How much would you be willing to pay for a stay at a Li Ka-shing hotel?
Well, how about just a tad over HK$90?
No, we’re not kidding! This is exactly what some mainland tourists are paying this month for a night at a Tsing Yi hotel owned by the Hong Kong billionaire.
According to rates quoted by Qunar, a popular mainland travel portal whose name means “Where to go?”, one can get a double bedroom at the Rambler Garden Hotel for as little as 73 yuan (HK$86.7).
Adding the tax, you get an all-in price of 76.65 yuan (HK$91.1) for a night’s stay at the Cheung Kong Group property.
That was price offered for January 28, a date that falls less than two weeks before the Lunar New Year.
Who says Hong Kong is an expensive destination!
Of course, not everyone can get a room with a splendid view of the Rambler Channel and the nearby container terminal.
To be eligible for the offer, you have to be a mainlander. So, if you hold a passport of any other country or region — even those of Taiwan or Macau — count yourself out.
Next, you can only check in after 5pm.
Meanwhile, you would also have to put up with another problem: there won’t be in-room wi-fi.
All these point to a typical mainland group tour package as Hong Kong’s hospitality and retail sectors grapple with a decline in visitor numbers from across the border.
Tourism workers, meanwhile, are also faced with tougher rules as the Travel Industry Council has unveiled measures such as refund protection scheme for visitors and curbs on “forced shopping”.
As new regulations have basically killed “zero fee” tours, travel operators and related firms have been forced to readjust their marketing strategies.
It is possible that mainland operators are securing extra-low rates from hotels by offering firm commitments on the occupancy volume.
As for the hotels, guaranteed bookings for a portion of their inventory, even it means selling the rooms at cost, will help them remain on the radar of cross-border tourists.
A sub-HK$100 rate per room puts the clock back to the 70s when a breakfast at Cafe de Coral used to cost less than HK$10 and the Hang Seng Index was around 1,000.
This makes it a screaming bargain for visitors, helping them forget the outdated TV sets in the rooms and the absence of modern communication facilities.
Well, we should also bear in mind that January is a non-peak travel season this year given the gap between Christmas and the Lunar New Year.
Seizing the low-season fares and hotel room rates, many people have booked trips to Hong Kong this month.
A friend who came to Hong Kong this week for medical check-up paid merely HK$500 per night in a four-star Causeway Bay business hotel.
He kept saying it was a bargain – although the yuan devaluation made him pay slightly more than what he used to earlier – because he remembered the same hotel was charging over HK$3,000 yuan per night during a Lunar New Year season previously.
Mainland visitor arrivals were down 1.7 percent to 42.1 million in the first eleven months of 2015, according to Hong Kong Tourism Board data.
Things could get more challenging this year as the weaker exchange rate will make mainlanders think twice before making their usual trips across the border.
But if more Hong Kong hotels step up discounts and offer rooms at bargain-basement prices, the story could well turn out different.
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