Michael Li Hon-shing, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said the government was already in touch with sector representatives, and estimated the number of rooms would grow from 10,000 to 12,000 from Dec 1.

The 36 hotels currently approved to serve as coronavirus quarantine facilities - a list that is updated every three months - were booked at 84% capacity from September to November, according to the Food and Health Bureau.

"We expect more residents will come back [to Hong Kong] during and after the Christmas holiday, and the government can estimate the number by checking flight bookings with the airlines," Li told a radio programme on Tuesday.

He noted that while the government has typically chosen mid-range and budget hotels priced between HK$600 (2,500 baht) and HK$800 per night, adding some five-star accommodation to the mix could help meet demand among some returning travellers for a higher level of service and more comfortable rooms.

"I think the demand for that is not that huge, but it must have its own market," he said. "I believe the market for rooms priced at about HK$1,000 is larger."

He said hotels considering joining the scheme had to weigh their own strategies, including if they preferred to focus on longer-term tenants or the burgeoning "staycation" market.

"They may worry that future customers could be concerned that they had been a quarantine hotel before … But they may also hope to boost the occupancy rate by becoming a quarantine facility. It's up to the hotels' business strategy," he said.

Hong Kong has imposed one of the world's strictest policies for inbound travellers, requiring those from countries deemed high-risk - a list that includes Britain, the United States and Thailand - to complete up to three weeks of compulsory hotel quarantine.

The limited supply of government-approved hotels had left thousands of travellers to the city scrambling to book rooms and rearrange flights and rooms in recent months.

Meanwhile, foreign domestic helpers, who mainly come to the city from the Philippines or Indonesia, have just two quarantine options - the 409-room Silka Hotel Tsuen Wan or the government-run Penny's Bay quarantine facility, which has 1,000 slots.

Every room at both properties was snapped up within minutes of becoming available, as employers and employment agencies rushed to reserve slots for their workers.

According to government figures, the city had a total of 315 licensed hotel properties supplying 87,318 rooms as of August.