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经济酒店PK招待所

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Anyone who has travelled cheaply in China will have vivid memories of the country's zhaodaisuo – a term that literally means guesthouse but that, some argue, should be translated as “flea pit”.

In spite of the quality problem, however, it is becoming difficult to find a bed at many guesthouses because of China's growing popularity as a holiday destination and a rise in the number of domestic travellers as economic growth pushes up incomes.

The outlook is improving, however, as international hoteliers and domestic operators open a wave of low-cost and clean hotels across the country in response to burgeoning demand for budget accommodation.

“Most travellers only stay at zhaodaisuo because they are cheap. What we offer is a cleaner alternative at a similar price” says Zheng Nanyan, chief executive of 7 Days Inn, a budget hotel chain. “I strongly believe economy hotels in China are on their way to replacing all the zhaodaisuo.”

These new hotels, which typically charge about Rmb134 to Rmb202 ($17-$26) a room a night, are already popular among both backpackers and business travellers from companies such as Lenovo, the computer maker, and TCL, the consumer electronics group, who require junior managers to stay at budget hotels.

Last year, the 600 budget hotels in China had an average occupancy rate of 85 to 96 per cent compared with an estimated 50 per cent in the thousands of zhaodaisuo or in China's many one and two-star hotels.

The boom is drawing increasing attention from foreign investors. Warburg Pincus, the US private equity firm, last week became the latest foreign company to tap the market by buying a stake of more than 10 per cent in Guangzhou-based 7 Days Inn for an undisclosed sum, according to Mr Zheng.

The investment followed an initial public offering by Home Inns, China's second largest budget hotel operator, which raised $109m on Nasdaq last month. Since then the shares have more than doubled in price. Shanghai-based Jinjiang International, which owns the popular budget chain Jinjiang Inn, is seeking a listing in Hong Kong next month.

“Warburg Pincus's investment is not a very big one but its confidence is big. We both see huge potential in the economy hotel sector,” Mr Zheng says. Warburg Pincus was not available for comment.

According to the 2006 China economy hotel survey by the Ministry of Commerce, the number of rooms operated by the country's top 10 budget hotel groups grew by an average of 74 per cent last year.

In spite of the high growth rate, economy hotels are estimated to account for just 2-3 per cent of all hotels in China. But the business is very profitable. Home Inns, founded in 2002, reported a small profit in 2003, which grew to Rmb20.9m last year.

Mr Zheng says that 7 Days' pre-tax profit margin is as high as 30 per cent because of its 95 per cent occupancy rate.

7 Days says it has done small things to drive down costs. Using smaller windows, for example, allows the company to save on both building costs and air-conditioning expenses. “A lot of guests like to have the window open and the air-conditioner on at the same time. It's a waste of energy. But we manage to waste less by giving them a smaller window,” Mr Zheng says.

International hotel chains have also been stepping up their presence in the budget segment.

Accor, the French hotel operator, opened its first economy grade Ibis hotel in Tianjin in northern China in 2004. It now has three in China – all of which are more than 90 per cent full every day. The company plans to have 100 Ibis hotels in China by 2010.

Gilles Larrive, senior vice-president for Ibis, says: “We have more than 20 hotels under construction. From mid-2007, we will add two Ibis hotels a month. We actually think we can meet our goal in 2009.”

InterContinental Hotels is also planning to tap the Chinese economy market. It opened its first Express by Holiday Inn in Shanghai last month and has a pipeline of 10 across China.

A. Patrick Imbardelli, chief executive for InterContinental Asia Pacific says: “InterContinental is keen to develop Express by Holiday Inn into a leading national brand, providing value- conscious travellers with a network of properties across China. We anticipate strong demand for this brand in China.”

