What is digital influence and influencer marketing

How To Launch A Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

I constantly have to remind my members and subscribers that utilising a good influencer platform should not be an option. Celebrity and influencer association should be part of every company’s marketing plan. In today’s world celebrities and influencers dominate social media, news headlines, TV channels and people’s conversations, with celebrities gracing the cover of every magazine and getting a stronger online presence than ever through their social media following. Using social media as their online currency, brands can be made or broken through as little as a tweet or a social media post.
But does influencer outreach really work?
The answer is yes.
The truth is people don’t buy a product based on how great it is, they buy it based on the power of the brand and that power of the brand is based on the person endorsing it. Now more than ever before the power of digital influencers , influencer marketing and celebrities endorsing your brand are key to exponential growth.
Have you ever been SERIOUSLY frustrated as you truly believe in your product and business.
You know what I am talking about.
You see the vision
You know the product is amazing
You know exactly where it should be
You know it can change the world
You’re stuck!….
You don’t know how to get it out there, you don’t know to get press, you don’t know how to get media attention it deserves as people no longer trust brands in the way they used to, they trust people.
Take buying a new phone for example. When looking for a new phone we’ll search up reviews online, but there are so many models out there… Apple, Samsung, Sony, Huawei and more. Product reviews begin to contradict one another with a huge amount of information overload.
Instead, we reach out to friends or family to gauge their opinion, or we might look at what others on social media are using, with a strong influencer coming from…yes, you guessed it. Influencers themselves!
Big corporations want you to think you need enormous venture capital to align yourselves with these big influencers. BUT it’s not true.

So Let me ask you a question……
If someone offered you the opportunity to exponentially grow your brand through endorsement would you take it?
If someone gave you every contact imaginable to scale your business would you take it?
If someone then gave you the influencer outreach tools to use this would you take it?
If someone offered the email templates to get a response from these contacts would you be interested. Our incredible new platform gives you all of this, but first I want to show you how to use it and why you need to use it.

Three years ago, the average person needed to see an advert six times before they responded to it, that number has now risen to an average of 16 exposures, because of this the world of marketing, advertising and media has undergone an enormous power shift in recent years, driven by consumers’ demand for more authenticity from brands. The rise of digital influencers and celebrity influencers has gone through the roof. One of the main drivers of influencer marketing is the fragmentation of consumer attention but also we are no longer just interested in watching television, our attention is spread across various digital channels, with a major focus on social networks. Other huge platforms such as YouTube and Instagram are currently seeing a lot of the influencer marketing spend but platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are also on the rise every day.

With the emergence of this new type of marketing, technology is being developed to improve the effect and reach of influencers. Existing influencer platforms are becoming more sophisticated in matching brands to influencers. People come to our site for influencers’ insights now almost as much as celebrities. As well as providing the influencers’ contact details, users are now equally interested in the demographic data which allows companies to determine the influencers that are right for their brand. You might think a set influencer is perfectly suited to your business, but actually what is key is how relevant their audience is to you, so, providing the user with clear data on the interests of the audience, their location, their spending habits and social status is of equal importance.

What is influencer marketing

Digital influence is the ability to create an effect, change opinions and behaviours, and drive hopefully measurable outcomes online. Digital influence is largely a phenomenon of social networking. The everyday internet user is subject to a barrage of noise and content. Many digital influencers are famous for just being themselves, documenting their lives as normal people. In a sense being famous for not being famous. Or at least this is what it looks like on the surface. Wrong! Nobody is an overnight success, they just weren’t famous before. It takes years to create a successful brand and following. Unlike traditional celebrities, they may not have a team of people behind the face that makes it all happen.

The advantages and disadvantages of influencer marketing

Targeted Posts at a specific audience– Influencer marketing allows users to target a particular audience. Fashion, travel, fitness, lifestyle, etc are e-commerce rich categories with plenty of Instagrammers and other influencers doing amazing work in these areas. Patent 2 Product VIP also allows you to break down their audiences by location and demographics, making sure that your targeted buyers get the message to the right audience . Make sure you target influencers that know how to talk to their audience in the correct way.

