In times of need, you can always count on hotels to do what they do best: hospitality. All around the world, hotels that are able to do so have found helpful ways to support their local communities during the coronavirus pandemic, from sheltering healthcare workers to providing additional patient beds for overwhelmed hospitals. We’ve compiled a list of initiatives and inspirational stories from around the world.
In this story:
- Hotels become hospitals & quarantine centers
- Hotel rooms for healthcare workers
- Hotels offer packages for self-quarantine
- Guidelines for preparing your hotel for quarantine, social distancing and healthcare housing
Hotels become hospitals & quarantine centers
In countries like the USA, United Kingdom, and Spain, all of which are bracing for surges in COVID-19 patients, local governments have been working with hotels to potentially transform the buildings into makeshift care facilities or quarantine centers.
This may become more common as outbreaks grow more severe in certain regions in the world. Chinese experts have already warned Italian officials against home quarantine for patients with milder coronavirus symptoms, as it facilitates the virus’ spread to family members and the community. As a result, Milan has already begun to equip local hotels to serve as isolation centers for these types of patients.
The UK has already begun talks with many of the country’s largest hotel chains, including Best Western, Premier Inn, Hilton, Holiday Inn, and Travelodge, to turn their locations into hospital support sites. Germany has also requested that its states develop plans to potentially turn places like halls and hotels (link in German) into similar care facilities. In other areas, initiatives are being driven at a local level between city governments and local hotel associations, as is the case in Málaga, Spain (link in Spanish).
In the United States, the American Hotel & Lodging Association has set up Hospitality for Hope, an initiative to boost collaboration between hotels and local, state, and federal governments. Hotels that want to participate can submit their property online to a national database that will be shared with the Department of Health & Human Services.
Chicago is among many cities in the U.S. that are quickly mobilizing to rent hotel rooms. The city of Chicago, which secured its first hotel agreement last week, has plans to rent several thousand more rooms. In California, many cities and counties are seeking hotels to shelter individuals that may be at risk or need to remain in medical quarantine. Los Angeles County even recently put out a Request for Quotes to purchase room blocks at a minimum of 100 rooms at a time.
Tip for hotels: Contact your local hotel association or city government to find out whether your property might be suitable to convert into a makeshift healthcare facility. In many cases, hotels may be able to temporarily lease their building to the government for such purposes. For U.S. hotels, AHLA has also provided a sample emergency temporary occupancy agreement for properties that may need to quickly develop contracts. Keep in mind that any hotel conversion will mean that a government agency (such as the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers) will need to retrofit your property to ensure it is suitable for providing patient care.
Hotel rooms for healthcare workers
Many hotels around the world have kept their doors open to the healthcare workers on the front lines, offering free or low-cost stays to doctors, nurses and first responders who may be working long shifts and also do not want to put their families at home at risk.
In addition to identifying properties for makeshift medical facilities, AHLA’s Hospitality for Hope’s database also includes more than 6,500 properties nationwide located near hospitals that can be used for members of the medical community. AHLA is connecting these properties with local public health agencies, emergency management authorities, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Cloudbeds has put together a #hospitalityhelps initiative to connect healthcare and government agencies with lodging providers ready to supply beds for healthcare workers, people directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19, and family members wanting to be in proximity to loved ones receiving care. Hotels can fill out the form “I Have Beds” to join the database of more than 1 million beds.
Some hotel brands have decided to take action on their own. The Four Seasons in New York, where rooms typically go for $1000 per night, has notably offered free rooms to medical personnel, and other hotels in the city are rumored to potentially follow in its footsteps. OYO Hotels & Homes has offered up free accommodations for medical workers at any OYO hotel in the U.S. In France, Accor Hotels has created a Coronavirus Emergency Desk Accor (CEDA) helpdesk to better coordinate requests for rooms to all front-line medical staff, all French people engaged in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, and to the country’s most vulnerable populations.
Airbnb has also started its own Open Homes COVID-19 relief initiative, using its platform to connect 100,000 healthcare providers, relief workers, and first responders with convenient accommodations while safely distanced from their own families. They are currently recruiting hosts and asking for donations.
Tips for hotels: For first responders and medical professionals, consider offering weekly rates or customized recurring stays at discounted rates. Hotels should also consider adjusting check-in and check-out times for staff that work night shifts. Make any terms and conditions (such as showing medical ID, etc.) clear on those rate plans. Also consider publishing and posting a list of precautions that your property will be taking to ensure that both guests and employees will remain safe during this period. A list of recommended cleaning and public health precautions is included at the end of this article.
