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Unrest deals severe blow to HK hotels

By Edith Lu in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-24 14:15
A night view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. [Photo/IC]

Peak tourist season likely to be affected as many visitors cancel their bookings

Hong Kong's hotels are paying the price for declining visitors driven away by local social unrest, and the downturn is likely to continue during the upcoming weeklong National Day holiday at the beginning of October.

Visiting crowds may not be found in Hong Kong over the Golden Week holidays this year, as many visitors have canceled their hotel bookings.

Lung (not his real name), an employee at a five-star hotel in the Yau Tsim Mong District, said the occupancy rates of the hotel he works for are only 30 percent for the holidays.

Many hotels in the city have halved their room rates, aiming to attract more tourists during the traditional peak season.

Search results via travel booking platform Agoda showed on Friday that a plaza deluxe room in the five-star Royal Plaza Hotel at Mong Kok costs HK$900 per night on October 4, the middle of the holiday. The rate was HK$1,813 per night when searched last month.

The room rates at the four-star Rosedale Hotel Hong Kong at Causeway Bay have dropped 37 percent to HK$579 per night on October 4 for its superior room. In August, rates for the same type of room on the same date were shown as high as HK$920.

It is quite uncommon. During the Golden Week holidays last year, about 70 percent of the hotels were booked in advance and room rates were up 5 to 8 percent during the period.

According to Hong Kong Hotels, Food and Beverage Employees Association, five-star hotels in the Yau Tsim Mong District cost at least HK$2,000 per night during the holidays in the past few years.

The association said on Tuesday that the occupancy rate has dropped from 90 percent to less than 30 percent since the protests broke out three months ago.

To maintain hotel operations, some hotels have closed several floors. Lung said the hotel he works for recently closed eight floors - nearly half of the total - in order to reduce expenditure and save resources.

Meanwhile, the hotel has stopped employing temporary workers and asked others to take days off, he added.

According to a survey conducted by the association, 77 percent of respondents said they have been asked to take unpaid leave of up to three days, while 43 percent said their hotels are likely to reduce the number of employees.

But currently, no large-scale downsizing has been seen, said Nerine Yip Lau-ching, the association's secretary-general.

The survey of 438 hotel employees working across more than 40 hotels in the city was conducted by the association at the end of August. It reveals the impact of a breakdown in hotel bookings dragged by the protests now in its 16th week.

The association's executive officer, Barry Kai Hung-chuen called for the special administrative region government to set up an unemployment fund to help displaced hotel workers, provide free course for skills development, and training subsidies.

He also suggested that hotel employers strengthen internal training for employees and make full preparation for recovery, instead of forcing them to take unpaid leave, or cutting jobs.

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