Creators of content – Influencers are creative people who know exactly what their followers want to hear and see. They can be an integral part of the campaign creation and execution processes.

Trust amongst followers- Influencers have great trust amongst their followers, and anything they promote is often more authentic , also if you promote your product to someone that is an expert in the field you are promoting then you may get a better response than just promoting with a celebrity

Reach and micro influencers- The one thing that marketing teams are after is reach. They pay influencers with enormous followings to promote their products. The truth is you will show up in your family and friends feeds way more than Kim Kardashian ever will. Because that’s the way the algorithms on Facebook and Instagram work. Because of this micro influencers get an average of two to five times more organic engagement per Instagram post, compared to those with more than 100,000 followers. According to Chris Gonzalez CEO of social ad platform Gnack ‘Their content will be organically performing better on the platform due to the inherent superior engagement.


New Industry – No one has much of an idea how any of this is supposed to work. The workflows are still experimental, and the processes are far from optimized. But marketers have seen tremendous results working with influencers, and that’s why we continue the struggle, fine-tuning our strategies as we go along.

Difficulty searching for The Perfect Influencer – Influencers can have anywhere between 5000 to a few million followers on social media. They might be right for Instagram and not be so active at Snapchat or vice versa. They can have a massive following of precisely the kind of people you want to appeal to and live right outside of your brand’s peripheral vision.

Hard to evaluate the effectiveness and influencers may have fake followers.

Taking a chance on the influencer. Often influencer marketing involves taking chances on people that aren’t quite as established as celebrities yet, but it is a world which is harder to ignore.

Find the right celebrity suited to your brand, here’s how to do it

The key thing is to identify the celebrities and influencers that are likely to be most suited to your brand. Patent 2 Product VIP allows you to identify the celebrities and influencers that fit with your brand through allowing you to search by profession but also to identify the celebrities audience, who are these people that are searching for a ‘set celebrity’ what are their interests, where do they live. If for example you are a travel business or travel brand, and you are interested in a set influencer you ensure that influencers audience is also interested in travel. Patent 2 Product VIP gives you this detailed break down by key demographics.

The more celebrities and influencers you write to, the better your chance of a productive outcome. If you have not heard back, you can always follow up – doing this via phone conversation or even a handwritten letter generally yields the best results. Remember that celebrities and their agents are being constantly bombarded with PRs.

1) Get to know the celebrity or influencer

This is one of the key things I would always suggest anyone does when gifting to a celebrity or influencer. Actually get to know what the celebrity likes and the sort of things they are likely to promote. As well as what they like, look at what their problems are and how your brand can solve them. When Estée Lauder first started out she gifted celebrities – the company is now worth $5 billion with Kendall Jenner the current face of it. Other smaller brands, such as Rodial, gifted to Kylie Jenner. She Instagrammed the product to her millions of followers, and sales went through the roof, from just the cost of one product. We’ve just launched a really unique tool where you can compare the social following of different celebrities, in the form of growth charts, so you can see which celebrities have risen the most that week in terms of following. You can also compare celebrities in terms of social rank and brand influence. Influencers now represents new opportunities for brands to reach consumers through channels that they trust. Consumers attitudes have changed. However the celebrity pull is also still strong and represents some of the most memorable campaigns and adverts. I believe both areas need to be explored , there is no set rule as to which is more effective, as they both do different things and will create different results amongst different businesses. The key is in identifying the correct ambassadors and endorsers for you your business. For those that are serious about exponential growth from celebrities or influencers, I encourage you to try our recently launched Handbook PRO which allows you to reach thousands of celebrities and influencers very quickly through targeted campaigns.
Top celebrities (and influencers) get approached by hundreds of people and companies weekly, wanting their support to endorse their product, support their charity or attend a high profile event. This means that being able to successfully communicate with the celebrity of your choice is crucial. If you’ve been concerned in the past that you can’t grow your brand through endorsement, or maybe you’ve not felt your product is good enough, then let me tell you, it is possible, you can do this and get incredible results. You just need the right person to show you how to do it. Big corporations want you to think you need a lot of venture capital or some enormous brand, but this is not true. Whether you have a big brand, or have recently set up your own small brand at home with just you, whatever situation you’re in we can help and we really want you to fulfil your dreams. So that is what I am here for today: I know you have a ideas for big reach for your brand or service, and I want to help you fulfil this through influencer alignment.