All these plans for expansion are subject, however, to the availability of suitable land, which is in short supply. “If you look at occupancy levels, it is clear that there is still a lot of room to grow. What is less clear is whether the operators can get the land. It is very very competitive,” says 7 Days' Mr Zheng

任何曾经没有花多少钱就在中国旅游过的人,都会清楚地记得中国的“招待所”——从字面上说,招待所指的是招待客人的地方,但有人认为,它应该被翻译成flea pit(跳蚤窝) 。

然而,尽管存在质量问题,许多招待所却没有空床位,因为中国作为度假目的地日益受到欢迎,而且随着经济增长使收入“水涨船高”,中国国内游客的数量也在增加。

不过,这种状况将会得到改善,因为国际旅馆经营者和国内运营商在整个中国掀起了一股低成本洁净酒店的潮流,以满足方兴未艾的低成本住宿需求。

“多数游客只住招待所,因为招待所便宜。我们提供的是以价格类似、但更洁净的酒店,”经济型酒店连锁集团“7天连锁酒店”(7 Days Inn)的首席执行官郑南雁说道。“我坚信,中国的经济型酒店将取代所有的招待所。”7天连锁酒店总部位于广州。

这些新型酒店收费标准一般约为每晚每间134元到202元人民币(合17到26美元),目前已经受到背包族和一些企业商务旅行者的青睐。这些企业要求低级别的经理人入住经济型酒店,如电脑生产商联想(Lenovo)和消费电子集团TCL。

去年,中国的600家经济型酒店平均入住率为85%到96%,相比之下,中国成千上万的招待所和许多一、二星级宾馆的入住率只有大约50%。

经济型酒店的兴起日益引起外国投资者的关注。据郑南雁介绍,美国私人股本公司华平投资集团(Warburg Pincus)上周成为最新一家进入这个市场的外国公司,收购了7天连锁酒店超过10%的股份。交易的具体金额没有透露。

在华平入股7天连锁酒店前,中国第二大经济型酒店运营商——如家酒店连锁(Home Inns)于上月在纳斯达克上市,筹集资金1.09亿美元。上市以来,如家酒店的股价已经翻番。总部位于上海的锦江国际(Jinjiang International)正寻求下月在香港上市。锦江国际经营着广受欢迎的经济型连锁酒店“锦江之星”(Jinjiang Inn)。

郑南雁表示:“华平投资规模不是很大,但信心十足。我们都认为经济型酒店业有巨大的潜力。”记者没有联系到华平的人士就此置评。

中国商务部2006年中国经济型酒店调查显示,中国十大经济型酒店集团经营的客房数去年平均增加了74%。

尽管增长率很高,但经济型酒店估计仅占中国全部酒店的2%到3%。不过,这个行业的利润非常丰厚。2002年创建的如家在2003年就小有赢利,去年利润增至2090万元人民币。

郑南雁表示,由于入住率达到95%,7天连锁酒店的税前利润率高达30%。

7天连锁酒店表示,为削减成本,它在细节上下了功夫。例如,该酒店缩小了窗户面积,这样既可以节约建筑成本,也可以节省空调费用。郑南雁指出:“许多客人喜欢同时开着窗户和空调。这是一种能源浪费。不过,通过缩小窗户面积,我们可以少浪费一些。”

一些国际酒店连锁也在加大力度进军经济型酒店业务。

法国酒店运营商雅高(Accor) 2004年在中国北部城市天津开了旗下首家经济型酒店“宜必思”(Ibis)。目前已有3家宜必思酒店落户中国,所有这3家酒店每天的入住率均超过90%。到2010年,该公司计划在中国开设100家宜必思酒店。

宜必思酒店高级副总裁吉勒•拉里韦(Gilles Larrive)表示:“我们还有20多家酒店正在建设之中。从2007年中开始,我们将每月增加两家宜必思酒店。实际上,我们认为到2009年就能实现我们的目标。”

洲际酒店(InterContinental Hotels)也在计划进军中国的经济型酒店市场。上个月,该集团在上海开设了旗下首家快捷假日酒店(Express by Holiday Inn),在中国各地还有10家正在修建之中。

洲际酒店亚太区首席执行官帕特里克•伊姆巴德利(A. Patrick Imbardelli)称:“洲际酒店非常希望将快捷假日酒店发展为中国一流的酒店品牌,为关注价值的游客提供一个覆盖全国的酒店网络。我们预感中国对这一品牌的需求会相当强劲。”

不过,所有这些扩张计划都取决于是否有合适的地块。中国的土地目前供不应求。7天连锁酒店的郑南雁表示:“看看入住水平你就会清楚,还有很大的发展空间。但运营商是否能拿到地,就不太清楚了。这方面的竞争非常、非常激烈。”
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