Hotels in China present the full range of standards. Joint ventures with some of the world’s leading hotel groups have led to the development of hotels in the major tourist and international business zones whose commitment to quality is impeccable. In fact, it is possible to make a case for saying that China’s hotel standards are too high, with too many hotels targeted at the high end of the price range, leaving a dearth of reasonable quality hotels for travellers on a restricted budget.
Travellers on a package tour will have a fair idea of what to expect, and the first few nights will be a good indicator of whether or not their expectations will be realised. Such tours are reliable, although there are bound to be some variations in a country as big as China. Nevertheless, in all but the top hotels, the slovenly practices of the staff (and of previous guests) can mar the stay.
In less well-run hotels, expect a whole gamut of problems. Count yourself lucky if the worst you experience is unwashed windows spoiling the view. Others will encounter stained and dirty, used sheets, toilets that run constantly, hot water that does not run at all, carpets seared by cigarette burns, stains, bare electrical wires, and ill-fitting power points. Complaints often have zero effect, but it is worth the attempt.
Hopes and Dreams
Independent travellers will have far less chance of finding reasonable accommodation for a modest price. In many towns and tourist areas, there may be no alternative but to check into the expensive 5-star hotel. Lower-cost hotels do exist (although the standards of service and cleanliness are often miserable), but many accept only Chinese guests, and no amount of argument will alter this.
China’s own people are becoming tourists as fast as they can. This represents a vast pool of travellers, and an equally vast pool of competitors for hotel rooms whose number may be inadequate at peak times. Advice to try staying at university dormitories is mostly useless, because Chinese students also like to travel and will be there ahead of you. All this forces foreign tourists into more expensive hotels, which is where the Chinese tourism authorities prefer to see them in any case.
Hong Kong and Macao
Hong Kong represents a special case. There are few cities in the world where pressure on hotel space is so intense, where the response in terms of new construction is so inadequate, and where budget opportunities are almost non-existent. Even the YMCA and YWCA, usually far from the top of most international travellers’ wish lists, can be besieged by business people and well-heeled tourists engaged in a frantic search for accommodation (both are, in fact, fairly high-standard and high-priced hotels). It is not uncommon for every single hotel room in Hong Kong to be booked, so make arrangements well in advance. Make best use of package deals, where the combined cost of air fare and hotel room is far lower than you could possibly negotiate for yourself. The situation is less critical in Macao, except at weekends and during important race meetings, but the same general rule applies.