China on a Budget

I’m always amazed when I hear of friends spending $350USD or more per day for hotels in Shanghai. Sure, they’re nice… but if you’re hardly in them, what’s the point. So I’m glad to read the WSJ has an article highlighting the many fine and cheap hotel options available across China. From the article:

What can a $35 Chinese hotel room offer that some $350 rooms lack? Plenty, if you’re staying in a budget hotel.

With free in-room Internet access, many waist-level electrical outlets for easy recharging, and often new plumbing and excellent lighting, these hotels have mushroomed over the past few years, sometimes by the hundreds in major Chinese cities. One chain, Green Tree Inns, says it has 63 budget hotels in Shanghai alone. Yet most foreigners don’t know about them. Alex Xu, Green Tree’s chief executive, estimates that foreign clients make up only 5% to 10% of his patrons, who are largely Chinese business travelers.

American investors are more clued in. Morgan Stanley owns a chunk of the Motel 168 chain and its slightly upscale sister, Motel 268, through one of its real-estate investment funds. Green Tree’s Mr. Xu is a naturalized American citizen who owns the company along with several other California business partners. The concern had 200 hotels last year, added 200 more this year, and is planning another 300 in 2010.

It’s unlikely these budget hotels will remain undiscovered for long, as more visitors book their own travel to China, rather than relying on group tours or travel agencies. Last year, only 54% of foreigners visiting China went through travel agencies or tour operators, and often only for hotel and airline bookings, not group tours, says Xu Jing, regional representative for Asia and the Pacific at the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency.

Read the full article at Wall Street Journal Online.

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