Hong Kong’s four Ovolo Hotels properties have been very much in demand over the last year. As the pandemic hit and Hong Kong introduced compulsory hotel quarantines, the group developed its pioneering “Quarantine Concierge” service to give anyone returning to the city in the midst of the pandemic a comfortable, humane way to get through their quarantine. Now, Ovolo Hotels has partnered with local NGOs to offer discounted rooms to returnees who struggle to pay for the government-imposed 21-day hotel quarantine. We speak to Ovolo Hotels CEO Girish Jhunjhunwala about the pandemic, why the group introduced Quarantine Concierge, and why now is the best time to give back.
Off the back of the social unrest in 2019—which presented its own challenges—we were hit with the pandemic. Having lost essentially all tourism in Hog Kong, we were forced to shift and adapt. Even with constantly changing restrictions, though, we were determined to continue providing a great experience. Therefore, although I would say we were negatively affected in terms of arrivals, we made the most out of the situation. This in turn allowed us the opportunity to further establish our brand as one that always puts its guests first.
The idea of our “Quarantine Concierge” came about because we were thinking of our guests and putting ourselves in their shoes. We thought, “If I had to quarantine, how would I like to do it?” When we first came up with the campaign, the concept of quarantine was still taboo, but we thought, why should overseas travelers be treated differently to anyone else? They’re simply returning home and have no choice but to be locked inside a room for 14—now 21—days. They still deserve to be treated like humans—with basic respect and dignity—even more so because they’re stuck! It’s important to me because it not only allowed the people of Hong Kong to see us as a brand that cares for its guests, but I also hoped the campaign would diminish the taboo around quarantine.
With Quarantine Concierge, anything that guests want during their stay, they can have. We have someone go on daily essential runs to get things for guests. And, guests even get daily barista-made coffee in the morning and craft cocktails delivered to their door in the evenings. I believe we’re the only hotel group to have put something like this together because this package wasn’t born out of necessity, but rather, genuine care for our guests. With the designated hotel list provided by the government, Hongkongers have no choice but to choose one of these hotels and stay there for 21 days on their return to the city. We wanted to go a step further in ensuring that guests choose us not just because they need to, but because they truly believe they will be well looked after.
Recently, we partnered with two Hong Kong NGOs to offer our rooms and Quarantine Concierge service at HK$1/night. I have always valued the community and environment I grew up in because it gave me so much experience and inspiration. Especially in times of uncertainty and hardship, it’s so important to give back to what shaped you.
Over the last few years—but especially in the last couple of months—it’s been a goal for Ovolo to support and work with local small businesses. Our proactivity in looking for new ways to give back—and Ovolo Southside’s inclusion in the government’s second designated hotel list—gave us a way of giving back that just seemed right. This initiative is aimed at anybody that finds themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of wanting to return home but unable to do so due to the financial burden. we’re not focusing on a particular demographic, though, because we believe that everybody that needs help deserves it. That’s why although we’ve partnered with The Zubin Foundatin, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, and PathFinders—all of whom have provided us with their expert guidance. To ensure we open it up to more people, we’ve created a Google From, through which anyone can apply fr these discounted rooms.
To select the NGS we’re working with, I first put out a LinkedIn post to hear from people and get suggestions. I got an overwhelming response that I never could’ve anticipated. I took the time to look into each NGO and had a conversation with many of them. Realizing that there were so many that could use our help, we decided to partner with not just one but three NGOs—to spread the love as much as possible! The NGOs we selected were the ones we felt had the most cases and individuals we could help and who would be able to help us manage the vetting process.
To make sure that everyone who needs it has the chance to get a room, we’ve made the application process for these discounted rooms quite simple. First, each NGO will reach out to us with the cases they have that they believe need our support with these rooms. These cases come either through their existing network or through the Google Form we’ve created, which is open to the public. Before it even reached Ovolo Hotels, it’s within the NGO’s scope to vet who needs it most, and who we would best be able to help. Once the individuals have been confirmed, we’ll try our best to slot them into the rooms over the most ideal dates, then give them their confirmation. That’s it! We’re hoping to give away up to 200 room nights to people that are most in need.
More from our Point of View series.