Two hotels are going ahead with plans to open next month despite the damage done by the Covid-19 pandemic to Hong Kong’s tourism and hospitality sectors.
The Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung Hotel, near the city’s airport, will have its official opening on December 1, after a year’s delay, while The Hari Hotel in Wan Chai opens on December 12, on schedule.
They are opening at a time when the number of visitors has plunged 93 per cent to just 3.56 million in the first 10 months of the year, according to provisional figures from the city’s tourism board.
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Hotel rooms across the city have been left empty for much of this year, too, with occupancy rates falling to 43 per cent between January and September, compared with 84 per cent last year.
For a start, both new hotels are counting on Hong Kong residents to take up their staycation offers, especially over the Christmas season.
“It’s not the easiest of times for them to open, the situation will have an impact on their profitability in the short term,” said Brian King, associate dean at the school of hospitality and tourism management at Polytechnic University.
A recent Covid-19 cluster linked to staycations in Mui Wo has raised concern, with the government planning to limit the number of people allowed in a hotel room to four.
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A new rule that took effect on Wednesday bans visits to those under quarantine in hotels. Couriers delivering food and other items are not allowed face-to-face contact with guests during their quarantine period.
Despite all that, the new hotels are putting up a brave front as they prepare to welcome guests.
“We open hotels for the long term, so we’re still very positive about that,” said veteran Dutch hotelier Sander Looijen, who has spent the past year getting the five-star Sheraton Tung Chung ready to open.
Located just 10 minutes from the airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the 218-room hotel was planned to cater to business travellers and aircrew.
With air travel at a standstill because of the pandemic, Looijen said it was now positioning itself as part of the Tung Chung community, offering staycation packages for families and nature-lovers over the Christmas season.
Five years in the making, the hotel will have four restaurants and is close to Lantau Island’s hiking trails. Most of its guest rooms have sea views.