People fleeing disasters nearly book up HK hotels

08:28, March 22, 2011      

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A woman and her daughter arrive in Dalian airport in Northeast China's Liaoning province last Sunday. Many Chinese parents living in Japan fear the harm the recent radiation leaks might do to their children and have brought their families back to China. Provided to China Daily

Hong Kong ran short of hotel rooms after many of those fleeing earthquake-stricken parts of Japan flocked to the special administrative region, which many used as a stepping stone on their way to the United States and Europe.

The hotels in Hong Kong, already crowded as the hotel industry moves into its peak season, were made even fuller by the sudden increase in the demand for lodging.

Before the disaster, many rooms in Hong Kong had been booked for the popular Rugby Sevens tournament that took place from March 25 to 27. Added to that were the many rooms reserved for several international meetings, according to Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners.

By the beginning of March, the occupancy rate at Hong Kong hotels had climbed to more than 80 percent. It rose further this past week, when many Japanese companies became keen to shelter their employees, Li said.

"Dozens of booking requests were received each day from Japanese companies, which wanted to move staff members and their families," a spokesman for Langham Place Hotel Hong Kong told China Daily on Monday. "But we haven't been able to help because we have been running short of rooms these days."

The hotel, which lies in Hong Kong's bustling business district, Mong Kok, received requests from more than 10 Japan companies this past week. The occupancy rate at Langham Place surged to nearly 95 percent on Monday, 10 percent higher than it had been in 2010, according to the hotel.

"The evacuations of parts of Japan gave our business the biggest boom that has ever been recorded, and the trend is likely to last for a while, at least for the coming week," said the hotel, saying Japanese companies had booked rooms for three to four days, or even weeks in some cases. Of the guests staying there, 6 percent came from Japan.

In general, most of the requests received in the past week were from Japanese banking or finance corporations. Li said many of the firms were trying to book rooms in four- or five-star hotels.

And according to Reuters, serviced-apartment chains in Hong Kong were flooded with booking requests from European and American investment banks looking to move their staffs out of Japan for two to four weeks.

Air Charter Service, a commercial aircraft-charter firm, urged those fleeing Japan to avoid Hong Kong and go to Singapore, Bangkok or other cities.

"We have helped 3,800 people evacuate from Japan and to Hong Kong by eight charters so far, mainly western people working in Japan as well as their family members," Gavin Copus, chief executive officer of Air Charter Service Asia Pacific, a large aircraft-charter firm, told Reuters on March 18.

"Most of them will stay in Hong Kong for a few weeks and then return to their home countries."

Copus said requests for rooms started coming in quickly after the recent series of disasters had struck Japan.

"We received the first call just half an hour after the first explosion happened in the nuclear reactor," he said.

"It takes three to five days for an aircraft to get landing permission in South Korea and two to three days in the Chinese mainland, while such a permission in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok can be obtained within 24 hours."

Source: China Daily
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