By Kee Foong
Feb 12, 2021
HONG KONG IS NOT EXACTLY what you would call a budget-travel destination. Frequently cited among the world’s most expensive cities, the price of a night at the YMCA pre-Covid-19 could get you into any number of five-star properties in Bangkok. So when the government announced that anyone traveling to Hong Kong—effectively residents only—would have to undergo 21 days of compulsory hotel quarantine at their own expense, the already strict entry criteria became prohibitive to all but the wealthy, or desperate.
While room rates have dropped since the pandemic brought tourism to a halt, a single night at the list of approved quarantine hotels remains high, with the most expensive suite costing a whopping HK$50,000 a night, multiplied by 21 nights—ouch. Pity then, those without deep pockets or a ready line of credit, of which there are many, stranded overseas.
Enter Ovolo Hotels, which has partnered with the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and The Zubin Foundation to launch the Homecoming Project, an initiative to bring some of the most financially disadvantaged residents back to Hong Kong. Ovolo—whose quarantines include live plants, daily in-room happy hour, mindfulness kits and exercise equipment—has pledged up to 200 room nights at HK$1 a night as the centerpiece of the campaign.
The catch is that these essentially free rooms are only available to Hongkongers who belong to an ethnic minority, and meet a needs criteria. The poverty rate among ethnic minorities is estimated to be 25 percent. (These groups are disproportionately represented in the hospitality, F&B, airport and construction industries, and therefore have been strongly negatively affected by the pandemic.)
Returning residents lucky enough to qualify will spend their 21-day quarantine at Ovolo Southside, a hipster-style warehouse conversion and member of Design Hotels, featuring street art, a rooftop lounge and 24-hour gym. Of course, quarantining guests won’t have access to the facilities, but they will be comfortably ensconced in rooms with feather-top beds, Apple TV, and—perhaps best of all—windows that open to allow in fresh air, an absolute rarity in hotels.
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, the group’s CEO, hopes the campaign will encourage other business leaders to provide relief. It’s the latest initiative from a community-minded hotel group that recently took the bold step of making all of its properties’ restaurants 100-percent vegetarian, and adds another feather in its social responsibility and sustainability cap.
Ovolo Southside; quarantine and Homecoming project information here: ovolohotels.com/ovolo/offers/meet-your-quarantine-concierge