On June 30, 1997, the Union Jack will be lowered in Hong Kong and the flag of China will be raised. In the freewheeling capitalistic spirit of the British colony, some hotels are already accepting bookings for the momentous occasion.

The Excelsior (Causeway Bay; telephone 894-8888) is offering a two-day, one-night package, with a guaranteed rate of 1997 Hong Kong dollars - about $255 - single or double, and a champagne party to toast the end of 156 years of British rule. The hotel overlooks Victoria Harbor.

One hundred and one people have already made reservations, the majority hailing from Hong Kong, followed by the United States and Britain (9 each). Those making reservations have made a deposit of 10 percent of the cost.

As of early January, another eight were on the waiting list for the 1997 party, and 27 had made reservations just for the night of June 30, 1997. The more central Hong Kong Hilton (2 Queen's Road; 523-3111) has accepted 67 reservations for the transfer date for rooms with a view of Statue Square and Government House, where, old Asia hands are betting, the ceremony will take place. An engraved certificate, issued by James A. Smith, the hotel's general manager, confirms the reservation; rates and menu prices will be available June 30, 1996, when guests must reconfirm their reservations.


The latest segment of the improved U.S. 7 between Manchester and East Dorset, Vt., opened this winter, reducing driving time between the towns by up to 20 minutes - because it bypasses the busy shopping district in Manchester.

The new 4.7-mile segment is only about a mile and a half shorter than the original U.S. 7, but it avoids the always busy intersection of State Routes 11 and 30 and U.S. 7, known by local people as "malfunction junction."

Despite recent improvements at the junction, traffic jams persist as Manchester's shops, restaurants and inns draw thousands of visitors and hundreds of vehicles to the downtown daily.

With the opening of the $11 million highway section, motorists can now drive the nearly 30 miles between Bennington and East Dorset on U.S. 7, with no traffic lights and only three interchanges (at Shaftsbury, Arlington and Manchester).

The bypass makes it considerably quicker for skiers to reach Pico and Killington, via U.S. 4 in Rutland, or continue to the northern Vermont ski resorts. A U.S. 4 bypass of the western section of Rutland opened two years ago, improving access from and to New York.


The Heathrow Sterling, the only hotel at Heathrow Airport in London adjacent to a terminal, was opened last month. A covered walkway links the hotel to Terminal 4, used principally for British Airways flights. . The 400-room hotel has four ground-floor rooms designed specifically for people with mobility difficulties. Rates: $230, double; reservations:

759 7755.

A mile from Heathrow, the Edwardian International, formerly the Skyway, is scheduled to complete refurbishment by the middle of next month. Rates are $300 to $460 for two; reservations

759 6311.

Other airport hotels opened in the London area recently include the Gatwick Sterling, 31 miles south of London, reservations (293) 567070,with rooms $220 for a double, and the Scandic Crown, five minutes from Gatwick Airport, $240 for a double; reservations: (293) 561186.


The ski-in, ski-out Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek, eight miles from Vail, Colo., has started a "single share" program of the kind that cruise ships have long offered. Solo travelers may ask to be paired with a roommate of the same sex, with each paying half the double occupancy rate or half the cost of a ski package for two that includes lift tickets.