China's tourism industry, both domestic and foreign inbound, continues to grow at a rapid pace. In 2005, over 120 million foreign tourists visited China producing revenue in excess of USD 29 billion. Most experts forecast an average annual growth rate of over ten percent in the coming years. The development of tourism, together with the burgeoning growth of western China and the country's integration into the global economy has been responsible for this dynamic expansion. The growth will be further fueled by the approaching 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the 16th Guangzhou Asian Games.
Growth in tourism has been coupled with a concurrent proliferation of hotel properties in China. By the end of 2005, China's star-level hotels totaled nearly 13,000, a nearly 19% increase over the previous year. These hotels account for nearly 1.4 million rooms. Visitors can find a variety of lodging options including vacation resorts, spa hotels, auto courts, youth hostels, and hotels that cater to business travelers. There are many well-known international chains represented in China. Among those are Hyatt, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Four Seasons, Hilton, Leeds, Marriott, Intercontinental, ACK, Shangri-La and Kempinski.
Star-level hotels in China are divided into five ranks based on standards issued by the China National Tourism Administration. One or two- star properties are economical and clean, but may have very limited English speaking staff. They must have at least twenty guest rooms, most with private bath and offer breakfast or other meals. Three-star hotel rooms and above are always equipped with an air-conditioner, color TV, refrigerator, telephone, double curtain and a private bathroom. Hot and cold water is available 24 hours a day and internet access may be available except in remote areas or cities like Lhasa. Three-star hotels also have restaurants, bar and coffee services, banquet halls, conference rooms, ballrooms and laundry facilities. Some of the staff can speak basic, everyday English while other may be able to speak only Chinese. Four or five-star hotels are luxury properties with spacious, soundproof rooms; large lobbies; health clubs; business centers; 24-hour room service and excellent Chinese and western food. Five-star hotels in China have standards that nearly match similarly rated properties in large European and American cities.
For all hotels, check in is generally after 2:00 p.m. and check out is usually by noon the next day. Later check out can be arranged, but an extra charge (typically half of the daily room rate) may be required. It is wise to bring your hotel/room card with you when you leave the hotel. It contains the telephone number and address printed in both Chinese and English and could greatly facilitate your return to the hotel.
Hotel rates in China vary based on the quality and location of the lodging and the time of the year it is booked. In general, budget hotels (below three-star) cost about USD12-USD25 per standard room/night. Three-star hotels cost about USD25-USD50 per standard room/night while the four or five-star luxury hotels cost USD50-USD75 or even much higher per standard room/night. Accommodations are more luxurious in the large and thriving cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Xian and Shenzhen. Fewer luxury hotels can be found in smaller cities or remote areas. However, there are plenty of economical or standard hotels away from the larger cities that are clean, comfortable and safe.
Another popular form of lodging is the International Youth Hostel. Rates are quite low and are based on a single bed. China Holidays highly recommends the hostel if you are trying to stay within a certain budget. The facilities in the youth hostel are designed according to specified standards.
Finally, some traditional Chinese hotels like those found in the quadrangle in Beijing are becoming more and more popular among foreign tourists. In China, not all hotels are permitted to receive foreigners depending on whether or not they meet certain requirements.