Wednesday, August 06, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics: Hotel Price Rollercoaster

One of the more interesting aspects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics has been the evolution of the price of hotels and different types of accommodations.

In July 2007, I was working with a few different Chinese universities in Beijing on a summer camp for American teenagers. When asking about the possible cost of the basic university dorms during the Olympics, the managers and deans all stated that none of the hotels could give us an accurate price. These hotels (about 2 star level) usually cost around 30 USD per night for a double room. It seemed like all of the different universities were preparing for a huge increase in price due to anticipating huge crowds for the Olympics.

During the same time, all of the major 4 and 5 star hotels in Beijing were preparing for the same surge – of price and of tourists interested in the Olympics.

Fast forward a year and the Olympics are upon us. The prices have quadrupled across the board. No matter if it is the cheapest hostels, the 5 star hotels or everything in between. My friend was planning of traveling in Beijing during this time for 2 days. The price for Leo Hostel in Beijing is 550RMB or almost 80USD for a single room. Dorm rooms with 8 people cost 40 USD. Typical hotels costing 50 USD are now asking for 200. This is amazing.

At the same time, a combination of factors has changed the scope of the Olympics with respect to visitors.

1. The increased regulations of visa applications have made it much more difficult for foreign visitors to participate in the festivities.

2. Due to the same visa issues, many westerners already in China have left. One friend told me that 80% of all foreigners have left China in the past 6 months. I don’t really believe the ratio is truly that high, but its definitely true. Many friends and friends of friends in Shenzhen and Guangzhou have left.

3. Recent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang province have forced the government to increase security measures. Not only has this possibly affected foreign tourists, but many Chinese tourists have stayed away from Beijing.
“They’ve even mobilized surface to air missile defense systems around Beijing. You know if something happens, it’s going to be in Beijing.” – My Aunt
Combine these reasons with protests from some European heads of states, the Tibetan issue and the Sichuan earthquake, the amount of foreign tourists at the Beijing Olympics are drastically less than the 500,000 previously expected. As The Times of India reports:
People connected to the travel industry were expecting a flood of visitors coming to Beijing two weeks before the Games.

Instead, there is a small trickle of visitors just three days before the start of the Games apart from the athletes and sports officials from different participating countries.The arrival lounges at the Beijing airport, including the recently opened Terminal 3, are not at all as crowded as one would expect at the airport of a city hosting the world's biggest sports event.

Though exact numbers are not available, most observers feel there are lesser foreign tourists seen at Beijing's airport on a given day now than what was visible few months back.
Without the amount of foreigners expected, many of the hotels have changed pulled back on their previously ridiculous rates. Although rates are still higher than before, they are much more "reasonable".
"I am getting very low price quotations from three-star hotels. They are ready to sell rooms at nearly half the price they were asking for two weeks back. Lot of hotels are losing hopes of 100 per cent occupancy during the 16 days of the Games," Chang Qing, a travel agent, said.
Some news outlets have even reported that many 4 star hotels have less than a 50% occupancy rate for the entire Olympics. Who knows what the figures are for 3 star hotels and smaller establishments. I guess all that preparation starting a year ago was really a waste of time.

1 comment:

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