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February 24, 2011

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Business booming for illegal hostels

ILLEGAL hostels, which have been converted from residential apartments, near the city's major railway and long-distance bus stations are cashing in on the large number of arrivals who are looking for temporary accommodation.

The hostels, hidden in densely populated residential areas, have managed to escape police and tourism authority crackdowns and seem to be thriving.

Many people said that they were lured by "inn brokers," who "invited" them to illegal hotels, which charge high prices for poor-quality rooms.

Some passengers were also asked for a "tip" by those workers just for leading them to the inns and some were verbally abused or assaulted if they turned down the accommodation.

Police detained two such workers for luring customers to illegal inns yesterday morning and plainclothes officers are patrolling around stations, but the actions have failed to put a stop to the business.

A Shanghai Daily investigation found that the owners, usually non-locals, are trying to seek their fortune by accommodating newcomers and fellow migrants with cheap, shabby footholds in the city.

"If you are looking for comfort, please go to a five-star hotel," said an inn owner, surnamed Wu, with a smile.

The inn is located on the first floor of a residential building five minutes from Shanghai Railway Station in Zhabei District.

"Out-of-town job seekers, migrant workers, couples and students, they are all my customers," said Wu, looking proudly around the "inn" - an apartment divided into four small rooms with one shared bathroom.

Wu has reason to be happy. Two of the rooms in the inn, which measures 50 to 60 square meters, had already been taken by late yesterday.

For each room, with one bed and one cupboard, the owner charges 80 yuan (US$12.17) for a one-night stay. The fare jumped to 120 yuan during the World Expo last year when the demand was "huge," said Wu.

At Hongqiao area, a woman from Zhejiang Province was reportedly beaten after she refused to stay in an unlicensed inn last week. The woman said she was unwilling to stay after she found the hostel did not give receipts for deposits.

Local police closed down more than 30 unlicensed -hostels in the city near Shanghai South Railway Station during the World Expo.


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