Business / Economy

Businesses race to keep up with long-range runners

By Zhu Wenqian (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-05 08:37

Pod Inn, a Hangzhou-based budget hotel chain, saw reservations surge at one facility in the city ahead of a marathon race in early November.

The hotel, near the starting point of the race at the Yellow Dragon Sports Center, was more than 90 percent full before the event, compared with 50 percent to 60 percent most other days.

Budget hotels' business is still solid even as the hospitality sector slows overall. One reason is the rising popularity of marathons.

"It's very common for marathoners to book a hotel room near the starting point right after they sign up for the race three or four months in advance," said Melissa Zhang, vice-president of Zhuyou Hotel Management Co Ltd, which operates under the Pod Inn brand.

Zhang noted that Pod Inn had only accepted bookings 45 days in advance until recently. But after many marathoners asked for even earlier bookings, the chain changed its policy.

"The Hangzhou Marathon had a marked impact on the business of hotels near the starting point. For hotels elsewhere, the bookings were relatively stable," she said.

"Hotel location matters for marathon runners. They want a room near the starting point. Brand and quality are secondary considerations."

Noticing how marathons could help boost profits, Pod Inn jumped on the bandwagon by drawing up a list of all marathons to be held this year nationwide and adjusting its room rates accordingly.

According to Wisdom Holdings Group, the sponsor of last year's Hangzhou Marathon, the gross profit from organizing a marathon can be as much as 8 million yuan ($1.29 million). These events also generate "millions of yuan" in consumer expenditures, it said.

Last year, 51 marathon races were held around the nation by the Chinese Athletic Association, with more than 900,000 runners in all.

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