> Beijing hotels report low bookings
> By Joelle Garrus, AFP
> Monday, July 14, 2008
> BEIJING -- Rooms are going begging one month out from the Beijing
> Olympics with hotels reporting low
> er-than-expected advance bookings and crossing their fingers for a
> late influx of tourists.
> After being warned that an accommodation crunch was likely during the
> Games, Beijing went on a hotel building binge after winning the right
> to host the Games in 2001 -- and now the opposite appears to be in
> With few exceptions -- notably some niche hotels in Beijing's old
> quarter -- hotels are in fierce competition to attract Olympic
> So far the luxury sector has come off best with top hotels achieving
> 75 percent booking rates while four star hotels are less than half
> full and bookings for three-star hotel rooms are running at 30
> percent, according to the Beijing Tourism Bureau.
> Only 10 percent of rooms in the more modest tourist hotels are booked,
> it said.
> The boutique hotels that have recently begun to emerge in what is left
> of Beijing's old city seem to be acquitting themselves well in the
> intense pre-Olympic struggle for customers. They offer traditional
> courtyard accommodation in old Hutong, the lanes that once connected
> up the fabric of old Beijing.
> Hotel proprietors were expecting to make a killing during the Olympics
> and room charges have more than quadrupled in the run-up.
> Home owners were also hoping to cash in on Olympic fever with some
> deciding to offer their apartments for rent to visitors at a
> significant premium.
> Three-bedroom apartments that normally rent for around 6,000 yuan (US
> $880) are on offer for 1,500 yuan a day during the Aug. 8-24 Games.
> "We were told there would be a lack of beds so property owners got rid
> of tenants and upped the rent for the Games period. Or if they were
> living in the apartment themselves, they decided to move out so they
> could rent the space," said Song Zhi, who helps run the accommodation
> service lodgingatbeijing.com
> Song offers apartments for all budgets including premier locations
> near the main Olympic venues. "But at least for now, supply exceeds
> demand," he said.
> The head of the Beijing Tourism Administration, Zhang Huiguang, said
> that Beijing has 336,000 hotel rooms with 660,000 beds.
> Administration officials say that the Games are expected to attract
> between 450,000 and 500,000 overseas visitors, in addition to 1.2 to
> 1.6 million Chinese visitors from outside the capital.
> However, expectations concerning the number of overseas tourists could
> prove optimistic.
> Some travelers may already have been put off by early reports of huge
> tourist numbers expected to flood an already congested city. Others
> may have been discouraged by diplomatic tension between China and the
> outside world earlier this year over issues including its handling of
> the unrest in Tibet.
> In addition, reports about heavy handed Olympic security measures and
> a tougher policy on giving visas to overseas applicants may have
> further discouraged potential tourists.
> Evidence that tourism has been falling off was clearly visible in May
> this year at some of China's top tourists sites. Parking lots normally
> impossible to find a space in were half empty at Mutianyu, one of the
> top sites at the Great Wall just outside Beijing.
> Faced with falling bookings, European airlines Air France and British
> Airways have been running special promotions to attract tourists to
> their China routes, while the French firm has also been forced to
> suspend several weekly flights.