A hotel-industry leader yesterday rubbished suggestions that a summit of Apec financial chiefs was moved to Beijing because of a shortage of hotel rooms in Hong Kong.
James Lu Shien-hwai, executive director of the Hong Kong Hotels Association, said the switch, announced yesterday, could simply be because participants did not want to travel too much, while also accommodating a change of date.
"In meetings like these, the will of the participants always come first. It could be inconvenient for them to travel to and from Hong Kong and Beijing," Lu said.
Officials at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum said yesterday that the switch was made to accommodate a request from US President Barack Obama to delay the leaders' meeting until November. That would mean moving the meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from early to late September, putting it close to the "golden week" national holiday, a peak period for tourism.
An Apec official cited hotel bookings as an example of the logistical problems that forced the change of venue.
But Lu said those concerns were "irrelevant". "International meetings like this are priority business for the hotels," Lu said. "And many of these suites are not booked yet, as it's still months away."
Lu added that the association had been working with the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau on accommodation arrangements, and that he was not aware of any government concerns about room availability.
But a booking officer at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai said availability would be "quite tight" at that time, while a spokesman for the Peninsula Hotel also foresaw high demand due to the Canton Fair in Guangzhou.
Many speculated Beijing made the switch because of concerns about the Occupy Central movement, which plans to rally activists to block streets.
Occupy organiser Dr Chan Kin-man said Beijing should not make such a switch just to avoid embarrassment.
"Giving us genuine universal suffrage is the real solution to [the city's] problems," Chan said.
Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the constitutional and mainland affairs minister, dismissed such speculation.
"I believe [the relocation] is not related to constitutional reform, let alone Occupy Central."