Visitor complaints damage Hong Kong's crown of hospitality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 2:41am

Hong Kong rightly prides itself as a top travel destination. From fancy hotels to unpretentious guest houses, there is something to suit different budgets. This is indeed how we are sold overseas. The Tourism Board's official website proudly assures visitors with the message: "In Hong Kong you can hang your hat in modest guest houses, youth hostels, palatial hotels, chic boutiques, and mid-range comfort ...With over 60,000 rooms in almost 200 hotels, you're sure to find the perfect place for you (and your hat)".

However, if complaints are any guide, visitors appear to be increasingly dissatisfied with what they have been offered. According to the Consumer Council, the number of complaints about guest houses has more than doubled to 45 in the first 11 months. Arguably, problems like smelly rooms, filthy bedding, broken showers and toilets are not uncommon in low-end lodgings. Overbooking and referrals to sister outlets during high season are also common but understandable. After all, you get what you pay for. But it defies common sense to turn away a guest with a confirmed booking at midnight, or throw out the luggage to vacate the room for the next customer before checkout time. The ordeal is amplified when complaints are met with indifference and hostility. The surge in complaints should ring alarm bells in a place famed for its hospitality.

The fact that tourism is one of our economic pillars means every effort should be made to ensure each visitor leaves with fond memories. Sadly, we have had far more damaging publicity than we can afford. Hard-sell tactics, rip-offs disguised as bargains, tourists dumped by their guides after refusing to shop. It is a pity that unscrupulous practitioners have their minds on making money rather than the industry's reputation. With 42 million visitors passing through our door each year, it is tempting to think there is always the next customer to serve, even if the previous one leaves unhappily. But each incident is a dent in our crown. Concerted efforts are needed to preserve our good image and reputation.