• High-end hotels and others all struggling as occupancy rates plummet
  • Staff tell Post they are being forced to take leave in what is normally city’s peak season
Anti-government protesters fill Victoria Park Road and the Gloucester Road in Causeway Bay during last weekend’s rally. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong's hotel workers are paying the price for three months of anti-government protests, with many placed involuntarily on paid and unpaid leave as occupancy rates plummet.

The Post has learned that the Mira Hong Kong, situated in the bustling tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui, has become the latest of the city's high-end hotels to put employees on leave, with scores of housekeeping staff at the 492-room hotel set for an unwanted break.

A few streets away in the same district, the waterfront 503-room InterContinental Hong Kong hotel has asked permanent members of staff to take annual leave and unpaid leave to save money, with 10 hotels operated by tycoon Li Ka-shing's CK Asset Holdings reportedly making a similar move.

This growing trend emerged as the government warned that the extradition bill protests, which are now in their third month, had damaged the city's economy, reporting shrinking figures in tourist arrivals and room occupancy rates.

A worker at the Mira, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Post the company had assigned annual leave and other holidays for staff in the roster this month without asking them.

She estimated one-third of the some 100-strong housekeeping team were being asked to take a break, as its occupancy rate fell to between 50 and 60 per cent.

While bosses had not officially told staff about the move, the worker believed it was because of the poor economy.

"I feel unhappy because the hotel is assigning them paid leave," the worker said. "It is summer time which should be very busy. This is all because of the protesters.

"They should protest peacefully instead of making Hong Kong unstable. Tourists are not willing to come to Hong Kong any more."

Hong Kong protests take toll on city's tourism workers as earnings slump 74 per cent

The city has been rocked by protests since June 9, sparked by now-abandoned legislation that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition agreement, including mainland China.

Clashes have broken out in various parts of the city over the past 11 weeks, including at Hong Kong International Airport, where operations were disrupted for six days in a row last week. During two days of that period nearly 1,000 flights were cancelled.

Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah earlier said the number of inbound tourists dropped more than 30 per cent for the first 10 days in August, and industry figures said the protests could be worse for Hong Kong than the 2003 Sars outbreak.

According to the Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Union, the InterContinental Hong Kong sent an email to its staff, saying the protests had hurt the economy and its occupancy levels were down considerably.

"It is only right that we take 'corrective measures' to protect our payroll and prevent our bank balance from slipping further in the red!" the email, which the Post has seen, said.

Hong Kong's tourism industry has been hit by a drop in visitors and two days of chaos at the city's airports where hundreds of flights were cancelled didn't help. Photo: Bloomberg

Under the plan some staff, including department heads, are to take one day of annual leave and two days of unpaid leave in August.

Next month, all permanent staff are being forced to take two days of annual leave and another two of unpaid leave.

The union's organising secretary Ho Hung-hing could not say how many staff had been affected, but said even though workers were not happy with the arrangement, they had to do what they were told.

Ho said frontline employees had not been allowed to take holidays in the past during peak seasons because of manpower shortages.

"When they (businesses) claim to have quieter businesses now, they then resort to (hurting) the workers," Ho said.

Meanwhile, CK Asset has reportedly asked staff to take unpaid leave at 10 hotels, including the Harbour Grand Hong Kong in North Point, and the Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees in To Kwa Wan.

The Post has contacted the Mira, InterContinental Hong Kong and CK Asset for comment.

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