Hong Kong’s single-use plastics ban will saddle hotels with extra costs, may deter patrons: industry chiefs

Items covered in the policy include bottled water, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toiletry kits, shaving razors, as well as nail files, combs and shower caps.

The second stage will ban the free distribution of earplugs and dental floss picks. Environmental authorities have said the latter stage will be implemented once alternatives are available.

Glass bottled water on display at Mira Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

David Leung Tai-wai, founder and chairman of the Hong Kong Guest Houses Association, which represents 700 of the city’s 1,300 guest houses and hostels, said some patrons were hesitant to accept changes brought on by the coming ban.

“We tried offering hand wash and shower gel in big bottles, but our guests didn’t like them. They didn’t know whether the previous guest carried any diseases,” he said.

Leung said guests paid more attention to in-room cleanliness following the Covid-19 pandemic, with disposable products considered more hygienic.

He expressed concerns that the policy could exacerbate local hotels’ already struggling occupancy levels.

“The economy is terrible. Our average occupancy rate is 40 per cent,” he said. “The guests may find us miserly because they expect everything to be free.

“I’m most afraid they will complain about us on travel websites. If that becomes the case, we will be doomed.”

The sector returned to pre-Covid occupancy levels during the Lunar New Year break, but continues to struggle to break even after three years under the pandemic.

Harbour Centre Development, which owns The Murray and Marco Polo hotels, recorded a loss of HK$107 million (US$13.6 million) last year, with an underlying net loss of HK$201 million.

The company said in March that its local hotel operations faced increasing pressure from neighbouring Shenzhen, with geopolitical and economic uncertainties casting a shadow over the industry’s outlook.

Regal Hotels, which has 11 hotels in Hong Kong, also issued a profit warning that month, saying it expected losses for last year to reach HK$1.8 billion, up from HK$358 million in 2022.

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Leung, who owns a 10-room inn in Tsim Sha Tsui, said the ban would increase the burden on hoteliers as wood and paper-based alternatives were more expensive.

“A plastic toothbrush costs HK$1.5, but a wooden toothbrush is between HK$2 and HK$2.5,” he added. “A plastic comb is about HK$1, and a wooden one is at least 50 HK cents more costly.”

Winnie To Wing-ki, the manager of the 65-room Yesinn@YMT hostel, which will be renamed Mov.Inn Youth Hostel in July, also expressed concerns establishments could give off a financially tight-fisted impression to guests.

“Hotel fees in Hong Kong are relatively expensive in Asia, but we cannot provide a full set of amenities,” she said. “The guests must question why some items, such as disposable towels and slippers, are free while others are not.”

To said her hostel would sell items covered by the ban in vending machines, in line with regulations set out by environmental authorities.

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Some pundits suggested hoteliers could lower their room prices and add an option for amenities as a separate billing category to maintain a consistent fee rate.

But Jack Cheung Ki-tang, a director at CTS HK Metropark Hotels Management, which has seven hotels in Hong Kong, said booking websites were unlikely to back the move because it would affect the division of revenue.

“Websites such as Agoda and, can only help with the room rental,” he said.

“If a guest comes into my hotel and I tell him we don’t include toothpaste and toothbrush sets or bottled water for free, the customer will always feel they are paying extra.”

Cheung also said his hotels had sourced most of the alternative items, in addition to shifting from serving water in plastic bottles to using paper cartons.

Alexander Wassermann (left), Miramar Group’s head of hotels and serviced apartments, and Caspar Tsui, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, at Mira Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Alexander Wassermann, head of the Mira Hong Kong hotel, said the establishment’s 492 rooms had previously used up to 500,000 plastic bottles annually, with the company already starting to introduce eco-friendly amenities last year.

He said water was now served in glass bottles and rooms came equipped with countertop water purifiers.

Wassermann said a tough challenge was finding an alternative to the toothpaste and toothbrush sets, as authorities had previously rejected the hotel’s previous kits due to their plastic lining.

The hotel later found some that used an aluminium sachet that was 70 per cent more expensive than the original packaging, he said.

“But all things considered, there is not much impact on the cost,” the hotelier added.

Wassermann also said all of the establishment’s rooms now used press bottles instead of individual vials for shampoo, shower gel and conditioner. He noted the hotel had not received complaints about the move being unhygienic.

“We should make this to our benefit, promoting that Hong Kong hotels are going green,” he said. “I think for us, it is a great slogan to the world.”

Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, which represents nearly all 300 of the city’s hotels, said the government should boost promoting the policy to incoming travellers.

“It is not that we are trying to charge our customers more. It is more about sustainability,” he said. “A lot of mainland hotel operators are coming to Hong Kong to see how we are doing this.”

Tsui said authorities had also helped hotels find suppliers to make sure the alternatives were qualified.

He added that they were “90 per cent ready” for the ban, with the exception of some products such as shower caps and razors.

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Tourist Lennart Wysk, a 21-year-old student from Germany, said the policy was “good for the environment in the long run” as Europe had introduced similar policies for several years.

As a result, he brought his own toothbrush and toothpaste when travelling, Wysk added.

Some prospective visitors, however, said the ban would hurt their impression of Hong Kong hotels, especially since room fees were already high.

“Hong Kong hotels are known for being small and expensive,” said Teddy Liu, 25, a copywriter from Guangzhou, who planned to visit Hong Kong for a weekend getaway.

“Now even the conveniences provided for free will be cancelled.”

She added that she would have preferred to stay in Shenzhen, but her visa had a travel limit.

Wei Yuqing, a 24-year-old student from Guangxi province, said hotels in Hong Kong should charge less if they cannot offer freebies.

“If they cannot provide plastic supplies [for free], they should lower their prices,” said Wei, who was planning to visit the city for three days next month.

Kenneth Cheng Kin, an assistant director with the Environmental Protection Department, said authorities planned to extensively promote the ban at hotels, travel booking websites and border crossings.

Promotion efforts would extend to checkpoints such as the city’s airport, the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus and the Lo Wu crossing, he added.

Cheng stressed that authorities would not ban plastic toiletries at hotels outright, but would require patrons to pay for such items.


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