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France ranks as the world’s most popular tourist destination, with around 33 million visitors coming to Paris annually. As such, demand for hotels – and prices – are high, particularly in peak months like July and August. So a new initiative in the capital that offers a “pay what you want” system over three weeks this summer – allowing guests to stay in a four-star Paris accommodation for less than the usual price – is particularly tempting for thrifty tourists and curious locals alike.

In a city where hotel prices are notoriously high (the average nightly rate at a three-star hotel this summer is 135 euros), the Payez ce que vous voulez (“pay what you want”) project breaks the mould by inviting guests to stay in one of five participating hotels for the price they feel is fair. Launched on 21 July and running until 10 August – peak high season – the scheme allows guests to stay the night, and decide afterwards how much they feel their stay was worth. The hotels range from a three-star town house, Villa Bohéme, on a private lane in Pigalle, to a luxurious four-star boutique hotel, Tour d'Auvergne, near Opéra. Standard rates outside of the project range from 130 to 290 euros. Reservations can be made online, with a booking fee of 17 euros to be paid up front.

While the idea might be to tourists’ advantage, it’s actually fuelled by business savvy market research goals: the aim behind the initiative is for the hotels to get to know clients – via their evaluation of their experience during their stay – and adjust their offer accordingly. Furthermore, the hotels hope participants will genuinely pay what they feel the stay was worth. The project has already seen great success since it launched, with rooms booking up quickly. After all, demand is high in Paris. But for once, prices might just be right.

Kim Laidlaw is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.

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