China does not use a unified star rating system for hotels whatever the claims of the national tourism and hotel authorities. Therefore a number of different classifications have been used in this report where deemed most appropriate for analysing the available data. They include:
The Star Rating System based on western perceptions and occasionally used by hotel authorities in China. The system comprises:
Five star: usually used to mean foreign invested hotels.
Four star: including most remaining foreign invested hotels and some state-owned properties.
Three star: including a large number of state-owned hotels and some private hotels.
Two star: including mostly collective, pooled and private hotels.
One star: including mostly Chinese hotels that, as with two star establishments, cater largely to Chinese guests.
No star rating: this is the bulk of Chinese small hotels catering almost solely to the local population.
Additionally, hotels are sometimes grouped by ownership status:
State-owned: those hotels owned by the Chinese state.
Collective: those hotels owned most often by agricultural, industrial and business collectives. These are often rurally based.
Private: these are few in number and represent nascent entrepreneurism in the hotel industry by Chinese investors.
Pooling: these are hotels featuring mixed ownership structures usually through Chinese interests.
Shareholding: Again, as with pooling above, these are usually hotels featuring a mixture of interests - both Chinese and foreign.
Foreign invested: these are invariably owned and/or managed by the international chains in conjunction with overseas property developers/investors. Foreign in this context is taken to mean any overseas involvement excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwanese invested: these establishments are usually upmarket hotels with investment from overseas Chinese (overseas Chinese are subject to slightly different visa, investment and other regulations in China).
Without any one coherent rating system other classifications are used including grading hotels by number of rooms. Additionally, within the text broad bands - upmarket, mid-range and budget - often classify hotels.
Upmarket hotels can be found in all the major cities and a growing number of provincial towns and include the vast majority of the foreign funded hotels in China. In general they usually conform to four or five star international status and have, or have had, foreign management. Upmarket hotels in China invariably have international business centres, money changing facilities, conference facilities and a range of restaurants.
Mid-range hotels are often those built by local developers, or less well-known foreign investors, that invariably have pretensions to upmarket status. Room rates tend to be below RMB300 and restaurant facilities are less western-oriented. Indeed, these hotels are usually targeted at the growing Chinese business community and Asian travellers.
Budget hotels are almost unknown in China and there has not yet been the expansion in low priced accommodation seen in countries such as the UK and the USA. Therefore budget hotel in China invariably indicates cheap and poor quality. Most are not available to foreigners and English is intermittently spoken. Plumbing is notoriously faulty, lifts slow and restaurants poor quality if attached. They tend to be located near railway stations or, in the case of Beijing and Shanghai, in the suburbs.