More than 40 quarantine hotels in Hong Kong have raised their room rates by up to 80 per cent since the launch of the scheme more than 1½ years ago as growth in the number of arrivals outpaced the increase in available places, the Post has found. The hike in prices continued this summer as travellers scrambled to secure rooms as most of the designated hotels were already booked up for July and August. The authorities have increased the number of available rooms from 12,000 to 23,000 for between March and July since the launch of the first round of the designated quarantine hotel scheme from December 2020 until February 2021. The figure is scheduled to increase to 24,000 in the eighth or next round between August and October after the government announced on Friday night it had added three more hotels to the scheme. A total of 78 hotels have joined the initiative so far, with many joining more than once. An average of just 486 overseas arrivals were travelling to Hong Kong on a daily basis in the first round, with the government previously requiring them to undergo a quarantine period of 14 days. But the number of daily overseas arrivals has soared in the present round – from 845 in March and April to 2,749 between May 1 and June 23. The surge came as the mandatory quarantine period was cut from 14 to seven days for fully vaccinated travellers at the start of last month. According to an analysis by the Post , 72 per cent, or 26 of the 36 hotels involved in the first round, offered standard rooms with rates equal to or less than HK$1,000 per night during that period. A total of 38 hotels offered such room rates, accounting for only 58 per cent of all the 65 participating hotels during the next round. Based on figures released by the government, the Post found that 41 hotels that had earlier taken part in the scheme and will stay for the coming round had raised their rates for a standard room in a range of 4 per cent to 82 per cent, or HK$40 to HK$1,400. A comparison of prices for the present and upcoming rounds showed 34 of the 65 hotels involved had raised standard room rates from a range of 3.8 per cent to 60.4 per cent, or HK$20 to HK$411. Hong Kong lawmakers, business leaders call for cutting hotel quarantine to 3 days Travel industry leaders appealed to the authorities to designate more quarantine hotels or reduce the current seven-day mandatory isolation period. They said demand this summer was fuelled by the return of students from overseas and mainland travellers opting to transit through Hong Kong as international flights remained limited in China. Incoming city leader John Lee Ka-chiu told the Post earlier this week that the new administration would consider easing anti-Covid-19 rules for arrivals, with possible changes including the option of home quarantine or shortening the isolation period at designated hotels. Demand for rooms has remained substantial despite the price increases, with the website Trip.com recording nearly 80,000 visitors to its pages dedicated to booking quarantine hotels in Hong Kong between June 17 and June 19, with 3,000 reservations made. The surge in website traffic came as the authorities on June 16 announced the eighth group of hotels involved in the latest round of the quarantine scheme. Helen Cheung, the group public relations manager for Nina Hospitality, which raised room rates for four of its hotels by 10 per cent to 26 per cent, attributed the price increases to factors such as “room sizes, price rates of competitors from nearby districts, and catering services”. Winnie Chan Wun-yin, the association manager at the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said some venues had run their businesses at a loss during the previous rounds, with room rates raised for various reasons, including inflation and an increase in operating costs. Gianna Hsu Wong Mei-lun, the chairwoman of the Travel Industry Council, said the increase in prices for hotel rooms was understandable. She explained: “Quarantine hotels might experience difficulties in recruiting staff because it is a bit risky to work there. To keep their staff, they might have to increase the salaries, which might result in a slight increase of room prices.” But Hsu also warned the increase in rates might affect the tourism industry as well as people’s interest in visiting the city. She said: “We really hope the government could shorten the hotel quarantine period to three to four days, or change it to home quarantine.” People who want to book rooms at quarantine hotels have already used social media to complain about the difficulty in getting reservations. One individual wrote: “I have been struggling to reserve a quarantine hotel for July. Tried refreshing hotel websites for the past week but still no luck.” Another said in a Facebook post: “I sent out over 10 emails to various hotels to check their availability for my quarantine stay … It’s been over four days and I haven’t heard from any of them yet.” Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, the executive director of EGL Tours, said the limited availability of rooms would also affect any plans by the company to organise holiday packages. Michael Li Hon-shing, the executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said earlier this week that the city only had about 80,000 hotel rooms in total, and that not all of them were suitable for quarantine use. He added: “The hotel rooms we could provide every month are not much, because each traveller has to stay for at least seven days. After the traveller leaves, we still have to use several days to disinfect the room.” Tourism sector lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung suggested the authorities should allow arrivals to undergo three days of hotel quarantine and spend the remaining four days at home. He added the government could also consider using spare isolation facilities set aside for coronavirus patients or close contacts to quarantine arrivals. Hongkongers head to Japan for first time in 2 years; city logs 1,447 Covid cases Some travellers have also complained about extra charges when they tried to secure bookings through travel agents, as well as increased room rates. Several Chinese travel agencies operating on the online platform RED, also known as Xiaohungshu, charge additional fees of up to several thousand dollars. A seven-day package deluxe room at Dorsett Hotel Kwun Tong in late July would cost up to HK$11,115, HK$3,415 more expensive than the original rate of HK$1,100 a night, according to one of the agencies on the platform. A check by the Post also found some Hong Kong licensed travel agents charged between HK$100 to HK$300 in additional fees. The Food and Health Bureau announced on Friday night that quarantine hotels should require any partnering travel agents to avoid booking rooms in bulk without first providing guest details in a bid to deter scalpers. The authorities said hotels should ensure bookings were made using real names and include full payment, with room charges required to match the prices posted on the government’s website.