Hoteliers have started to cut prices as the handover nears and thousands of rooms remain unsold, the chairman of the industry's leading organisation says. The Hong Kong Hotels Association estimates between 5,000 and 6,000 of its members' 34,800 rooms remain unsold. With just a month to go before the handover, some hoteliers are lowering their prices. 'Far from being fully booked, there are still many hotel rooms available,' association chairman Thomas Axmacher said. 'And there is no doubt that we are now seeing price flexibility in the market. Some hotels will undoubtedly cut prices.' As the handover approached, Mr Axmacher believed the pressure to lower prices would increase. 'Not only will prices come down, but so will the minimum length of stay which many hotels are currently offering,' he said. 'We are talking here about the three and four-star hotels - hotels away from the harbour and further away from the handover action. 'If people shop around, they can definitely already find bargains.' Despite the unsold rooms, Mr Axmacher predicted the hotel occupancy rate at the start of the handover break would be more than 90 per cent. 'What is happening is that people now have a clearer picture of what will be taking place over the handover period,' he said. 'Until now, we just didn't really know what events there would be or how things would work on the night of June 30. 'All we knew was that there would be a ceremony with 4,000 people invited. How could we as hoteliers market that?' The annual average hotel occupancy rate is 84 per cent, a high figure by industry standards. 'We need to maintain that kind of standard,' Mr Axmacher said. He hit back at critics who accused hoteliers of greed and charging inflated prices for handover packages. 'The hotels got together a year ago and decided that we would charge the full-listed rate for our rooms,' he said. 'This is the rate we advertise. 'Over a year, only around 20 per cent of customers would actually pay that full rate because hotels offer deals on rooms according to how full they are when an inquiry comes in. It is like airlines - a minority of people pay the full ticket price for a flight. 'But the handover is special and the listed room rate for each member hotel is a fair price. 'Hotels have then built packages around that rate and added minimum stays and extras, like cars to and from the airport, even farewell gifts. That's fair.'