Ovolo Hotel has launched The Ovolo Homecoming Project to help bring stranded Hong Kong residents back home, in partnership with Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and NGOs including The Zubin Foundation and Pathfinders.
Through the project, Ovolo Hotels will offer Hong Kong residents with financial difficulties the opportunity to quarantine at Ovolo Southside for the token rent of HK$1 (US$0.13) per night for the 21-night quarantine period mandated by the Hong Kong Government.
Ovolo Hotels, which has pledged up to 200 room nights towards this campaign, has begun vetting applications and is working with both The Zubin Foundation and Pathfinders to find suitable candidates.
The first guest is due to start quarantine at Ovolo Southside on 12 February.
Potential candidates for The Ovolo Homecoming Project will need to fill out an application form via the Ovolo website. Thereafter, Ovolo Hotels and The Zubin Foundation will then review each applicant with a turnaround time of about 10 days.
Once the candidate is confirmed for the 21-night quarantine stay at Ovolo Southside, they can also apply for help with their travel costs, which will be met in part at a ceiling of HK$4,000 per person by Tung Wah Group of Hospitals.
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, CEO of Ovolo Hotels.
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, CEO of Ovolo Hotels, talks to Travel Weekly Asia about The Ovolo Homecoming Project.
What brought your attention to the plight of those Hong Kongers who needed to return home but couldn’t afford the quarantine hotel costs?
I have always valued the community and the environment I grew up in because it gave me so much experience and inspiration. Especially in times of uncertainty and hardship, it is so important to give back to what shaped you.
Over the last couple years but especially the last couple months, it has been a goal for Ovolo to support and work with local, smaller businesses.
Our proactivity in looking for new ways to give back, the arrival of the 21-day quarantine alongside Ovolo Southside’s participation in the second designated list [of Covid-care hotels] created a way of giving back that only seemed right.
Apart from helping the people of Hong Kong, I am hoping that this project will also set a precedent for other Hong Kong leaders to step forward and give back to the community around them — the community that’s given us all so much.
Have you been able to identify the extent of this problem? Do numbers run into hundreds/thousands?
Over the course of planning this initiative, we were met with a number of individual cases as well as cases through the respective NGOs. It was then that we knew there was such a wide range of people who could use some assistance.
To what extent have Ovolo’s Hong Kong hotels been impacted by Covid-19?
Ever since mid-2019, we have been hit back-to-back by the social unrest, then the pandemic — so it is safe to say that we have been impacted for quite a while.
With a near 99% drop in visitor arrivals into the city, we unfortunately experienced a dip. However, with the right team to constantly innovate and adapt, we were able to continue serving our guests through Quarantine Concierge.
What is the Zubin/Pathfinder criteria for accepting people into Ovolo hotels at the HK$1 rate?
Part of the criteria would be income — both NGOs look into the applicant or individual’s monthly income being less than a certain percentage. Special conditions such as singles and families who are/were unemployed or severely underemployed during the Covid's start since February 2020, will also be considered.
The Quarantine Concierge service at Ovolo Southside includes a myriad of wellness and mindfulness items, where it's also possible to add walking treadmills, dumbbells and foam rollers.
Do those accepted into the initiative receive all the Concierge perks of those paying the full quarantine rate?
Yes, of course! They will receive the same treatment as those who book our regular Quarantine Concierge package. Just because they are unable to afford it, does not mean they do not deserve it.
Are you able to share stories from those who have been, are being or are already accepted into the scheme?
One that we have been leaning towards is the case of a migrant domestic worker introduced by PathFinders. This particular individual came to PathFinder’s assistance after giving birth to a baby boy, in a pregnancy that she was unaware of until its later stages.
After the birth, she took maternity leave back in her home country with the intention of coming back to continue her employment.
Unfortunately, due to the extension of the quarantine period from 14 to 21 days, as well as her employer’s financial difficulties due to Covid-19, her contract was terminated.
At this moment, she is still trying to find new employment back in Hong Kong so she can support her family back home.