Natasha Dragun shares the latest on accommodation and tickets for the Beijing 2008 summer Olympic Games.
With less than a year to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on August 8, 2008, booking event tickets and accommodation in Beijing should be a top priority for any agent planning to sell the event.
Although nine million tickets will be on sale for the Games, not all will reach the public, as many have been set aside for the International Olympic Committee, sponsors, dignitaries and TV broadcasters.
An even smaller number will reach sporting fans outside China. The first seven million tickets were put on sale in April 2007, and of these, about 75 per cent were made available to the domestic market (with about 14 per cent guaranteed for students and teenage athletes). The remaining 25 per cent was sold to the international community, meaning only 1.75 million tickets were sold outside China.
Given the high demand, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has strict restrictions on the sale of tickets. Only one ticket per person is allowed for the opening and closing ceremonies. For popular sporting events, such as swimming and some track and field events, tickets will be limited to two per person. Between three and six tickets per person are allowed for other events according to demand.
The most expensive tickets will be for the opening ceremony, ranging from US$26 to US$645. Tickets for the closing ceremony will cost between US$19 and US$390. That said, organisers are determined to make most tickets affordable to the locals, and claim that 58 per cent of all the tickets will cost less than US$12.90.
In China, ticketing is divided into three phases:
1. April to September 2007: Pre-selling of all opening and closing ceremony tickets and 50 per cent of other tickets. The public was asked to express its interest in tickets from April to June. From July to September, tickets will be allocated via a lottery system.
2. October to December 2007: Pre-selling the remaining tickets; allocation is according to booking orders.
3. April to August 24, 2008: Real-time ticket sales.
The actual paper tickets will not be distributed until June 2008, and when they appear in the mail, they will be implemented with technologies including digitised purchaser imprints and computer chips to ensure the tickets are not copied or exchanged.
Around the rest of the world, tickets are available from all national Olympic committees, and in some cases, official sales agents, who are also selling hotel accommodation and Olympic packages to the Games.
BOCOG has signed an accommodation agreement with most star-rated hotels in Beijing (including those still being built), guaranteeing BOCOG a minimum 70 per cent of room inventory during the Games. They will be used by BOCOG to host Olympic officials, accredited clients and other guests.
These hotels claim to be already booked out for that period, with remaining room inventories going to regular business and corporate clients as well as national Olympic committees. These rooms are being sold in group blocks (20 nights, multiple people), instead of to individuals or for short-stay periods.
Meanwhile, a number of star-rated hotels are planning to free sell inventory closer to the Games, and when it comes to paying for these rooms, city officials have said rates will not have a ceiling attached to them. As a result, travel agents are quoting anywhere from US$325 a night at some three-star hotels to between US$500 and US$775 at luxury five-star hotels.
All official ticket agents for the Games are also licensed to sell Olympic accommodation and Olympic packages including dining and tour options. A number of tour agencies such as www.accommodation-olympic-games.com are also involved in contracting accommodation during the Olympic period, including among many others.
By 2008, there will be more than 800 star-rated hotels in Beijing, in addition to more than 4,000 non-rated hotels, youth hostels and training centres, increasing the city’s accommodation capacity by 290,000 rooms. Although the Beijing Tourism Administration is fairly confident these rooms will be able to cater to the 500,000-odd foreign and domestic tourists in town during the 17-day Games period, if current trends are anything to go by, many visitors may find themselves heading to “overflow” hotels in neighbouring Hebei province, or even Tianjin, 120km east of Beijing.