Accor, Europe's largest hotel group, will spend Euro50 million ($480 million) to more than double the number of its hotels in China by 2007, to accommodate the growth in mainland travellers. Michael Issenberg, managing director of the group's Asia-Pacific operations, said the investment would bring the number of Accor hotels in the country to 50 from the existing 24, with most of the new properties to be branded as three-star Ibis and five-star Sofitel hotels. Accor is the latest of many foreign hoteliers planning to increase its presence in China, which enjoys a bourgeoning travel market. With Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Shangri-la Asia and other leading foreign hotels expanding aggressively in the mainland, Accor was specifically targeting the less competitive domestic traveller segment, Mr Issenberg said. 'There is no international hotel brand aimed at domestic and regional travel in China, which is expected to grow fivefold by 2010,' he said. 'Chinese outbound travel is expected to double from 25 million to 50 million by 2008. We're convinced that the future of the mainland market is very bright.' The French hotelier plans to conduct its mainland push largely through management contracts, Mr Issenberg said. He revealed three new hotel projects: two Sofitel resorts in Hangzhou and Haikou, and a 400-room Sofitel hotel at Tianmu Lake in Liyang, Jiangsu province. The Hangzhou and Haikou properties would be among eight Sofitel hotels to open by the end of this year, he said. Others would be in Xian, Xiamen, Suzhou, Shijiazhuang and Nanjing. Mr Issenberg's optimism was buoyed by the strong performance of Accor hotels in China this year, with the average occupancy hitting 74 per cent. The group's Novotel hotels in Beijing and Hong Kong fared even better, with an average occupancy of 90 per cent. Room rates had risen, but had 'just partially' compensated for falls prompted by the Sars outbreak. 'We will add another hotel in Hong Kong in the near future as we are under-represented,' Mr Issenberg said, without elaborating. Accor operates two Novotel hotels in Hong Kong and the Headland hotel on Lantau.