Hotels in Beijing are slashing room prices for the Olympics by as much as half because reservations have fallen well short of expectations.
Hoteliers had hoped for a bonanza from the Games, which open on Friday, but have been disappointed by low visitor numbers, as people have shied away because of visa restrictions and bad publicity about China.
Asked on Monday whether they could take a 10-room booking for the coming weekend, including the night of the much-hyped opening ceremony, a series of four- and three-star hotels said they had plenty of availability and were willing to give big discounts.
The Bamboo Garden Hotel started by offering rooms with a view of its courtyard and bamboo groves for 3,000 yuan ($438.50) per night but quickly agreed to cut the rate in half.
The Oriental Peace Hotel said over the phone that it would lop 30 percent off its 1,480 yuan nightly rate and would consider a better deal in person.
"All of our rooms were renovated earlier this year, just before Spring Festival. If you come by to see them, I'm sure you'll be satisfied," said the hotel's manager.
Compounding hotels' troubles, a building boom has left the capital with an excess of rooms. There are at least 20 more hotels competing for business than this time last year, the Beijing tourism bureau estimated.
Visitors have been put off by worries about pollution in Beijing, threats of terrorist attacks and the sheer difficulty of obtaining visas. In the run-up to the Games, tourist numbers were down by 20 percent from the same time last year, the Beijing Tourism Administration said.
Officials have said that more than half the rooms in four-star hotels over the Olympic period are still available — and that some three star and below hotels have reservation rates as low as 10 percent.
But Xiong Yumei, deputy head of Beijing's tourism bureau, told reporters on Monday she was not concerned, as hotels at the lower end of price range mainly cater for Chinese tourists who often do not book until the last minute.
"Only about one tenth of the domestic tourists who are planning on coming to Beijing over the Games have made reservations in advance," Xiong said.
At the top end of the market, hotels looked to be in better shape for the Olympics. The five-star Sofitel Wanda said it had not a single room free for the duration of the games.
Many of the best hotels in Beijing have long had blocks of rooms reserved for Olympic teams and officials, and guests hoping for a luxury suite may have to set their sights lower.
But even some of the hotels that have partnered with the Beijing Games Organizing Committee said they still had availability. The four-star Scitech Hotel offered a nearly 25 percent discount on its starting price of 3,966 yuan a night.