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Beijing Olympics stimulates higher-end China tourism

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Reservations for prime hotels and homestay rooms are doing good business as the Olympics approaches, while travel agencies are preparing for a boom in customers, a city tourist official said on Friday.

HOTEL RESERVATIONS STRONG AT HIGHER LEVELS

About 78 percent of the rooms at five-star hotels in Beijing have been booked, at an average rate of 3,464 yuan (505.70 U.S. dollars), 3.6 times the rate a year earlier, according to Xiong Yumei, the Beijing Tourism Bureau’s vice director.

At four-star hotels, 48.5 percent of the rooms have been reserved, at an average rate 2,185 yuan, 4.6 times that of a year earlier. Lower-ranked hotels have lower reservation rates.

There are 5,790 registered boarding facilities in Beijing, including 816 star-ranked hotels, with 339,000 rooms and 665,000 beds. Among all the star-ranked hotels in the capital, 119 had signed contracts with the Olympics authorities.

Most of the contracted hotels are five-star facilities, and Xiong said most of them were largely booked out.

Xiong, who is also the bureau’s spokeswoman, said the hotel reservation rate is unlikely to change much ahead of the Games, and the priority now is to get fully prepared for incoming guests.

More than 200,000 employees have received training about the Olympics, international etiquette and foreign languages. Many Western food chefs in contracted hotels also learned to speak English or use body language.

“OLYMPIC FAMILY” GETTING POPULAR

To supplement Beijing’s hotel resources, 598 homestay households were selected, offering 726 rooms for more than 1,000 potential guests.

An authorization ceremony for those families was held by the bureau on Friday morning at Shichahai, a popular bar spot in central Beijing.

The “Olympic family hotels” program, which was created in April, offers foreign visitors a chance to experience Beijing citizens’ real lives.

Xiong said travel agencies from Japan, the United States, Canada, Chile, Singapore and Taiwan have considered renting rooms from these families during the Games.

Up to 450,000 overseas tourists are expected to arrive in August, including 120,000 for the sporting event, she said. Beijing received 420,000 overseas visitors last August.

AMPLE CHOICES FOR TOURS

Local travel agencies have been promoting packages highlighting sports venues and activities, cultural relics, museums and other special sights in and around Beijing.

China International Travel Service (CITS), the sole travel agency authorized to set up an office in the residential compound for Olympic athletes in northern Beijing, plans to offer 32 tours, including half-day and one-day Beijing tours and trips to other cities.

Zhao Xin, CITS’ director for Olympic projects, said the peak time will be after mid-August, when many athletic competitions are almost done. He estimated that 8,000 athletes will travel in groups this year.

“We will not arrange meals outside the Olympic Village to prevent doping problems,” he said.

Domestic and foreign reporters can also choose from different package offers. A one-day route covering Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace will cost 550 yuan per person, including admission fees, meals and transportation.

More than 30,000 overseas reporters are expected to be working during the Games.

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