Inside the murky world of Wan Chai’s love hotels during Hong Kong Sevens week
Rugby week is the biggest boom period of the year for short-stay hotels of the red light district, with sex workers flocking in to profit from boozed-up tourists in town
As I sit sipping a complimentary can of beer while chatting with the manager of one of Wan Chai’s infamous “love hotels”, a door opens and out walks an elderly gentleman with two sex workers probably a third of his age, one on each arm.
“It’s OK, they get business, right? Business is business,” says the manager after the man heads downstairs and back into the night.
The women have just paid HK$400 for a two-hour stay in one of the hotel’s rooms – normally it would cost HK$300, but “if you have an extra girl, you need to pay an extra 100,” I am informed.
“Some guys will bring five, six girls. It’s only for party, just playing,” the manager says, smiling. She estimates she gets maybe 20-30 women on a normal night.
But no night in the coming week will be “normal” – this is rugby week.
“In the Sevens, [there are] more girls,” she says, “double, maybe triple. They’re here for the party, maybe one guy with three girls.”
These women are not Hong Kong residents – most will fly in from the Philippines on a two-week tourist visa for the biggest boom period of the year.
There are also several big trade shows in town over at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre timed to coincide with the Sevens – meaning more business for the women.
“They choose the [Sevens] because there’s more money – double, triple income,” says the manager.
“There are more tourists and rugby punters, so more girls. They want to come here to enjoy it, business is good. After the rugby is also quite busy, for maybe one more week.
“Most of the time during the rugby, business is triple. In all the bars the business is triple. We’re very busy, day and night.
“For every business in Wan Chai, the best time is rugby. There’s a lot of people coming in and out.”
“It’s a very good week,” she adds, laughing.
At the time of our meeting, we are a week away from the Hong Kong Sevens, but Wan Chai is unusually quiet in terms of sex workers.
“It picks up on Wednesday, not now, because today is [still] Holy Week – that’s bad, right?” says the manager.
“If it wasn’t Holy Week, maybe this week would already be busy. We’ll have more business on Saturday and Sunday. But maybe things will start on Monday, Tuesday.”
This particular love hotel has a strict two-hour maximum stay during Sevens week.
“In and out,” she says, laughing again, “not a long time.”
The hotel does not bump up room rates during Sevens week.
“I don’t know about the girls, maybe they charge more,” she says. “We have a lot of regular girls, but customers not so many because they are mostly tourists.”
For the women, the Hong Kong Sevens is one of the premier stops on what is known as “The Circuit” – a series of big sporting events in Southeast Asia that attracts a lot of tourists and wealthy corporates, many of whom are looking to blow off some steam.
“Sometimes they go to Singapore for Formula [One], sometimes they go to Macau for racing,” says the manager. “Then they go home.
“Maybe this week more than 100 are here already in Wan Chai. They make more money and some of them get lucky, have tickets and go to the rugby. Some of them buy from other friends.”
The two main drinking roads in Wan Chai, Lockhart Road and Jaffe Road, are deemed a commercial area in conjunction with the nearby Exhibition Centre, so bars are allowed to serve alcohol all night.
Given the area is within walking distance of Hong Kong Stadium, too, it is the first (and only) stop for most of the boozed-up punters after the rugby finishes each evening.
“We celebrate, that’s right, money is all over,” says the love hotel manager.
“We work 24 hours. 12 hours for the rugby, with everyone on standby. The more busy [we are], more money, more tips, [and] everybody is happy. We cannot close. Because outside there are a lot of punters.
“It’s also busy when you have the navy from the US, trade shows, and this time the exhibition. The electronics show, next week starting same time. So [there are] more people in Wan Chai. Business is better for everybody. Every bar is happy because rent here is very high, salaries very high so we need more business from outside, from tourists.
“More girls are happy, more shops are happy, more owners are happy.”
More business also means a few more problems for the love hotel, however.
“Sometimes we have to block girls if they’re bad,” says the manager. “If they’re drunk they mess up the room, it takes a lot of time to clean.
“We have already experienced crazy girls.
“Drunk people are all around, they come up here but we block them. Most of the people are drunk that week, everybody enjoys it.
“We already have a bouncer,” she adds, laughing.
Luckily for the love hotel manager, the elderly gentleman and his two friends have not messed up their room.
“It’s time to clean,” the manager says, smiling, and she gets up from her seat. “And get ready for the next [customer].”