PARIS-Accor officials see China as its fastest growing market and suggests the breadth and depth of the potential makes the market unique.

A statement by the company says that the group was experiencing rapid growth in Russia, India and Brazil, but for sheer volume Accor’s focus was mainly on China as brisk economic growth opens a huge market for domestic travelers.

Accor plans to operate 30 Sofitel hotels in China by the end of next year, making the country the second-largest market for the group’s premier five-star brand, after its home market, France. A company spokesman says that within five years China could overtake France. The hotel chain plans to spend euro 2.7 billion ($3.3 billion) globally to add at least 200,000 rooms over the next four years, compared with the 475,000 rooms it owned or had access to at the end of last year.

Half the new rooms would be in the economy and budget segment, where earnings have proved more stable. Two-thirds would be in emerging markets. But as the high-end market becomes more mature, Accor sees tremendous possibilities for its budget-hotel brand, Ibis. Accor has only two Ibis hotels in China and plans to open six in the next 12 months. After that the pace would be increased to 10 annually for several years.

Accor’s strategy also fits with Beijing’s promotion of domestic consumption, including leisure spending, as an engine of economic growth, rather than on exports. “The potential and depth of the China market is unique,” says Brian Deeson, Accor’s head of China operations. “China is the most important of our growth markets.”

Accor’s Asian operations have been profitable for only the past two years, having suffered from the Asian financial crisis, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak, the Sept. 11 attacks and the tsunami of December 2004.

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