2) Outline the goals of your influencer campaign

You’re basically using someone else’s platform to increase your own platform. Before you create the content, before you find an influencer, and before you do anything, you need to clearly outline the goals of the influencer campaign , so you have clear goal , focus and vision of what you’re trying to achieve.
You need to carefully consider
  • The social media platform you choose
  • the influencer you partner with and the level of engagement you are likely to get from that influencer
  • The type of content they will create — all of these factors will come into play once you’ve clearly defined your goals.
The goal should focus on 4 parts the influencers demographic data, the average engagement you are needing to get from that influencer, what the influencer will help you achieve and how they will achieve it. All of this information is available here

3) Customise your product for a celebrity or influencer.

Juicy Couture is another great example of a brand that grew from noting they set up the company with $200 and grew it into a multi million pound business with the likes of Madonna and Paris Hilton frequently wearing their products. The owners Gela and Pamela turned it into a multi million pound business, and the growth was largely down to celebrity gifting and sending out personalised gifts. They sent out a personalised hoodie to Madonna and it went all around the world, so they then sent them to Cameron Diaz with ‘Cameron’ on, and one to Drew Barrymore with ‘Mrs Green’ on, as she was married to ‘Tom Green’ at the time. Any time someone got married the business women sent them personalised tracksuits.

3) Create a niche product

Some of you may feel you’re a real expert in skin products, or dating or weight loss. But the money is not in the submarket. To make your product stand out and get noticed you might want to consider choosing a niche. What can you offer people that is special and different? The goal is to carve out a unique spot. The mistake people often make is they start looking at niches in their field and a good one and go with that. The problem is they are jumping into an existing niche, and if they are the fifth or sixth person in that niche its the waters are already muddy. I suggest you choose your own new niche product. Carve out your new spot, and offer them something really different no one else is likely to have given them or spoken to them about.

4) Approach a celebrity or influencer in person.

This can be a tricky one and may sound scary- the last thing you want is to be taken away by security. Be respectful and know your boundaries! Just being photographed with a celebrity or influencer can do wonders for your reputation even if it’s not directly related to the product. Find out where celebrities and influencers will be appearing, for example club nights, book signings or charity events. It is possible to find out where celebrities and influencers may be from Patent 2 Product ‘What’s On’ page, here.

5) Product placement at gifting suites or product placement at high profile events.

These gifting suites are often organised by PR or gifting companies and you will have a ‘booth’ at the event or place your products in attendee gift bags. These often require hefty fees (thousands of pounds) to participate and anyone who walks into the gifting suite can pick up a free sample of your product. This means you can often get a photo of a celebrity or influencer holding or using your product, but the disadvantage is that you don’t have control over who that is. While celebrity gifting can be great for PR, not all products are suited for this. In order for your efforts to pay off, here are the types of products that are a good:
  • Apparel (clothing, jewellery, etc.) that the celebrity can be photographed wearing
  • Beauty Products
  • Handbags
  • Footwear
  • Perfumes
  • High end Liqueurs
  • National chains dealing in spas, massage, manicures and beauty treatments.
  • Children’s items, like toys and clothes
Additionally, get your product into goody bags, such as The Glamour Woman of the Year Awards. More often than not, if you provide products, you get invitations to attend the event. You can view all high profile events in our diary.
What’s the cost and lead time? To get your product at a gift suite or event there’s a range in cost, anywhere from £500-£3000 per each gift bag item or basket. If you want to appear inside the gift suites where you can have a booth display and a representative on hand to interact with the celebrities the cost can run anywhere from £5,000 and up. The cost of main sponsorship is considerably higher at around £50,000 and up.
When is the best time to get in touch with vendors?
If you’re interested in say the Academy Awards, then March is a good time to start getting in touch with vendors. The Golden Globes takes place in January, and most of these spots are sold out by the Summer time.
Why is it worth getting my product in gift bags?
Having your items selected can really boost business in the following ways:
  • The chance of a high profile celebrity or influencer being photographed using or wearing the product.
  • Have celebrities becoming future customers
  • Posting on social media relating to your product at the event
  • Mentions in media releases
  • Mentions in the press that your product was selected to be in the gift bag
  • Opportunity for celebrity spokesman or endorsement and to engage the celebrity with our products you may have e.g. you could include a note with your product such as ‘We would love to introduce you to the other lines in our collection, please do drop me an email and we would love to send you some more products.

