippe Dalaudière, president of DALOFI and the hospitality branch of the UMIH Rhône, compares it to the famous Christmas markets of Strasbourg and Colmar, underlining that "these are certainly regional events, but with an international influence, supported by a reputation that generates a very strong attraction".

This new edition kept all its promises since, according to the data provided by MKG Consulting, the occupancy rate over the 3 nights reached 83.5%, i.e. an increase of 6.3% compared to the previous edition. More importantly, this year's occupancy rate exceeds that of 2019 by 1.7%, indicating that this year's event was well attended. According to initial estimates, more than 2 million visitors came to the capital of Gaul between 8 and 11 December, according to the City of Lyon. 

It was a very good edition for the tourism actors, and in terms of occupancy rates, we have reached the levels of 2019. 

Virginie Carton, Managing Director, ONLYLYON Tourisme et Congrès

Occupancy was far from the only hospitality performance indicator to rise this year. Indeed, average prices were €146.8 for the whole edition, an increase of 20.7% compared to last year and 2.9% compared to 2019. RevPAR also rose sharply to €122.6, compared with €95.6 in 2021 and €117.2 in 2019. These rising figures benefit in particular from the recovery in international tourism and a certain lull in the health crisis for several months now.

However, as Philippe Dalaudière points out, based on data from MKG Consulting, "there is a major delta between hotel operators present on the peninsula compared to those present in the city centre and on the outskirts". Indeed, a gap of 20 to 30 points is visible between these three areas, with tourists greatly favouring hotels located in the city centre of Lyon for convenience.

As Clément Lorentz, revenue director at SOGEPAR Hotels, explains, properties on the outskirts of Lyon "are a second choice during the Festival of Lights". Visitors turn to these hotels when they are forced to do so, i.e. when the central and inner-city hotels are full. The price argument then becomes essential in the sale of rooms during such events in order to attract "customers who are looking for low prices". For his part, Philippe Dalaudière estimates that the hotels on the outskirts of the city "were 70% full, which is very good for a December weekend".

If on the whole, the performance indicators are positive, Philippe Dalaudière denotes "a small disappointment on the part of hotel operators" since they "will have reached 90 to 95% occupancy rather than the 100% they were hoping to ensure". If the epidemic recovery, the weather and the economic context can partly explain the incomplete filling of a certain number of hotels, "Airbnb type accommodation has also grown over the years in the region and competes with the hotel industry" according to him.

This trend is confirmed by the platform itself, since travellers' searches for stays for the 2022 Festival of Lights in the city have tripled compared to the 2021 edition. Although the vast majority of travellers still choose to stay in Lyon itself, Airbnb has observed a dispersion of stays within the communes of the Lyon metropolis. Thus, more than 25% of bookings for these four days were made outside Lyon, such as in Villeurbanne, Caluire-et-Cuire and Oullins. Moreover, Airbnb is interested in the origin of these travellers, with Parisians in first place, followed by people from Marseille, Turin, Nantes and Milan.

The 2022 edition of the event will have seen the return of foreign tourists, as confirmed by Virginie Carton, General Manager of ONLYLYON Tourisme et Congrès. The vast majority of them came from Italy, Spain and Switzerland. The Festival has thus returned to a customer mix similar to that before the health crisis, since 50% of visitors to the Tourist Office's reception pavilion were foreign. As for national visitors, 75% were from outside the region, mainly from the South of France and the Ile-de-France region.

These numerous visitors also took the opportunity to discover the city, as the Director of ONLYLYON explains, "We observed an increase in the occupancy rate from Monday onwards, so visitors came to extend their stay to enjoy the day, and even the evening". A longer stay led to "an increase in the sale of City passes, which shows that people wanted to visit the destination during the day". An increase of 30% compared to 2019.

Alongside the Festival of Lights, the city hosted "the contemporary art biennial and the Tutankhamun exhibition, in addition to Lyon's cultural offer with 24 museums". All these cultural events contribute to the attractiveness and influence of the destination on the national and international tourist scene. Moreover, American customers made a big comeback in the city during the summer period, even if they have become rarer since Thanksgiving, explains Virginie Carton.

This year, it was also a question of making the Festival of Lights rhyme with energy sobriety in the context of the energy crisis that is having a strong impact on France. Everything was done to maintain the festivities, and as Virginie Carton explains, the city only consumed 3,500 watts of electricity for the entire festival thanks to the use of LEDs. Furthermore, Virginie Carton states that "the city is committed to improving and measuring the results of its events, with a strong incentive to use public transport".

Philippe Dalaudière explains that there is "a point of concern following the declaration of the local executive who spoke of reduction on Saturday at the heart of the event, with potentially fewer works presented". Although we don't know more at the moment, Virginie Carton is keen to reassure professionals and visitors alike by insisting on the importance of this festival for the destination. In particular, she stresses the fact that "we are not just telling our visitors about a festival of lights, we are telling the history of the city" and although other festivals of lights are appearing in other destinations, "what is interesting in Lyon is the anchoring and authenticity of this festival, which has a rich history.

Events remain a key element for the city, in particular the Festival of Lights, even if Virginie Caron is keen to point out that "there are things going on all year round in Lyon" such as the many biennials held there, the festival between the Rhône and the Saône or the Lyon Street Food Festival. Gastronomy is also one of the tourist pillars of the destination with, in particular, the recent reopening of the Cité de la Gastronomie, a place that the city would like the people of Lyon to rediscover and appropriate.

And while Lyon's biggest event just ended last Sunday, ONLYLYON is already looking to the future with the imminent arrival of the Rugby World Cup. The city will host 5 matches while its neighbour Saint-Etienne will host 4. An international event that should benefit all the hotels in the area while allowing the destination to gain visibility throughout the world. Virginie Carton believes that "we have a real challenge with all the tourism professionals to prepare our offer well in order to make the fans' stay in the destination a success".

This event is particularly timely as ONLYLYON intends to continue its promotional strategy with its Italian, Spanish, Swiss, Belgian, German and British neighbours. Long-haul markets such as the United States and Canada are also targeted, as they are historic markets for the city, which appreciates gastronomy and wine tourism in particular. In addition, these are "customers who are really attracted by the French art of living experience that we can offer in Lyon in a city on a human scale where there are proposals for all types of budgets.

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