Shangri-La Asia will increase its presence in Beijing with one more luxury hotel before 2007 to fend off expanding international competition trying to tap opportunities surrounding the 2008 Olympic Games. At present, the group has four hotels in Beijing. Darren Gearing, the general manager of Shangri-La Asia's Kerry Centre Hotel in Beijing, said the expansion was a reflection of the group's optimism in the capital's prospects. He expected the luxury hotel market in Beijing to become more competitive from 2005 with new supply due from the major international chains. With the opening of the Olympic Games in 2008, Inter-Continental, JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, the Regent and Four Seasons would have new hotels in place between 2005 and 2006, he said. 'Beijing definitely is the group's key contributor in the mainland.' Shangri-La manages 41 hotels in countries including China, Indonesia and Australia, and has an inventory of more than 21,000 rooms. It has 16 hotels in the mainland. 'We are still looking for a site and no concrete details can be released at the moment,' Mr Gearing said. Occupancy rates at the Kerry Centre Hotel had stood at more than 80 per cent for the past two months, as corporate travellers returned after Hong Kong and Beijing were declared Sars-free, he said. 'But the leisure travel sector will still take time to recover,' he said. Mr Gearing was confident that Beijing's hotel industry would see a rise in occupancy rates due to the increasing number of exhibitions hosted in the capital and the lack of new supply for the next two years. 'Next year should be an excellent year for us,' he said. Room rates had increased after a recent enhancement programme at the hotel, Mr Gearing said. In Hong Kong, room rates at the group's Kowloon Shangri-La increased by HK$100 per room following the completion of its US$25 million facelift, said Kowloon Shangri-La general manager Thierry Douin. 'It is one of the most expensive renovation schemes undertaken by the group as the hotel was built 23 years ago,' Mr Douin said. To capitalise on the heavy investment, he said the hotel aimed to increase sales from the corporate business market to 60 per cent next year from 50 per cent. 'Corporate travellers are a high-yield market as they tend to spend more ... on rooms, meals, phone [calls] and other amenities than the package tours.'