CHINA> Regional
Rooms going cheap as hotels scramble for visitors
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-01-10 07:45

The number of visitors to Beijing is estimated to have fallen more than 10 percent last year as a result of the global economic slowdown, a senior official have said.

Zhang Huiguang, head of the Beijing tourism administration, said on Wednesday at a national working conference: "The anticipated tourist influx after the Olympic Games did not materialize, and international visitor arrivals fell."

It is estimated that 3.8 million international visitors stayed at least one night in Beijing last year, down 14 percent on 2007, she said.

Foreign currency revenue totaled $4.1 billion, down 11 percent year-on-year, she said.

"Some travel firms said their inbound business was down 30 to 40 percent in the fourth quarter," Zhang said.

Occupancy rates at hotels with three or more stars also fell severely, she said, without giving exact figures.

However, an anonymous industry source said last month that occupancy rates at some five-star hotels in Beijing had fallen to just 30 percent, which is "unbelievably low".

Yang Yang, general manager of Beijing Spring Travel Service, said several five-star hotels have reacted to the slump by cutting room rates by up to 75 percent ahead of the Spring Festival, which starts on Jan 26.

"January is always low season, but this year prices are 20 percent less than the usual discount rates," he said.

Meanwhile, the municipal tourism bureau said on Friday that it will give out 30,000 free tickets to tourist attractions and more than 8,000 free hotel rooms over the Spring Festival to attract more domestic visitors.

The idea is based on the fact that more than 80 percent of Beijing's tourism revenue, which totaled 210.3 billion yuan ($30.7 billion) in 2007, comes from the domestic sector, Zhang said.

The ticket offer includes 20,000 free passes to top attractions like the Palace Museum and Summer Palace, and 10,000 for the Water Cube and Bird's Nest, she said.

Also, 39 of Beijing's four- and five-star hotels will offer 208 free rooms for each day of the Spring Festival, while 200 others will cut their room rates to 100 yuan a night, Zhang said.