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Beijing Olympics: Costly hotels blow to tourism

A fifth of the rooms in Beijing's hotels are empty.  Aug 13, 2008

But foreigners who may now want to fly to the capital, assuming they can get better room rates during the Olympics, are likely to be disappointed, even if they can get a visa.

Prices are mostly staying extraordinarily high.

Guo Zhijuan, duty manager at the Jingling Hotel in central-eastern Beijing, said yesterday that the four-star hotel is full, with the average room costing - and she admitted being awed by this herself - $850 a night.

Half of those who are paying this figure are foreigners, half are domestic Chinese tourists.

When the Games are over the price of most of the 644 rooms will fall immediately to $250.

Wang Zhifa, the National Tourism Administration deputy director, said that during the Games so far most visitors to Beijing comprised athletes, coaches and sports fans. He expected tourists to return after the Games.

He said that the current 81.5 per cent occupancy rate in Beijing was "rather good, but no record".

Guo said that few of those staying at her hotel, which was closed two years ago for six months for a pre-Olympic renovation, appeared to be interested in regular sight-seeing, only focusing on the Games.

Last year, there were 132million visits made to China, ranking it the fourth tourism target internationally. Just 64.9million people came in the first half of 2008.

Wang said that research on tourism in previous Olympic host cities shows that the peak period for tourism would come after the Games closed.

"And we are ready for them," Wang said.

He said that all tourist sites were required to beef up their security following the attack at the ancient Drum Tower by an apparently disturbed Tang Yongming on an American couple and their Chinese tour guide. During the attack one of the Americans, Todd Bachman, was stabbed to death and Tang leaped to his death.

Earlier, Beijing officials said that they expected 400,000-500,000 overseas visitors during the Games, compared with the 420,000 who came in the same period last year.

But some three- and four-star hotels in the capital have complained of low visitor numbers.

Home-stay numbers are especially low.

Of about 600 host families selected in late June, only two have been booked - by a German couple and by an Al-Jazeera TV reporter.

Most of the families had renovated their homes in anticipation of international guests.

The number of Chinese travelling overseas as tourists has fallen 30 per cent compared with the same period last year, indicating that they are staying for the Olympics.

Lin Kang, deputy general manager of the outbound department of the China International Travel Service, said: "Many customers cancelled their plans to travel abroad in favour of working as volunteers or simply staying home to watch the Games, mostly on TV."

And Chen Xiaobing, general manager of Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co Ltd, said that workers and officials at large state-owned companies and government departments - major consumers of incentive tours and business trips - have been ordered to stay home during the Games to ensure that Beijing runs smoothly.

A fifth of the rooms in Beijing's hotels are empty.

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