What sort of events work?
There are loads of different events that would work, our events section has a ton of great awards, all which generally have gifting. Key events include BAFTAS, Emmy awards, Grammy awards, Actors Guild Awards, Toronto lm festival and the Oscars. Don’t do just one event and then give up if you don’t get the exposure you want. The better the product and the more suited it is to the event the greater the chance that you will get the response you are after. Patent 2 Product features all celebrity events for branding here
What sort of products work in goodie bags?
If you want to get free PR then your product should have a novelty factor that piques press interest. This year’s Vampire Breast Lift® cream in the bags of Oscar attendees is a case in point. Admittedly, it’s difficult to come up with a bizarre plastic surgery procedure at home. However you can always take a common household object and sell it at a 2,000% mark-up. This year’s goodie bag also included a roll of $275 luxury loo paper. This year’s Oscars gift bag also contained personalised M&M’s; perhaps appealing to narcissism – this could be a worthwhile strategy.

What sort of events work?
There are loads of different events that would work, our events section has a ton of great awards, all which generally have gifting. Key events include BAFTAS, Emmy awards, Grammy awards, Actors Guild Awards, Toronto lm festival and the Oscars. Don’t do just one event and then give up if you don’t get the exposure you want. The better the product and the more suited it is to the event the greater the chance that you will get the response you are after. Patent 2 Product features all celebrity events for branding here
What sort of products work in goodie bags?
If you want to get free PR then your product should have a novelty factor that piques press interest. This year’s Vampire Breast Lift® cream in the bags of Oscar attendees is a case in point. Admittedly, it’s difficult to come up with a bizarre plastic surgery procedure at home. However you can always take a common household object and sell it at a 2,000% mark-up. This year’s goodie bag also included a roll of $275 luxury loo paper. This year’s Oscars gift bag also contained personalised M&M’s; perhaps appealing to narcissism – this could be a worthwhile strategy.

6) Gift your products to celebrity and influencers or event their assistants.

Sometimes taking the indirect route can work – contact the celebrity’s assistant. It’s the assistant who is likely to write back via email etc – these people are the gate keepers and the celebrity communicates with them every day. Some celebrities even end up in personal relationships with their assistant, for example, Kristen Stewart and her assistant Alicia Cargile.

Grab their attention; this is usually the first thing the celebrity and agent will read. It’s important to get them interested and get them out of their current environment or activity. For example:

Relate it to them early on.

Who/position: Who are you? Introduce yourself very briefly. Show/tell why they should they listen to you.
What: What do you have? Introduce your product or offer briefly. It’s important not to just go on about the opportunity; show how you deliver value.
Why: Why do you need it? Explain the benefits of your offer and ideally relate it to them.

I read your interview in xxx magazine, where you said you have dry skin, or you don’t wear make-up, If you’re struggling with ‘dry skin’ then I would love you to try this because it will help …

I read your great interview in xxx on xxx and I’ve got a question for you

I’ve got this great face cream that’s going to really radiate your skin

I read your interview in [xxx] magazine, where you said you have dry skin, or you don’t wear make-up. If you’re struggling with ‘dry skin’ then I would love you to try this because I think it will help.

Call to action: Ask for something small – If you like it let me know and I would love to keep sending you more.

The process is about sending a great product that’s going to add great value to someone. So instead of screaming for attention, you attract attention by giving value before there is a hint of asking for anything in return. Life gives to the givers and takes from the takers. Giving something as a whole is a lot easier than trying to pay for promotion, throughout this entire sequence you’re layering in all the mental triggers. Since you’re sending a free gift, you will hit the reciprocity trigger and by showing your knowledge of the topic and your position, therefore you hit the authority trigger. The more you reach out to them, the trust will become stronger between you and that person resulting in more feedback and hopefully their thank you’s will help build a community and endorsement.

