Rolling it out or rolling it up?

It is not what you would expect from upwardly-mobile and status-conscious China. But a vogue among Chinese hotels for dropping a star from their hard-won “five star” ratings appears to be catching on.

Xinhuanet, website of China’s official Xinhua news agency, quoted Chen Miaolin, vice president of the China Tourism Association, as saying that 56 five-star hotels pledged to downgrade to a four-star rating last year. In addition, a significant number of newly-built hotels delayed their filings for a five-star rating.

Modesty, it appears, is not the prime motivation for the trend. Read more

What’s in a star anyway? China’s economy hotel chains are booming, gaining ground at the expense of star-rated hotels.

They are pushing out 2- and 3-star hotels; but at the top of the market 5-star properties are still growing fast, creating a polarised market. Chart of the week takes a look at the numbers, which show a sector undergoing dramatic shifts. Read more

A dash of good news from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city: construction work on a Hilton hotel is due to begin in October. With a cloud of political uncertainty hanging over the country and in the midst of a messy “indigenisation” of foreign businesses, it’s a pretty bold move.

The Hilton will need some contingency plans, given the chronic water shortages and power cuts that plague the country. It may find it harder to deal with low occupancy rates across Zimbabwe. Read more

It is no secret that many multinational companies avoid Belarus because of the unfavourable reputation of the country’s authorities and western sanctions against them. But this, apparently, does not apply to the hotel business. Several big name hotel brands are springing up around the capital, Minsk. Read more

It was quite an occasion for leaders from over 50 African countries when they met a few days ago to celebrate the Organisation of African Union/African Union’s 50th anniversary.

But behind the golden anniversary pomp, the dark issue of the organisation’s funding casts a shadow on its plans to fulfil its dreams. The AU, criticised for being dependent on Western cash, seeks to raise more of its funds from members, not least by a controversial tourism tax. Read more

A multinational from Mali sounds like a contradiction in terms. But the Azalai Hotels chain is just that.

Businessman Mossadeck Bally got into hotels 20 years ago. He now presides over a chain of six landmark properties in four countries, with a sheaf of expansion plans. He’s not yet Africa’s Conrad Hilton. But he has built a thriving group recently valued at over €60m, employing 800 people in some of the world’s poorest states. Read more

Opening the only five-star hotel in Iraq two years ago was a bold move by any standards. Throw in marketing cigarette makers in Lebanon and distributing Shell Lubricants in Iraq, and Malia Group looks like a controversial risk-taker. Read more

Peru has cashed in from tourism in recent years thanks to a clever strategy of exploiting its biodiversity, exquisite food and Inca legacy.

Now hotels chains, with Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International in the lead, are to invest as much as $1.76bn over the next three years as tourism is skyrocketing in the Andean country. Read more

The Peninsula Hotel, Hong KongWith all the new purportedly top-quality hotels popping up in China, what’s the guarantee of service and taste? Very little, according to Clement Kwok, the chief executive of Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels, which is placing an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Kwok criticised the star-rating system, as well as the rapid hotel expansion in China and other emerging markets by competitors during a media lunch at the company’s flagship Peninsula Hotel in Hong KongRead more

You would think that building hotels in Brazil should be a straightforward affair.

With the country set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the summer Olympics in 2016, Embratur, the government’s tourism arm, reckoned it would need to expand hotel capacity by at least 20 per cent to accommodate the expected influx of visitors.

So boom time for hoteliers right? Not exactly, according to Kirk Kinsell, who heads up the Americas division for InterContinental Hotels Group. Read more

The magazine may not be available yet, but Playboy plans to open in India. That’s right, the magazine famous for nudity – and underrated for it’s articles – is going to open retail outlets, clubs, hotels and fashion cafés, according to the Economic Times.

This is in a country whose film industry has only recently begun showing committed couples kissing. The same country where anything – from a couple’s celebrating Valentine’s Day to an impromptu kiss between a famous Buddhist and a Celebrity Big Brother contestant – can spark outrage and protest. Read more

In a sign of Mozambique’s emergence as a middle-market tourism destination, Britain’s benchmark over-50s package holiday organiser, Saga, is to run tours in the country next year.

It’s a positive development for an industry the government wants to develop as a major foreign exchange earner, but Mozambique has a way to go before it starts squeezing as much money from its visitors as its regional rivals. Read more

Aim for the Hollywood sign, and then head about 9 miles southeast.

India’s Sahara Group is in the initial stages of talks to buy a majority stake in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. While he would not confirm the exact details, the Economic Times reported on Wednesday that the company was in talks to pay around $340m for a 55 per cent stake from US-based Oasis West Realty.

The hotel – whose ballroom holds the Golden Globe Awards each year – won’t be Sahara’s first foray into iconic luxury hotels. Earlier this year it bought a controlling stake in New York’s famed Plaza Hotel for $570m; the company also bought London’s Grosvenor House Hotel for $726m in 2010. Read more

Richard Solomons, chief executive of InterContinental Hotel Group, the world’s largest hotel group by rooms, says he remains confident about China despite its slowing growth.

Accor on Monday gave its clearest signal yet that it sees its future in emerging markets by snapping up the South American hotel portfolio of Mexico’s Grupo Posadas for $275m.

The move comes less than two months after the French hotel group sold its underperforming Motel 6 chain of US budget hotels to Blackstone in a $1.9bn deal and will  see Accor join rivals such as Hilton, Starwood, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Marriott in the race for EM hotel assets. Read more

Most foreign visitors to Indonesia never make it out of Jakarta, the capital, or the resort island of Bali.

But Accor, the Paris-based hotel group that owns the Novotel and Ibis brands, is pinning its Indonesian expansion hopes on the growth of secondary cities like Balikpapan, Makassar, Lampung and Pekanbaru, which are thriving thanks to the ongoing commodities boomRead more

International hotel chains are increasing their presence in Africa, but getting the buildings constructed isn’t getting any easier.

At the end of February, there were 208 signed deals for new international hotel projects on the continent. At the same point last year, there were 159 total projects in the pipeline, according to an industry report. That represents 38,074 individual rooms, up from 31,559 in 2011. That’s the aim, but the reality might be different. Read more

Here’s a US company that’s not in oil and gas but is treating the Gulf very seriously.

As the FT reports, Frits van Paasschen, chief executive of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, together with more than a dozen of  his top executives, will be based in Dubai for a month next year, a far cry from the company’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. The team will hope to get to grips with Starwood’s ambitious goals in the Middle East, where it plans to expand its business 60 per cent in the coming five years.

 Read more

Accor, Europe’s biggest hotel chain by number of rooms, has joined the ranks of those looking east as a strategy for growth.

The group hopes to tap into the swelling number of business and leisure travelers to and within Asia – which after having hit 650m in 2011, is expected to account for 30 per cent of global traffic by 2014, according to aviation body IATA. Read more

Tourism in Egypt and Tunisia was battered by last year’s Arab Spring: but could the North African countries’ loss be Oman’s gain?

It seems so, according to a report released on Tuesday by A survey of more than 140,000 properties worldwide found that Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh, the popular Egyptian destinations, and Tunis, the Tunisan Capital, were the regions in which hotel prices fell the most over 2011. Oman, however, was an altogether different story. Prices there rose by nearly a fifth – thanks largely to a growing number of visitors. Read more