December 30, 2015 14:30
A sizable near-building boom has produced a forest of tall nondescript business hotels in northern Seoul that target mostly Chinese visitors. This year saw three new hotels opening in downtown Seoul, while at least another five plan to open next year.
Lotte Hotel will open its seventh business hotel in the shopping district of Myeong-dong in January while adding another brand to its business hotel lineup catering specifically to women.
Hotel Shilla has launched a business spinoff in 2013, opening the first one in Mapo. Over the past two years, it has grown to seven and will increase further next year.
Now the chain's newest venture, the Westin Chosun, also plans a more upmarket business hotel near Shinsegae Department Store in downtown Seoul in 2017.
Hana Tour, the No. 1 travel agency here, plans the nation's largest business hotel with nearly 600 rooms near Myeong-dong in May.
Data from the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday shows that business hotels in the capital mushroomed from 95 last year to 117 as of November this year, with rooms multiplying 28 percent to over 10,000.
A city official said building permits have been granted to 149 hotels to be built from next year onwards, with the lion's share being business hotels.
The surge is due to influx of Chinese visitors. "Chinese tourists don't spend as much money on accommodation as Japanese, who prefer luxury hotels," said an official with the Korea Tourism Organization. "As numbers of Japanese visitors are dwindling, growing numbers of tourists from China are boosting demand for business hotels."
"Business hotels are more profitable than luxury hotels as they are cheaper to build with fewer facilities and shorter construction times," said an industry insider.
"The high prices at luxury hotels in the capital are driving some Chinese visitors as far as the suburbs of Gyeonggi Province in search of budget accommodation. The number mid-priced hotels will likely continue to increase for the foreseeable future," another KTO official said.
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