Patent 2 Product PRO platform allows you to send targeted campaigns to numerous celebrities and influencers in one go, and customises the campaign so the email seems personalised to the person you are contacting even if you are reaching out to lots of people in one instance.

7) Use celebrity and influencer testimonials

If you’re struggling to get your product off the ground and noticed, or perhaps people are visiting your website and interacting with your content, but they aren’t actually buying your products . Or maybe people are getting halfway through your checkout process and then leaving. If this is the case, then consider celebrity and influencer testimonials to seal the deal. If the potential customers favourite people are using the product, then the potential customer will be more likely to buy as well. Search for celebrities and influencers who would be interested in your brand and then send them free sample of your product (preferably customised) and ask them for a testimonial if they like it, and if they do you can feature this on your website.

8) Offer the celebrity or influencer a discount with your product

Influencers won’t want to market your products to their audience it they’re really expensive, and they will also want your audience to feel that they’ve got a great deal through following them, therefore offer a discount to their members , thus making the offer as appealing to the audience as possible. Not only will the influencer get a better response from the post but you’ll generate a lot more potential customers

9) Run a competition

We run competitions the whole time on Patent 2 Product and they are always seriously popular, you can use this exact same principle , get in touch with influencers and offer a giveaway of your product to their followers, and then get them to announce the winner to their followers, not only do competitions create great hype, but it’s an amazing way of getting influencers to align themselves with your brand, get your product seen by their followers, and reach loads of people for nominal output , hopefully you will also reach loads of new customers, who haven’t won the product, but you know they are interested in the product, and so you could follow up with an offer to them. We do this on Patent 2 Product and it works amazingly well.

It’s an automatic win for all:

  • The influencer gets to please his/her audience by giving away something for free
  • You get seen by the influencer’s audience
  • Your product or brand gets the awareness it deserves without having to pay big collaboration fees

Contact any celebrity or influencer now

How a 30,000-member Facebook group is helping Hong Kong navigate one of the world’s longest quarantines

Hong Kong — I woke to the sound of my fiancée muttering "f*@!" under her breath on Christmas Eve.

While we were sleeping, the Hong Kong government had announced that all residents of the city returning from abroad must now spend three weeks in hotel quarantine instead of two, at their own expense — effective Christmas Day.

We were supposed to return to Hong Kong from the United States in fewer than 48 hours. We had booked a hotel for two weeks to comply with the government’s regulation — which required travelers like us to purchase a hotel room even if they owned or rented a home in Hong Kong — but this new hiccup could prevent us from getting back.
What if our hotel couldn’t extend our reservation before our flight? Were exceptions being made for people who were about to hop on a plane? And, could we even afford to spend 21 days in a hotel room — financially, physically and mentally?
We needed answers. The Hong Kong government’s coronavirus website had basic information, but not advice and guidance from people who had already started dealing with this new reality.
So we turned to the HK Quarantine support group on Facebook, where people were already posting about their plans to deal with the new rules.

Borne of necessity

Since its inception in March 2020, the support group has become an invaluable resource for Hong Kongers who travel overseas during the pandemic and must navigate the city’s stringent Covid-19-related travel restrictions. What started as a simple idea to connect people in quarantine with volunteers who could get them groceries has grown into a massive, crowdsourced platform with resources on almost every aspect of the arduous journey, such as advice on where to get the right nucleic acid tests abroad and detailed reviews on quarantine hotels. Those summaries often have vital information for such a long stay — if windows open, where you can rent exercise equipment or whether a hotel refuses outside deliveries. The group also offers a sense of community for those struggling in isolation. People regularly post about their experiences and how they’re coping. Some vent for catharsis. Others share jokes and funny videos to pass the time. Some of them get creative, like Leo Cheung, who created his very own Angry Birds-like game with gloves and paper bags.

And Jessica Chong used the paper bags her meals were delivered in to make masks. 

