Tight security, visa restrictions and high fares deter Olympic tourists
Chinese government is not very enthused with the response from tourist for Olympic games.Main deterrents are strict China visa regime and tight security restrictions. Expensive cost is hampering even domestic tourist in China. Fewer people are going to Beijing because the ticket prices are too expensive and there are too many strict rules to get into the city.
Tight security restrictions and higher prices are hampering domestic demand for Olympic package tours in China and reducing the number of overseas visitors, travel agencies and hotels have warned.
The Chinese government has made security a top priority for the games, but some of its stringent measures are deterring people. A clampdown on visas has cut the number of international business travellers, while tour companies reported that Chinese people had been put off by the security checks and cost.
"Fewer people are going to Beijing because the ticket prices are too expensive and there are too many strict rules to get into the city," said an employee at the China Travel Agency in Chongqing.
Hospitality industry insiders report that several large hotels are running at anything from 50-70% occupancy while some smaller places are struggling to book more than 50% of their rooms. Even the state newspaper Shanghai Daily reported that the appetite for Olympic trips was considerably lower than expected.
Zhang Lei, a spokesman with the Shanghai-based Spring International Travel Service, told the paper that its special packages had met "a slack response", with only 1,000 customers taking up the offers - around half the number expected.
Yin Jun, manager of the Jiangsu provincial branch of China Travel Service, blamed the prices of accommodation and tourist buses, saying the cost of packages had tripled to above 6,000 yuan (£440).
Officials have forecast that about half a million foreign visitors, and an even greater number of domestic travellers, will come to the city for the games.
But asked if tourist numbers were lower than expected, an official at the Beijing Tourism Bureau declined to comment yesterday. "The government will not talk about anything negative," said the man, who gave his name only as Mr Song. "If the matter was something positive, then maybe we could talk about it more."
At the higher end, many four- and five-star hotels are booked out for the games. A staff member at the Hilton said it would be full next month because it was hosting six countries' national organising committees. But she added: "There have been fewer guests in the period before the Olympics."
A few domestic travel agencies said demand for travel to Beijing had picked up slightly in their area, in part because tourists had been deterred from visiting Sichuan because of the earthquake and were looking for other destinations. The hospitality industry in Shanghai also appears to be suffering the knock-on effects of the games, with many business people unable to gain entry to China.
"We haven't got a lot of people coming into town because visas are harder to get," said Paul French, chief China analyst at the Shanghai-based research firm Access Asia. "Places that cater to foreigners are really feeling the pinch. Airlines have also been hurt because they thought flights to Beijing would be so booked up that there would be overspill.
"The long-term effect is that people can't do deals."
Under security measures introduced in the last few weeks, bus passengers to all cities hosting Olympic events must show identity cards as well as tickets; subway luggage is checked; and bars and other entertainment venues report increased visits from police checking for drug dealing and prostitution.
Yesterday, airline officials said the landing and taking off of planes during the Olympic opening ceremony would be restricted, forcing the rescheduling of dozens of flights. Domestic media reports quoted unnamed aviation sources as saying that Beijing Capital Airport would be closed to all non-Olympic traffic between 8pm and midnight on the evening of the opening ceremony.
Tightened security even appears to have spread to Shanghai, where staff at all public swimming pools must now check customers' shampoos, shower gel and other liquids in a bid to avoid explosions or other terrorist attacks.