Industry Update
Opinion Article31 March 2020

Hospitality’s role in community resilience during the coronavirus crisis

By Madhu Rajesh, Chief Executive Officer, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

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With governments, communities and businesses taking action to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and support the welfare of their people, staff and customers, the hospitality industry is playing their part.

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The travel and tourism industry faces an unprecedented existential crisis. Despite this, hotels and restaurants across the world continue to look for ways that their facilities and staff can support their local communities.

The hospitality industry has been innovative in their response:

  • ITP members Hilton, IHG, Marriott and NH Hotel Group are among the many hotel companies and hotel associations working with local governments across the world to transform vacant hotel rooms into treatment facilities to support increasing demand on local healthcare systems. Other hotel companies include Best Western Great Britain, Melia, Travelodge and Whitbread.
  • Hilton is engaging with their wider business networks to support the staff of their closed properties into temporary jobs in much needed services, including Amazon, Walgreens, Lidl and CVS Pharmacy.
  • Extra capacity for homeless shelters is beginning to be created by hotels. For example, IHG in London is providing temporary accommodation for the next three months for rough sleepers and a Hilton hotel in New Orleans is providing food and accommodation for the next month. This measure is being explored by other governments with many hotel companies across different locations, including California, Paris and Dublin.
  • Healthcare professionals working on the frontline are being offered free food and accommodation from large hotel brands including Four Seasons, OYO Hotels and Homes and Taj (IHCL), to independent hotels such as Chicago's Sophy Hyde Park Hotel and the Linton Lodge Hotel in Oxford, UK.
  • Hotel companies, including ITP members Caesars Entertainment and NH Hotel Group, are donating palettes of food to local foodbanks and charitable organisations.
  • Hotels are working with local government to fill vacant hotel rooms with people that need to self-quarantine at a subsidised rate.
  • Daytime rooms at a Wyndham hotel are being offered for business workers who can't go to their workplace and need professional space away from their homes
  • Standing in solidarity with communities affected by the pandemic, hotels across the world, including Caesars Entertainment, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott International, Omni Hotels and Radisson are lighting up their hotels and windows in the shape of a heart.
  • With many hotels accommodating people in isolation, they are doing small things to keep spirits high. For example, a Marriott hotel in Jordan is giving personalised gift bags to children and turning on the lights and fountains to entertain people in isolation, whilst staff at a Hilton hotel in Jordan celebrated a young boy's birthday through the guestroom window.

The hospitality industry will also have a very important role to play in repairing lives within their local communities. As the industry starts to recover, hospitality will be able to offer much-needed employment, while also ensuring it is mitigating against the risk of unethical recruitment practices in labour supply chains that may arise as a result of people's increased vulnerability. Already we are seeing hotels making plans for welcoming back their employees as soon as the crisis is over.

Madhu Rajesh

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