Visitors to Tai Po will soon be able to check in to a hotel with a difference - Hong Kong's first to double as a vocational training centre for young people with mental disabilities. The 10-room Jockey Club Hong Chi Lodge, which opened its doors to patrons this week, is the latest addition to the Hong Chi Association's training centre at Pinehill Village. The hotel, paid for by an HK$18.5 million donation from the Jockey Club, has almost doubled the number of places for housekeeping and catering trainees, up from 36 to 60. The association is offering its rooms to members, patrons and others connected to the charity, but the aim is to allow the public and corporate groups to stay in the near future when the staff have gained more experience. 'This is much more realistic than the old classrooms,' said John Sin Tsz-yeung, 26, a training centre graduate who has worked at JW Marriot for three years. 'No matter how messy the teacher made our rooms, it was never like a real hotel room. But because there will be people staying in these rooms then it will be just like working in an actual hotel.' Mr Sin said working in the real world was 'more complicated' than life at the training centre. His time there had taught him to deal with those difficulties and to become a contributing member of society. When the hotel finally opens to the public, rooms will cost HK$600 to HK$800 a night. But the non-profit-making association stressed the real rewards were not financial. 'We are not doing this for the money,' said Nora Wong Pui-ha, general secretary. 'It is about public education.' Wong Siu-kee, general manager of the centre, said although there was also a number of non-handicapped staff, the real purpose was to showcase the trainees' abilities. He said they tried to keep the number of non-handicapped staff to a minimum, just one or two, 'so that our trainees get the opportunity to do as much as possible. We hope that more of our members will come here to experience this first hand'. Mr Wong said the hotel was based on the same concept as a cafe and restaurant the association ran. 'No matter how much we tell employers how good our students are, they tend not to believe us. But if we can show them a real working environment, they believe it as they can see with their own eyes. Once we open to the public, we hope companies will come here to hold conferences and corporate retreats.' John Burch, vice-patron of the association, said the hotel was a conversion of the centre's former staff quarters, also paid for by the Jockey Club in the early 1980s. 'When the centre first opened, it was very difficult to find people who were willing to work all the way out here. Public transport was very inconvenient, so we needed somewhere for staff to stay overnight,' he said. 'But now that town has grown to meet countryside, we no longer have any need for a staff quarters.' The Hong Chi Association was set up in 1965 - initially teaching just one class of four mentally handicapped children. 'Our aim is to help them as much as possible to become self-sufficient, independent and contributing members of society,' said Annie Chan Wong On-yee, association president.