Hong Kong hotels struggling as government turns around leaves travelers rushing to re-let rooms


Quarantine hotels in Hong Kong were struggling to accommodate guest bookings after the government announced plans to tighten isolation rules for Covid-19, with various sectors calling for more rooms to be made available.

Travelers also expressed their anger in social media groups on Tuesday, with their anger centered on the impact on travel bookings and quarantine times.

The sudden change in policy has moved 15 more countries, including the United States and France, to a list of high-risk countries in the existing medium-risk category as of Friday.

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Many of these travelers could previously have shortened their quarantine to just seven days if they were fully vaccinated and tested positive in the antibody test in Hong Kong. But a political turnaround has left many facing 21 days inside.

The government said Tuesday evening that anyone flying to Hong Kong from countries in the “medium risk” category would have to undergo at least 14 days of quarantine starting Friday, canceling a plan to shorten the period for those who are. tested positive for Covid- 19 antibodies.

A traveler arrives at the Sheraton Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of the city’s quarantine hotels. Photo: KY Cheng

In a letter to relevant government departments on Tuesday, Southern District Councilor Paul Zimmerman urged authorities to increase the supply of quarantine rooms or open the Penny’s Bay quarantine center as a temporary measure to deal with the severe shortage.

“The biggest problem people have is finding quarantined hotel rooms quickly, because these hotels are not ready for this influx,” Zimmerman said.

He pointed out that while people could bring their flight dates forward, many were struggling to book quarantine accommodation.

Zimmerman has monitored hundreds of social media comments criticizing the recent about-face in quarantine rules. He also said he received several phone calls directly asking for help.

“People are in a sort of panic and they are disappointed… [The new rules] add to their frustrations, ”he said.

Respond to a To post Investigating, the Food and Health Bureau said it would monitor demand for quarantine at hotels and consider the need to vacate some 1,500 reserve rooms in designated hotels if necessary.

He added that the average occupancy rate of the 36 designated hotels in September was 70%.

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With two of its four properties in Hong Kong listed as designated quarantine hotels, Ovolo Group’s acting COO Marc Hediger said his reservations team had received constant inquiries about the new policy, requests extension of stays in quarantine and even cancellation of reservations.

“This constant change in policies directly results in a constant change in bookings, which confuses the public,” Hediger told the To post.

He said many guests had previously moved their reservations after August 18, when serology on arrival was supposed to be accepted, to reduce their stay to seven days if they tested positive for antibodies.

But with Monday’s new announcement, customers have asked to change their bookings by August 20, when the new changes will take effect.

Besides the United States and France, other affected countries are: Malaysia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Greece, Iran, Netherlands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania and Turkey.

Hediger added that his chain’s two quarantine hotels have remained consistently at around 80 by capacity throughout 2021, with most customers coming from the United States, France and Spain.

The government confirmed on Tuesday that the city would drop all forms of antibody testing used by arrivals from “medium risk” countries to cut quarantine stays in half to seven days. The quarantine will be extended to 14 days from this Friday.

The latest move was influenced by health experts who a day earlier recommended that the quarantine period for people fully vaccinated with positive antibody tests returning from so-called medium and low risk countries be increased to 14 days, from the current minimum period of one week plus seven days of self-monitoring.

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In the latest list of designated quarantine hotels, a total of 36 hotels across Hong Kong will provide approximately 10,000 rooms from September 1 to November 30, a 7% reduction from the supply of approximately 10,800 rooms in the current cycle which ends at the end of August. .

Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Hong Kong Hotel Owners Federation, predicted the impact on room supply would be limited as fewer residents would return to the city towards the end of the summer vacation .

Li said extending the quarantine period for arrivals from some countries to 21 days could also scare off travelers, but he said hotels would still struggle to cope with policy changes.

“Organizing room inventory and reservations will be very difficult for us,” he said.

Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing has urged the government to prepare for any increase in hotel demand, although he cannot be sure how the policy will impact the number of arrivals in the coming weeks. .

Yiu said the changes could lead to a tightening of the supply of quarantine hotels due to the extended isolation period. But he also noted that some travelers might be discouraged from coming to Hong Kong due to the stricter rules.

“The government must start finding additional rooms now,” he said. “Some companies have told me that the policy is changing too quickly and their customers cannot adapt at all.”

He added that there were around 1,000 rooms available in existing hotels that could be used as a back-up plan, while other locals not on the quarantine list were ready to lend their support.

This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong hotels in trouble as government turns around lets travelers run to re-let rooms first appeared on the South China Morning Post

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