Beijing Hotels Get Cheaper ahead of Olympics

BEIJING ~ Beijing hotels that had hoped to cash in on an Olympic boom by hiking rates said this week they were having to slash prices in a last-ditch bid to fill empty rooms.

Occupancy rates for the hotel industry were lower than expected in the run-up to next month’s Games after many hotels more than tripled their normal rates, they said.

Now rates for three- and four-star hotels are tumbling as hotels try to fill empty rooms by attracting both overseas and domestic tourists.

“Bookings are so low that we have no choice but to cut prices,” said Zhang Ting, sales manager for the Zhongyu Century Grand Hotel.

Zhang said that the hotel hiked its rates to 2,500 yuan (US$367) a night – more than six times the rate of August last year – in a bid to cash in on the Games.

“But we put our prices too high from the start because our expectations for the Olympics were too high,” she said.

With only 30 percent of the hotel’s 220 rooms booked for the Olympic period, the management had no choice but to slash prices, she said. Its rates for the Olympics have now been cut 20 percent to 2,000 yuan.

“The surrounding hotels are all doing the same thing,” said Zhang.

Several other hotels said that they were cutting prices in an effort to fill empty rooms.

The Super House International said its room rate had gone down from 3,600 yuan to 2,880 for one night. Cheng Hong Hotel said it had cut its room rate from 2,000 yuan to 1,400.

Average rates for four-star hotels had gone down from 1,500 yuan to 800 yuan, while three-star rates had gone down from 700 yuan to 400, according to reports in the state-run press on Tuesday.

Earlier this month the Beijing municipal tourism bureau said that the occupancy rate for four-star hotels during the Olympics was 44 percent – while rates for three-star hotels were even lower.

Five-star hotels were more than 70 percent booked.

Beijing officials have said that the city was expecting 450,000 to 500,000 foreign visitors during the Games, with an additional one million Chinese tourists flocking to the capital.

However, tourist numbers have been far lower than expected so far this year, with Chinese press identifying high hotel costs as one factor keeping domestic visitors away.

Repeated warnings of terrorism threats and strict security measures for the Games that include tougher visa requirements are reasons often cited for fewer than predicted foreign tourists.

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