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Don't fleece mainland tourists, industry warned
( 2003-08-27 10:16) (China Daily HK Edition)

A top economic official yesterday urged Hong Kong hotels and other tourism-related businesses to refrain from attempts to make a killing from the influx of mainland tourists during the National Day holidays in early October.

The plea came at a time when a shortage in hotel rooms is expected during the peak season.

"We do not want to see a big increase in hotel room rates, because that would tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs," Stephen Ip, Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, told reporters.

"I'll arrange meetings with the hotel industry, the travel industry and airlines," he said. "I think it is important to have good co-ordination."

Although room rates, at present, are still lower compared to pre-SARS levels, it is likely that they would go up in October - the peak season in the Hong Kong hotel industry.

Local travel industry sources said they expected visitor arrivals from the mainland to continue to surge in the coming months following the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement that includes permission for individuals from many mainland cities to visit Hong Kong without joining tour groups.

According to latest figures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), about 1.3 million tourists visited Hong Kong in July, up 79 per cent from June but down 5 per cent from a year earlier.

Dan Lee, first vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Hotels Association, said: "We did not push up the room rates because of the influx of tourists. The current price levels are just normal peak-season rates."

Simon Clennell, HKTB assistant manager of corporate communications, agreed, saying that the rise in hotel room rates did not necessarily relate to the influx of mainland tourists.

"Hotel room rates go up because September and October have always been the peak season; and the rates have been very low in the last few months," Clennell said.

He agreed that there was pressure on hotel room supply during peak seasons. However, he is not worried that there will not be enough rooms for the large number of visitors in peak seasons.

He said the problem could be resolved as the government had said that it would do what it could to alleviate the huge demand and that, ideally, individual mainland tourists would be more flexible in travelling.

They are more likely to choose off-peak times, when better room rates are offered, to avoid the higher price in the peak season, he said.

Ip said that he had met developers to encourage them to speed up their hotel projects. "We will do what we can to help speed up the process," Ip said.

He said more hotel rooms were coming up.

There will be an addition of around 12,000 rooms in the next two years; and between now and 2008, there could be another 20,000 rooms because there are new planning applications, he added.

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