People using Hong Kong as a hub during the evacuation from disaster-stricken Japan may need to turn to another regional center because of a shortage of hotel rooms.
Many hotel rooms in Hong Kong have already been booked ahead of the popular annual Rugby Sevens tournament next weekend and commercial aircraft firm Air Charter Service is urging evacuees to fly to other cities, such as Singapore and Bangkok.
As an increasing number of governments including Britain, New Zealand and South Korea are advising their citizens to leave quake-affected northern Japan, airlines have mobilized for a stream of mainly outbound traffic from one of the world’s biggest cities.
“We have been evacuating people from Japan for several days,” Air Charter Service Asia-Pacific chief executive Gavin Copus said yesterday. “One issue facing people coming here [Hong kong] is firstly hotel rooms and transfer flights are also very busy to other destinations.”
One of Air Charter Service’s first chartered flights was for a high-tech manufacturing company and about 300 people, including employees and their families, were flown out.
“We bought them to Hong Kong in order to continue their business and they took a lot of hotel rooms,” Copus said.
Four Seasons Hong Kong, a five-star hotel in the city’s business center, said it was fully booked yesterday and mostly booked for the next few days.
Serviced-apartment chains in Hong Kong said they have been inundated with bookings from European and US investment banks looking to relocate their staff from Japan for two to four weeks.
“They need the rooms rather quickly, but we don’t have the rooms because some are asking for 20 to 30 rooms for an entire group,” said Marilyn Fu, director of sales and marketing at the Onyx Hospitality Group, which rents more than 400 rooms and serviced apartments in Hong Kong, including its Shama apartments chain. “Because they’re staying for longer, many say they’d prefer to stay in a serviced apartment which is more homely. We’re almost fully booked now.”
Mandarin Oriental and the East Hotel also said vacancies would be hard to come by over the next few days.
Joseph Tung, executive director of Hong Kong’s Travel Industry Council, said even before the Japan earthquake, room availability in Hong Kong was very tight because of the Rugby Sevens and an ever-increasing numbers of visitors from mainland China.
“The hotel situation is sometimes out of our control,” Tung said.
In Taiwan, a second group of about 300 US expats will be arriving today from Tokyo, after the first group of 96 evacuees arrived in the early hours of yesterday morning on a chartered flight operated by China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空).
Hotel operators were reluctant to comment on the US evacuees, as they had been directed by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) not to comment.
An official at the Grand Hyatt Taipei (台北君悅) confirmed that it had received some of the US evacuees, but said that it had few vacancies this weekend because of the Taipei Cycle Show being held at the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei.
“We are trying to fully accommodate the AIT’s requests for vacant rooms,” the official said.
The Grand Hyatt said Japanese guests only account for between 8 percent and 10 percent of its total clientele and therefore the impact of Japanese cancelations on its bookings had been limited.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JASON TAN
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