Nearly all who post get positive support — and that’s in large part due to the group’s meticulous organization by a handful of dedicated volunteer moderators.
Behind the scenes, they curate and organize posts on the group, ensuring it is not marred by hostility, a reputation other Hong Kong Facebook groups have developed. The moderators organize a “buddy program” for pairing up lonely souls via email and schedule food deliveries for those who can’t get groceries. They’ve also supported people in unique but unimaginably difficult situations, such as those grieving friends and loved ones remotely.
The group, which is private, has exploded in popularity in recent months. It started with few hundred members, but is now closing in on 30,000.
“Never in a million years did we think it was going to be like that,” said Farah Siddiqi, one of the group’s co-founders.

A helping hand

Siddiqi created the group with another volunteer, Kunj Gandhi, almost a year ago. It was March 2020, as the pandemic was going global — forcing authorities in Hong Kong to quickly write up new rules for people returning to one of the world’s most important financial centers.
Siddiqi said the duo were both frustrated that fellow Hong Kongers were criticizing and ostracizing people returning from abroad because they might bring back the virus. She said that she and Gandhi, who did not know one another at the time, both wanted to make it easier for people to stay in quarantine and keep their neighbors safe rather than simply criticize those who did not stay overseas.
In March, returnees had to spend 14 days in home isolation — a tough task in Hong Kong, where space is a luxury most can’t afford. At the time, the city did not offer the same wide selection of same-day services as other major metropolises. One of the most popular grocery stores, ParknShop, could take days to deliver. At the beginning of the pandemic, its website was so overwhelmed that grocery shoppers would have to wait in a virtual line.
So Siddiqi set up a buddy system via email to connect those doing home quarantine who needed help with volunteers, and Gandhi established the Facebook group. Someone on Facebook connected the two after noticing how similar their two projects were. They joined forces and out put a call out for volunteers to help deliver groceries and moderate the Facebook group, and they had about 800 in the first week, Siddiqi said.
Tess Lyons was one of those first to sign up. Lyons has lived in Hong Kong since 1997, but she comes from a small town in Canada where she remembers people were always offering to lend a hand. That ethos motivated her to volunteer as one of the group’s moderators and to shop for people in quarantine.
Lyons said she would take requests from people online, and when she went to the grocery store pick up her own shopping, she’s add some extra items for people in quarantine and deliver them.
Siddiqi envisioned the group would fizzle out last summer when the warm weather came, which some predicted would end the pandemic. Lyons thought that people would join the group before quarantine and then leave once they were done. Instead, people stayed — often to pay it forward.
“What I find extraordinary is that even after people have left quarantine, or have finished traveling, they still aren’t exiting the group, whether it’s because they have the fear that they’re going to have to travel again, or because they recognized how valuable it was for themselves when they were traveling,” Lyons said. “They want to impart wisdom and tips to make it easier for incoming travelers.”
“The worst of times bring out the best in people,” she added.

The thread of the year

Hong Kong’s rules became tighter as the pandemic got worse.
At the end of March, non-residents were banned from entering. Testing requirements for returnees were tightened in April, and as cases ticked up over the summer, the city mandated that people coming from certain “high-risk” countries needed to do a two-week quarantine either in a hotel or at a government facility.
As the rules got tougher, more people sought help from the group.
One of them was Jameson Gong.
His mother, 83-year-old Anna, splits her time between Hong Kong and the United States. She was due to return to Hong Kong last summer to see her son and his family, but when the government announced in late July that anyone arriving from the United States would have to do a two-week quarantine at a hotel, the Gong family convinced her to push her trip up so she could quarantine at home.
Gong doesn’t own a cell phone so her son asked the Facebook group if there would be anyone on her flight who could look out for her. They hadn’t told her that she was required to get a Covid-19 test and wait for the results after landing because they thought it would panic her. She was already anxious because of the last-minute change.
“I just threw it out there,” he said, “with no expectations.” 
What followed was, as Gong puts it, “the thread of the year.”
The woman sitting in front of Anna Gong saw Jameson’s post when they landed and said she’d “make sure she gets off (the plane) OK.” She updated him with a picture minutes later.
Another poster said they helped her with her bags and let her cut the line for the saliva test she had to do on arrival. Someone else from the group spotted Anna giving her saliva sample and sent a picture to inform Jameson and the rest of the thread that she’d made it safely to the testing site.
This went on for almost 12 hours. By the time mother and son were reunited, there were 649 comments updating the group on Anna’s naps, walks and conversations with new friends.
Gong thanked several of those who helped out by hosting a reunion and giving them free tickets to the comedy club he runs in Hong Kong.

