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'NO VACANCY' IN HONG KONG - A WORRISOME TREND

Could Hong Kong be a victim of its own success in attracting business and leisure travellers?

Many observers were left scratching their heads during a recent summer weekend when most hotels at all budget levels in Hong Kong were uniformly showing "no vacancy" signs. The few properties with remaining empty beds were quoting prices near the $1,000-a-night range. Even low budget hotels and dormitories in the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui, responding to the crush, jacked up prices well beyond the US$100 range.

Serviced apartments are becoming a viable option for visitors to Hong Kong. Here is a room at Shama Central.

Serviced apartments are becoming a viable option for visitors to Hong Kong. Here is a room at Shama Central.

The huge influx of mainland Chinese visitors is a well-known - and visible - phenomenon but it does not fully explain what sent occupancy levels to atmospheric heights in past weekends.

"We were talking about it all day and couldnt really come up with an explanation," said an executive at a serviced apartment firm in the Central district of Hong Kong. She added that several calls had been coming in all day from people desperate for accommodation.

The lack of beds at peak periods is happening even as several mid-range, boutique hotels - such as the trendy Butterfly and Ovolo chains -  have opened in many parts of the territory. The Butterfly on Wellington - one of the chain's five properties in the territory - said on a recent Saturday it had only one room on offer - with a price tag approaching the $800 range. The Ovolo in Central - one of the family-owned chain's five properties - replied in a tweet they had no vacancies at any of their hotels - including at the two recently opened.

In situations such as this, My Savvy Traveller encourages travellers to investigate serviced apartments and private flats offered through such online services as AirBnB. The Shama chain has five properties in Hong Kong (as well as several more in mainland China). Via AirBnb, small studio flats in Central can be found at peak periods near the US$100 range. For those with China visas, several additional accommodation options are available in the border city of Shenzhen.