Independent HK hotel brand pleads for government assistance in 'trying time'

Tourism industry revenues have plunged by 40 per cent, and local brands are taking a hit.

Ovolo Group’s founder & CEO Girish Jhunjhnuwala has called on the Hong Kong government to assist the local hospitality industry given the current economic downturn in the region.

According to Jhunjhnuwala, the situation in Hong Kong has been felt across industries including retail, aviation and financial sectors, with the tourism industry being the "hardest hit".

"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. As reported by SCMP, tourist arrivals year-on-year have fallen by 5 per cent in July and an alarming 40 per cent in August – the largest decline since the SARS outbreak in 2003. Group arrivals from the mainland have also dropped by 90 per cent in the first 10 days of September," he says.

"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."

From a Bloomberg report, about 77 per cent of people working in hotels have been asked to take unpaid leave of up to three days, while 46 per cent expect their monthly income to be reduced by as much as HK$3,000 (US$383), according to a survey by the Hotels, Food and Beverage Employees Association. About 43 per cent believe hotels will cut jobs if the situation worsens.

According to the association that conducted the survey, hotel workers perceive this crisis as "worse than the SARS situation".

"SARS was for all of five months. But we don’t know when the protests will end. It is hard for a hotel to survive," the association said.

With this, Jhunjhnuwala pleads for both the government and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to step in to lend a hand to local businesses that are struggling. He says this will not only avoid losses of wages or jobs, but will ultimately "protect Hong Kong’s status as a thriving tourism hub".

Ovolo Group is an independent operator of hospitality companies, and has 190 employees in Hong Kong across head offices, four hotels and five F&B venues.

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