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January 11, 2011

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Concerns halt capsule hotel opening

THE city's first capsule hotel may have attracted widespread media and public attention, but it cannot yet open for business due to fire safety and security concerns.

Xia Quangen, owner of the accommodation near Shanghai Railway Station, said officials believe there is a fire risk from the high density of people expected in the 300-square-meter, 68-capsule hotel.

And to add to Xia's woes, police inspecting the hotel yesterday raised security concerns. Officers said that as each compartment only has a curtain to "lock" customers inside, they are vulnerable to thieves and robbers.

But Xia claimed all the compartments are made of fireproof material imported from Japan and that the hotel bans smoking in bed.

"The security problems can be solved by night patrols and a surveillance camera system," he added.

There is no confirmed opening date for the capsule hotel at 1036 Zhongshan Road N., though Xia is hopeful the problems can be resolved before the Spring Festival on February 3. "We are still waiting for government officials to inspect the hotel to pass our fire safety arrangements," said Xia.

Each capsule is 1.1 meters high, 1.1 meters wide and 2.2 meters long, and comes equipped with free Internet access and a TV.

The first capsule hotel will admit only men, as customers have to share toilets and bathroom facilities. Xia hasn't ruled out opening similar accommodation for women.

Different zones are intended to keep snorers and people who sleep with the light on away from light sleepers and those who prefer to sleep in darkness.

Each room costs 28 yuan (US$4.22) for the first hour, with each additional hour charged at four yuan. A 24-hour stay will cost 88 yuan.

However, in the wake of widespread media attention, members of the public have been asking who would be prepared to sleep in a confined capsule.

Xia said they are targeting travelers or young men who favored "private spaces, no matter what the size is."

But many web users have commented that they would not sleep in the "coffin-like boxes" as, according to Chinese superstition, this might bring bad luck.

Gu Xiaoming, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, said he was optimistic about the future of capsule hotels in the city.

Gu said the capsules could solve accommodation problems for the city's large number of tourists and could be used at cinemas, big shopping malls and railway stations as convenient shelters.

Xia hopes to one day see his capsule compartments across the city, offering inexpensive accommodation.

He also believes the concept could be used to provide free shelters for homeless people.


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