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Beijing targets Asians for Olympic homestays
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Beijing's tourism authorities have said they are going to target visitors from other Asian countries as guests of the city's homestay scheme for the Olympics.

The city has already selected 571 families and hopes to have about 600 households as officially designated "Olympic Family Hotels" for Olympics tourists next month.

At a press conference on Saturday, Beijing Tourism Bureau vice director Xiong Yumei said visitors from Asian countries, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, would be introduced by travel agencies to the families.

Bookings had not started since the family hotels were just selected, officials said, but a 200-member tourist group from Malaysia was looking for homestay accommodation.

Xiong did not give a reason for choosing Asia as the major target, but travel agency insiders said the short marketing time and available transportation made it is easier to organize Asian tourist groups than westerners.

Most of the families lived near major stadiums, trunk roads, cultural sites and hutongs, or alleyways, making it easy for overseas guests to enjoy life in the capital, according to the bureau.

The cost of each "Olympic Family Hotel" is 50 to 80 U.S. dollars per night, about a seventh of the cost of a three or four-star hotel for the Games.

The selection of homestay families from 1,118 candidates started in April. Hosts should be able to provide spare rooms, good ventilation and sanitary conditions in buildings that have good emergency facilities and lighting. Each family should have at least one person able to speak English, Xiong said.

Beijing is gearing up to accommodate at least 330,000 visitors every day during the Olympics. About 500,000 foreigners are expected to visit the capital at some point during the Games.

A report last month from the tourism bureau showed Beijing hotels still had a high vacancy rate for the Aug.8-24 Games. Five-star hotels were 77 percent booked for the Olympic period. About 45.5 percent of four-star rooms were reserved while three-star hotel had a 20-percent reservation rate.

The hotels can provide 66,000 beds, more than the 43,000 needed every day during the Games, tourism officials said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 6, 2008)

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