China still waiting for big tourist influx

Tourists visit the reopened Qianmen Avenue in Beijing.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Some Olympic sponsors are not feeling like winners. Adidas, McDonalds and Samsung are among those who shelled out millions to showcase their brands on the Olympic green. That's usually the main gathering point at the games. Companies were expecting around 200,000 visitors a day, but China's restricting the crowds on the green and pretty much only letting ticket holders in. Chinese businesses are wondering where the people are, too, as Jamila Trindle reports.


Jamila Trindle: A huge influx of foreign tourists was expected in Beijing hotels and restaurants.

Paul Moreno: You'll also find that if you look at some of the stadiums, you'd be surprised there are a lot of empty seats, even for sort of good matches.

Paul Moreno runs Wild China, a tour company for upscale foreigners. He says his average customer is staying for only four days and three nights. So far, he's already seen nearly a 20 percent no-show rate for guests, but he's hoping that will improve as the games move on to finals and marquee events like track and field.

Moreno: I think we're in the early days in the preliminaries, and you know, maybe next week, you might see an influx.

Even if there is an influx, it probably won't be enough to fill all the hotels and restaurants. That's lead to some disappointment, especially since tourism officials predicted hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors.

Du Jiang is with China's Tourism Administration:

Du Jiang (voice of interpreter): We're expecting 400,000 to 500,000 foreign visitors and 20,000 journalists. Together with domestic tourists, we expect about 1 million visitors in Beijing.

That's the government estimate, but business owners say they aren't seeing those numbers.

Cho Chong Gee owns three restaurants and a bar in Beijing. He was planning to open a boutique hotel right before the Olympics, but has decided to put that off. He says competition is fierce.

Cho Chong Gee: If you go around town, for one thing, you see there's so many hotels on the street now: big, small, five star, two star. So it's really a lot.

Cho saw a slower than expected summer leading up to the Olympics, so he's trying to keep his expectations realistic.

Chong Gee: It will be better than normal, but I guess we may have much too high expectation, or may not be real.

And those high expectations may lead to Olympic-sized disappointment for Chinese businesses.

In Beijing, I'm Jamila Trindle for Marketplace.

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