| GEO World|
| Beijing hotels drop prices ahead of Olympic|
| Updated at: 2048 PST, Saturday, July 26, 2008|
BIEJING: Airlines and hoteliers have been forced to cut prices by up to 50 per cent in an attempt to attract last-minute visitors to the Olympics in Beijing.
Chinese officials had predicted that up to two million tourists would visit during the Games, which run from August 8 to 24, with a third coming from abroad. Following a massive expansion programme, Beijing now has more than 800 star-ranked hotels, but the high demand expected has not materialised.
In February, Telegraph Travel revealed that some hotels had increased prices by almost tenfold (see table) in less than a year. For example, the Prime Hotel put up room rates from £63 to £616 a night during the second week of the Olympics, the Wanfujin from £71 to £542 and the Double Happiness Hotel from £41 to £259.
These same hotels have now cut their rates by more than a third, to £391, £330 and £142 respectively, but few believe that this will be enough to fill the empty rooms. Although many of the luxury hotels have long been booked by the organising committee and the media at a fixed rate, lower-grade hotels have struggled to fill their rooms.
Air fares have also been cut. In February, the cost of return flights to Beijing during the Olympics started at around £1,200 with Air China and £1,500 with British Airways. Emirates is now offering return flights during the Games from as little as £497, Air China from £503 and BA from £972.
Hoteliers are blaming the lack of visitors on increased security measures and the tightening of visa rules, even for travellers who hold tickets for the Olympics. New visa requirements introduced in April mean that foreign visitors must now have proof of their accommodation and return flight when applying to enter, while the government has increased its military presence in the capital.