Hotels offer stays for self-quarantine
As countries and regions around the world have enacted mandatory self-quarantine measures for all travelers arriving into the area, hotels may find an opportunity to offer “quarantine packages” to those needing to quarantine but who do not want to stay at home (or do not have a local home there).
This strategy has become especially popular in Asia and Australia, where lockdown restrictions are easing but overall demand is still down. One Hong Kong hotel, which saw 15% occupancy in early January at the start of the outbreak, is now 60% full, with 90% of those guests staying for quarantine reasons. Singapore’s government, which has strict quarantine measures for incoming travelers that have been in areas of large outbreak, has offered to place residents in hotels for two weeks as part of mandatory isolation, working with a network of 4-star and 5-star hotels to do so.
Most hotels offer special pricing for these long-term minimum stays. For example, The Park Lane Hong Kong’s 14-day package runs about $115 per night, where typical rates are about $165 per night. At the Fairmont Singapore, where rates typically run 320 SGD ($220) per night, rooms for two weeks are available for as little as $110 per day.
Other hotels have retooled their offerings to cater to the high-end market. One Swiss hotel has put together a luxury quarantine stay for $800-2000 per night that includes add-ons such as in-room coronavirus testing and medical care.
Tips for hotels: Travel restrictions around the world will continue to evolve over the next several months, not just by country but also regionally. For example, in the U.S., an increasing number of states are requiring some or all out of state travelers to quarantine. Consider the potential demand for quarantine packages, as well as the logistics of hosting such guests — you may want to reserve specific floors just for these guests, and find ways to ensure that they do potentially infect staff or other guests.
Any quarantine package would need to consider a discounted rate for stays 14 days or longer, along with included add-ons such as contactless meal delivery and weekly laundry, as well as an enhanced cleaning fee at the conclusion of each stay.
Guidelines for preparing your hotel for quarantine, social distancing and healthcare housing
The following is a list of practices that hotels across the United States, Europe and Asia have implemented in response to COVID19.
- Switch to and use disinfectant products that have been pre-approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against emerging viral pathogens.
- Disinfectants should be applied during routine cleaning of guestrooms, public spaces, health club areas and meeting rooms.
- Linens may become contaminated with the virus, so it is also important to add disinfectant when washing laundry. Bed scarfs and bedspreads should be washed more frequently.
- Public spaces, and the front desk, need to be cleaned frequently. If possible, provide disposable disinfectant wipes to front-of-house staff to disinfect surfaces between guests. High touch areas in public spaces include tables in the lobby area, buttons on elevators, water fountains, and ice and vending machines. Pens at the front desk and room keys and key cards should also be cleaned with disinfectant.
(Source: Illinois Department of Public Health: COVID-19 Hotels Guidance)
Guidelines from the CDC on Laundry and Cleaning Electronics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has issues these guidelines for laundry and electronics:
- In order to minimize the possibility of dispersing virus through the air, do not shake dirty laundry.
- Wash items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
- Clean and disinfect hampers or other carts for transporting laundry according to guidance above for hard or soft surfaces.
- For electronics such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines, remove visible contamination if present.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
- Consider use of wipeable covers for electronics.
- If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids.
Other practices from hotels around the world:
- Guests and staff won’t have to interact. Self-isolating guests will be provided fresh linens and amenities on request, delivered to their door, and left outside for collection. Used linens can be placed in a plastic bag and left outside the room door for retrieval by staff.
- All common areas and public touch points, as well as back-of-house, are frequently and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to the most stringent standards, paying special attention to high touch-point areas, such as door handles, switches, counters etc. All hotels have increased the cleaning and disinfection frequency of public areas and facilities to once every hour.
- All public areas in hotels provide 70-80% alcohol-based hand rub/gel for guest and staff use, and providing refill service for guests to use when going out.
- A dedicated queue for all arriving guests to take a body temperature scan and fill out a health condition and travel history survey.
- All staff on duty are required to wear surgical masks and will need to receive a body temperature scan. Hotel staff are trained to minimize physical contact (ie handshakes, hugs, etc.).
- Prohibit use of hotel facilities such as the gymnasium, swimming pool, and spa. Restaurants should switch to in-room delivery only.
Alternative accommodation can help save jobs and save lives
At this time, social distancing and quarantine are the most effective tools in controlling and reducing the spread of coronavirus and the incidence of COVID-19. By making your hotel available for hospital beds, healthcare professionals, and mandatory quarantine or self-isolation, you can benefit the general public while saving jobs and reducing furloughs at your properties. Consider contacting your mayor, city council or other local authorities to find out how you can help your communities at this time of need.
Stay on top of hotel distribution and marketing trends.
Sign up for Travel Tripper's newsletter to get the latest news, tips, and resources delivered to your inbox.subscribe