Almost eight in 10 hotel workers in Hong Kong have been asked to take unpaid leave as tourist arrivals continue to take a hit following three months of anti-government protests, a survey by a union has found.
Hotel occupancy rates dropped by at least 30 percentage points in August year on year, according to a lawmaker citing official figures.
A survey of workers from more than 40 three- to five-star hotels found that occupancy rates had fallen to as low as 30 per cent on average for the first half of August. Some five-star hotels had seen occupancy rates of little more than 10 per cent.
Some 77 per cent of staff who responded to the survey by the Hotel, Food and Beverage Employees Association said they had been asked to take between one and three days of unpaid leave, costing them up to HK$3,000 in wages, a drop of 10 per cent in monthly pay. More than two in five respondents said they expected their employers to lay-off staff.
"The hotel I work at has closed eight floors, almost half of the hotel," a worker told a press conference held by the association on Tuesday.
He said the hotel had stopped hiring temporary workers to save costs. "It's the first time I've seen the manager, who usually wears a suit, washing dishes," he said.
The worker, who did not give his name or hotel, also said many guests had cancelled rooms for China's October 1 "golden week" National Day holiday, leaving them with only 30 per cent of the original bookings.
The tourism industry has suffered its worst downturn in more than a decade, with visitor arrivals falling 40 per cent in August from the same period last year. The drop is the biggest year-on-year monthly decline since 2003 - when the city was hit by an outbreak of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) - and follows a 5 per cent fall in July.
Hong Kong's anti-government protests, triggered by a controversial, now-shelved extradition bill, have entered their 15th week and show no signs of easing.
In August, protesters forced the closure of the city's airport for two straight days, a move which lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said had caused a significant impact to Hong Kong's tourism industry.
The employee association received 438 responses to its survey, with 85 per cent of respondents being permanent employees and the rest temporary workers.
Official figures from Yiu, who represents the tourism sector in the legislature, put hotel occupancy rates at 60 per cent in August down from 90 per cent for the same month last year.
It's the first time I've seen the manager, who usually wears a suit, washing dishesHotel worker
"If violent clashes continue into September, a tourism low season, I estimate hotels' occupancy rate could drop to 50 per cent, and to less than 30 per cent for smaller guest houses, which will lose out as customers will choose hotels which have offered discounts," Yiu said.
"The best thing the government can do now is to soothe tensions. If the protests drag on and hotels cannot cover operating costs, they will start lay-offs by the end of the year."
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