How The Travel Industry Is Helping with Coronavirus
Further proof that the hospitality industry knows how to take care of people. Sweeping travel restrictions and advisories. Grounded planes and canceled cruises. Pitch-dark casinos. And a completely locked-down Italy, a much-loved destination for travelers all over the globe.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus outbreak has changed, and will continue to change, how we travel. But even in light of the bleakest news—like the potential loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs, according to a recent estimate by the U.S. Travel Association—the industry has banded together to aid in the fight.
While tourism has come to a halt, hotels and other travel companies are supporting front-line response efforts as well as their own employees. They’ve jumped in to donate food and supplies, aid medical personnel, lend empty real estate and other physical assets, and establish employee funds. Here are several ways the travel and hospitality industry is giving back amid the crisis.
Walkers Exchange, helping travel industry
The makeshift pantry at The Galt House in Louisville
Food and supply donations
The Line D.C. has converted its lobby into a pickup location for Friends & Family Meal, an organization that collects food from restaurants and overstock from suppliers. Hospitality workers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus can pick up free bags of groceries throughout the day.
Ocean House Management—which operates Ocean House, Weekapaug Inn, and Watch Hill Inn in Rhode Island and Inn at Hastings Park in Massachusetts—has opened a thrice-weekly food truck in Westerly, Rhode Island, to serve free lunch to area school children 16 and under.
SingleThread, the three-Michelin-starred Relais & Chateaux restaurant-inn in Healdsburg, California, is working with Sonoma Family Meal to produce 200 meals a day for local families. Across the pond, Kimpton Fitzroy London is serving free breakfast and lunch to healthcare and emergency workers, service industry employees, and local residents.
The Galt House, in Louisville, Kentucky, has stocked a makeshift pantry with produce, soup, milk, and household essentials like toilet paper, diapers, and sanitary products; hourly workers who may be experiencing a shift reduction can access it on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Following the shelter-in-place order issued in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rosewood CordeValle, in San Martin, California, established an ongoing care-package program; out-of-work staffers can pick up bundles of eggs, milk, toilet paper, and other essentials at the resort’s front gate. Rosewood also donated its unused food to area restaurants for use in takeout orders.
Efforts from the Hyatt universe: Hyatt On The Bund, in Shanghai, donated 1,000 shower caps (for use as self-protection) to local volunteers. And after temporarily closing, Grand Hyatt Vail bundled more than 200 packages of food and supplies for employees impacted as a result; Park Hyatt Beaver Creek gave all unused food, including bread, produce, milk, and other products, to staffers and their families; and the Hyatt Regency Orlando set up an assembly line-style food-distribution system to serve more than 600 staffers.
In Las Vegas, which pulled in more than $50 billion from tourism last year, major resort brands (including Caesars, MGM, Wynn, and others) have donated more than 400,000 pounds of food to local charities. MGM Springfield has donated 12,000 pounds of food to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Open Pantry Community Services, and Friends of the Homeless.
After closing its hotels in Mexico and Jamaica, Palace Hotels, which counts the all-inclusive Isla Mujeres among its portfolio, tapped its philanthropic arm to donate unused food to locals whose livelihoods rely on tourism.
Certain hotels are now doubling as TaskRabbit centers. Staff at The Hari, in London, will make grocery, pharmacy, and post office runs for those who need help; just send a direct Instagram message or email email@example.com. Harold’s restaurant at Arlo SoHo in lower Manhattan will deliver meals to elderly or disabled folks who may not have access to fresh groceries; the public is encouraged to alert the restaurant via Instagram if they sense that a neighbor needs an extra hand.
Forced to trim or rotate staff to meet reduced bookings, Hiltons around the country have launched individual relief efforts. Hilton Columbus Downtown, with the support of its ownership group, Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, provides curbside meals, plus access to an onsite pantry, to hotel and Greater Columbus Convention Center employees. Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa Downtown Convention Center and Hilton Tampa Downtown donated 300 pounds of food to Metropolitan Ministries, a homelessness nonprofit. Conrad New York Downtown donated about 900 pounds of food to Rethink Food NYC, and Hampton Inn by Hilton Fort Stockton, in Texas, provides free bagged breakfasts to local children.
Windstar Cruises, which runs small luxury ships, donated seven pallets (worth about $8,000) of fresh produce and dairy to Feeding South Florida, a Miami-area hunger-relief non-profit in the Feeding America network. The company also donated a pallet of milk and butter (from a cancelled Australia cruise) to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Working alongside Feeding America, Adventurist Backpack Co. will provide 50 meals for every bag sold to families in need across the United States. The Denver-based company, which designs stylish travel backpacks, ordinarily provides 25 meals per bag.
Housing and hospital facility support
Four Seasons Hotel New York, which is temporarily closed, will house doctors, nurses, and other medical workers for free. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo applauded the move on Twitter: “The first of many hotels we hope will make their rooms available,” he wrote.
Several folks who bridge the soccer-hotel worlds are reaching out to help COVID-19 workers in England. Manchester United legends–turned–hoteliers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have closed their two properties—Stock Exchange Hotel, their brand-new Relais & Chateaux hotel, and Hotel Football—in order to free up some 150 beds for doctors and nurses. Similarly, Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea F.C., is housing medical personnel at The Millennium Hotel at Chelsea Football Club. In Brighton, the Grand Hotel announced it will close its doors to customers in order to provide free rooms to National Health Service staff.
With a countrywide order to close all hotels in Spain, the Gran Hotel Colon and the Marriott Auditorium, both in Madrid, are now housing mild-case coronavirus patients. The Room Mate Mario and the Room Mate Laura, also in the Spanish capital, are both housing healthcare workers.
InterContinental Hotels Group, which launched a range of relief initiatives, also partnered with the London Mayor Sadiq Khan to convert two London hotels into housing for the homeless.
With sailings suspended until mid-April, Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises, has offered to work with governments and health authorities to convert its fleet into temporary hospitals for non-COVID patients. Ships would remain docked near land, with crew members overseeing food, cleaning, and other upkeep.
Through its Open Homes platform, an emergency-housing initiative created in 2012, Airbnb will provide free or subsidized housing for healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders around the world. A pilot program that launched in France will roll out where needed, with the goal of helping 100,000 COVID responders globally. Airbnb has also partnered with OspitaMI, an Italy-based home-rentals site, to secure free housing for doctors and nurses.
Domio, an apart-hotels company, will provide up to five nights of free housing to medical professionals and first responders in Nashville, Miami, and Chicago.
JetBlue, which has suspended 40 percent of its flights, will use its empty planes to shuttle incoming medical volunteers to New York State for free. (The announcement garnered another Twitter shout-out from Governor Cuomo.)
Financial and employment aid
Columbia Hospitality, which manages The Heathman in Kirkland, Washington, and some 25 other hotels in the West, launched a fund to help current, laid-off, and furloughed employees pay for housing, medical expenses, and groceries. Seeding came from company executives.
Hyatt is establishing an employee fund seeded by the C-suite. President Mark Hoplamazian and chairman Tom Pritzker are forgoing 100 percent of their salaries, and the company’s senior leadership team is taking a 50 percent salary cut through the end of May. MGM Resorts established a $1 million emergency relief fund for full-time, on-call, laid-off, or furloughed employees.
The Visit Loudoun Foundation, the visitors bureau for Loudoun, Virginia—a popular day trip from Washington, D.C.—started a relief fund for tourism businesses and employees impacted by the coronavirus.
In an effort to help employees displaced by its closed hotels, Hilton has partnered with CVS, Amazon, and other companies that are actively hiring right now to expedite access to some 350,000 short-term jobs.