'This isn't optimal'

Fast forward six months, and returning to Hong Kong is a much more difficult ordeal than the one Anna Gong faced. Residents must now book a room and board for 21 days at a pre-approved list of 36 hotels chosen by the government, one of the strictest quarantine measures in the world.
Authorities in Hong Kong said the new measures were meant to catch very rare cases in which “the incubation period of virus carried by very few infected persons may be longer than the quarantine period of 14 days.”
To prevent the spread of the new, more infectious variants of Covid-19 first identified in South Africa or the United Kingdom, Hong Kong residents who have spent more than two hours in the past three weeks in those places are barred from coming home.
To get around the ban, some Hong Kong residents who were in those countries are trying a strategy nicknamed “covid laundering” — traveling to a third country for 21 days so they can get home, meaning they’ll have to spend a total of 42 days abroad and in quarantine, with no financial assistance from the government.
“We can all agree this isn’t optimal. Our priority should be getting our people home,” Bernard Chan, a member of the Hong Kong Executive Council, wrote in the Hong Kong-based the South China Morning Post. “It should be possible to make small improvements in services and conditions that will make a huge difference in the quarantine experience.”
There are examples for Hong Kong to learn from.
New Zealand mandates that returnees must have access to supervised outdoor exercise, at least once a day, provided that they adhere to hygiene and social distancing rules. Beijing mandated a 21-day quarantine in January, but allowed people to spend the last week at home.
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, the CEO of Ovolo Hotels, agrees more needs to be done to make quarantine more comfortable and bring people home. So he recently announced on LinkedIn that the Ovolo Southside — one of the company’s hotels — will offer 12 rooms for $1 Hong Kong (13 cents) a day to people in need who cannot afford to return home. They are partnering with two NGOs to find people who need assistance.
“The airfares are expensive enough already and then having to spend 21 days in a hotel room was quite prohibitive for many of the returnees,” Jhunjhnuwala said.
Jhunjhnuwala called the decision to offer the discounted rooms a “humane gesture,” one he hoped someone would do for him if the shoe was on the other foot.
“I was born and brought up here. I love Hong Kong. This is the least I can do,” said Jhunjhnuwala.
Jhunjhnuwala said that after the Ovolo Southside, which is a four-star hotel, was added to the government-approved list, it hit 50% occupancy in a week — about double what it was before. He anticipates it reaching 70 to 80% by the end of February, and felt now was the time to give back.
He said he hopes his peers in the hotel industry will follow suit, but not many have.
Like nearly every tourism-related business in Hong Kong, the Ovolo spent the last 18 months facing diminishing profits and reduced bookings thanks to the six months of sometimes violent political unrest that rocked the city in the second half of 2019, and then the pandemic.
Some of the quarantine hotels were accused of price gouging, profiting at the expense of guests forced to spend 3 weeks there to make up for months of lost revenue.
A few hotels have allegedly increased rates as demand quickly rose. Several appear to be trying to save money on food, with people on the Facebook group complaining they are serving cheap meals that are not nutritious to cut down on costs.
“I hate to say this — I’ve seen some hotels and the kind of food offering they have, and it’s terrible,” Jhunjhnuwala said. “This is a small cost, and if you’re staying for 21 days, this affects your mental well-being.”
The current situation is unlikely to change soon.
While other major cities have already started rolling out Covid-19 vaccines, Hong Kong just approved its first vaccine for emergency use at the end of January. The first city-wide mass vaccination program isn’t expected to begin until the end of the month, after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Hong Kong’s conservative, risk-averse approach to the pandemic means that quarantine restrictions are unlikely to change until a significant number of people are vaccinated — meaning the HK Quarantine support group will remain an important resource for the foreseeable future.