Dirt on hotel doesn't check out

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 March, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong has long boasted some of the world's finest and most exclusive hotels.

Now it can also lay claim to one of the dirtiest - according to a top travellers' website.

The Imperial Hotel, in Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, has been named the third dirtiest in Asia-Pacific by users of the internet travel site Tripadvisor.com.

And if you consider the size of Asia-Pacific and the number of squalid, dilapidated and vermin-infested rat-holes that it contains, it really is quite an achievement.

It was pipped only by Bangkok's First Hotel, whose problems with bedbugs (apparently now rectified) helped it to No 1 spot, and the Hotel Grand Central, in Singapore, whose myriad issues prompted one user to suggest checking in only if your other option is the street.

The Imperial, too, was only one step above the gutter according to several of the 68 people whose ratings on cleanliness helped it into third spot.

'The smell and the look of this place makes me think of death,' wrote one reviewer from Brisbane, Australia.

Aside from its location in the heart of the Nathan Road shopping district, many reviewers listed checking out as the only other highlight.

So in order to be ranked among the worst performers in the latter group, logic would dictate that a hotel must have shot straight through being merely 'bad' and passed into that shadowy realm somewhere beyond 'truly atrocious'.

Thus, it was not without a little trepidation that the Sunday Morning Post spent a night at the Imperial last week. But all the negativity does not seem to have damaged business, for when the Post visited on Thursday night the hotel was almost booked out.

The foyer, which looks quite sparkly and new, was filled with large groups of tourists from the mainland, Vietnam, Africa and South Asia chattering at full volume.

'It's like a wet market,' said the friendly desk clerk of the noise. For HK$990 we were rewarded with a room on the 13th floor overlooking Nathan Road. The hallways - likened by one American reviewer as being similar to an abandoned warehouse - were clean and uncluttered. However, the doors seemed remarkably thin and conversations being held in the rooms were clearly audible to passers-by.

Inside the room, which we were told was renovated about nine months ago, there was a slight odour of old cigarette smoke but it appeared otherwise clean and tidy.

The much-talked-about stained sheets were notable by their absence, as were the mould and mustiness reviewers had complained about.

An assistant manager at the hotel, who identified himself as Adrian, said the 40-year-old building was still undergoing renovation.

'Different people think different things,' was all he would say regarding the hotel's Tripadvisor ranking.

Tripadvisor did not respond to inquiries about whether there was any vetting process for the list, or what hotels could do to remove themselves from it.