Amid reports of stranded tourists, hotel boss finds plenty of vacancies
Plenty of rooms in HK, industry boss says, but mainlanders may find mid-priced ones scarce
Dennis Chong and Joshua But
The hotel occupancy rate is not at bursting point, a trade association said said on Thursday in reaction to this week's headlines about stranded mainland tourists.
Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hotel Owners, said mainland tourists preferred to stay in affordable, three-star hotels, which led to a bottleneck in that market bracket. "Some people say they can't find a room. But it doesn't mean hotels are full across the whole of Hong Kong. And the occupancy rate can change in a matter of days," Li said.
Hong Kong has fewer than 20 hotels in the three-star range - where rooms cost about HK$1,200 per night, he said.
These hotels are the most popular for group tours, creating a mismatch between supply and demand in peak seasons. But overall, the hotel occupancy rate was below 90 per cent, Li said. "If you walk in at the last minute [in peak season], you are going to see very high rates. But in the next few days [after the holiday], the situation will be very different."
On Tuesday, mainland tourists had to sleep in their coach after the three-star hotel they were expecting to stay in turned out to be a guest house in Sham Shui Po. Many of them left the city, but some stayed until last night at an Aberdeen hotel after tourism authorities intervened.
Li refused to directly comment on the incident, but said some unscrupulous operators capitalised on the strong demand from mainlanders. Some operators sold poorly organised tours that used a network of illegal guesthouses and flats, he said.
The best approach would be to crack down on crooked operators, not substantially increase the number of hotel rooms, he said. "Why should hotels always bear the brunt [of criticism]?" Meanwhile, two legislators yesterday said the flood of tourism from the mainland has created a "bottleneck" in Hong Kong, calling on the government to look at expanding tourism facilities and consider capping visitor numbers from the mainland.
Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the number of mainland tourists has exceeded what the city could handle. "It has created a bottleneck," Lee said. "It is time to review the individual travellers' scheme." The scheme allows mainlanders to visit Hong Kong without being part of a tour.
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party said: "We should focus on attracting mainland tourists who have a high level of consumption."