Once an inside secret among Beijingers, Nanluoguxiang has emerged as a thriving commercial and tourist destination. The traditional alley near the Drum and Bell Towers is lined with shops, cafés and bars for the local, backpacker and businessman hoping to experience a taste of old Beijing.
Nanluoguxiang is one of two “Olympic Alleys” in Beijing, and the city has reportedly spent nearly US$150,000 into restoring and beautifying the hutong.
Commercial rents have increased with the street’s rejuvenation, according to Dominic Johnson-Hill, owner of Plastered T-shirts and long-time Nanluoguxiang resident. He said that rents for new entrants can be as high as RMB20 (US$2.92) per square meter per day, up from around RMB2 (US$0.29) three years ago.
Johnson-Hill added that the pre-Olympic spike in sales they’d expected has yet to materialize, although they remain positive about business in July and August, which will coincide with the arrival of tourists.
Michel Sutyadi, a partner in the NLGX café and store, also said it’s unclear what effect the Olympics will have on business.
“We’ve tried to prepare by stocking more material and supplies for the Olympics. I think it’s going to get busier, but I don’t know if it’s going to get really crazy,” he said.
Just a few paces from NLGX café stands Beijing Guxiang 20, a hotel that includes among its amenities a rooftop tennis court. Hotel manager You Li said that they’ve raised their prices on single rooms to RMB1,600 (US$234) from RMB880 (US$128) on single rooms for the games and that business is brisk. He said he has noticed a slight decline in foreign visitors due to visa restrictions but that he doesn’t expect vacancies to spike post-Olympics.
“This street is a famous place, so we expect to have many travelers after the Olympics,” he said.
Johnson-Hill agreed that fears of plummeting sales in Nanluoguxiang after the games are overblown.
“Obviously there’s going to be an increase in sales for the Olympics, but I don’t believe it’s the end of the world afterwards,” he said. “The Olympics is two weeks of sports and when it’s over and done with people get on with their lives.”