The CEO of boutique accom group Ovolo says his homegrown hotels face a bookings drought worse than during the SARS crisis.
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, who owns four hotels in Hong Kong and six more across Australia, has called on the country’s government to help the local hospitality as violent protests against escalating Chinese restrictions in the former British colony drive tourists away.
Jhunjhnuwala says the situation in Hong Kong has been felt across “all corners of the city” but particularly within the tourism industry, arguing his workers’ jobs and livelihood are under threat as the unrest continues.
Ovolo is one of Hong Kong’s largest independent hospitality companies, employing more than 190 people across its head office, four hotels and five food and beverage outlets – together servicing an estimated 100,000 business and leisure guests and some 165,000 diners and drinkers annually.
The multi-awarded hotel company is one of the most innovative boutique operators, described by its owner as a “proud Hong Kong brand” which remains a family-owned and privately-operated business “with a charitable core”.
Jhunjhnuwala says tourism has always been a vital pillar of the Hong Kong economy, with the city acting as a hub for business and leisure travellers from across the world.
“It’s devastating to see the effect that the recent situation in our city has had on local businesses,
particularly those of us in the hospitality industry,” he said.
“As reported by the South China Morning Post, tourist arrivals year-on-year have fallen by five percent in July and an alarming 40 percent in August – the largest decline since the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003. Group arrivals from the mainland have also dropped by 90 percent in the first ten days of September.
“When our businesses weather tough times, those who are hit the hardest are not the top-level
executives but our team members – the employees working at the forefront of our organisations.
“It’s those members of our society that are unfortunately the ones which are now facing reduced
hours, reduced wages or in some cases even redundancies.
“With this in mind, it is imperative the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong Monetary Authority
both step in to lend a helping hand to local businesses who are struggling during these times – not
only to ensure we reduce negative economic impact and avoid loss of wages or jobs, but to
ultimately protect Hong Kong’s status as a thriving tourism hub for years to come.”
Ovolo runs hotels in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane as well as four in the Chinese-owned territory.
In 2017 it also launched the Mojo Nomad concept in two Hong Kong locations at Central and Aberdeen Harbour, a millennial-driven accom brand combining travel, lifestyle and community which is set to enter the Australian market in the near future.