A helping hand from the hospitality sector during the coronavirus
by Isabel Conway
The Marriott global hospitality giant has stepped up to the plate by supporting communities, with its CEO and Chairman taking no salaries for the remainder of the year, offering free rooms to first responders and donating food and hand sanitizers to hospitals. One of their hotels is even manufacturing face masks.
The COVID-19 devastating impact on all sectors of the global travel industry cannot be over-estimated. The hope now is that customers rebook rather than cancel trips, in a bid to recover some of the lost business, when travel restrictions are lifted.
Travel Times believes that the future and survival of travel is in the hands of the travelling public once the skies re-open and they are convinced that destinations are safe to visit again.
It seems a lifetime ago – but it was only last month – when the world’s largest hotel company Marriott International, who also operate Dublin’s 5-star landmark property the Shelbourne Hotel, St Stephens Green was forced to ramp up its hotels closures across the globe.
Tens of thousands of staff – from managers to housekeepers – were put on mandatory unpaid leave of absence worldwide.
As business rapidly collapsed Its CEO and President Arne Sorenson told employees in a candid tearful video message that the coronavirus was more devastating than any other event in the history of the 92- year old hotel giant.
He and the company’s executive chairman Bill Marriott pledged not to take any salary for the rest of 2020, whilst the executive team would take a 50 per cent pay cut.
With most of its hotels lying empty during lockdown Marriott is now providing $10 million worth of free accommodation to bolster US healthcare workers and community caregivers on the frontlines who are working around the clock to contain the corona pandemic.
The welcome US initiative, called Rooms for Responders, provides free rooms in some of the areas most impacted including New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and Newark, N.J.
As hotels closed temporarily, multiple ways to support the communities in which they are located were found. Elsewhere across the hospitality sector, there have also been many innovative initiatives and acts of solidarity and kindness. There will still be a further need for more creative thinking to help the world recover after the crisis ends.
Marriott properties near to hospitals are providing respite to weary hospital workers, military personnel and supermarket employees who need to stay close to work. Ever before the crisis took hold in Europe in Suzhou, China employees volunteered to help manufacture and package face masks. From New Delhi, India to Santos Brazil since closing their doors hotels found multiple ways to support local communities, according to Arne Sorenson.
The stylish top end Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco and AC Hotel Nice donated all of their unused produce and food products to a local children’s charity, which provides housing and other services for endangered children.
Many other properties contributed by providing food, pre-packed and cooked meals to crisis relief efforts and much-needed supplies like cleaning products, masks, gloves, anti-microbial wipes, sanitizers and shower caps for medical and other frontline workers, Arne Sorenson said in his latest update. “And in a beautiful sign of solidarity among us all, many of our teams have illuminated their hotel windows with symbols of love and messages of hope”, he added.
Like others in these challenging times anxious to be flexible Marriott is also waiving cancellation policies to encourage customers back when the pandemic ends. Guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including restrictive pre-paid rates are being allowed full changes or cancellation up to June 30,2020.
A new reality is bound to be the norm and the travel and hospitality industries will need to be creative and also generous and consumer driven in its response.