Our favourite ways travel companies are giving back during coronavirus

Apr 10, 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic that’s currently raging in practically every corner of the globe has slowed travel — both domestic and international — nearly to a halt.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

Predictably, the drying up of demand has resulted in many aeroplanes flying with fewer than 10 passengers on board; hundreds of thousands of empty hotel rooms; and travellers everywhere scrambling to postpone or cancel trips altogether.

Instead of simply waiting for the pandemic to subside and hoping for the best, many travel brands are jumping in headfirst to do what they can to contribute to the worldwide effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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Here are some of our favourite examples of how travel companies are helping health care workers, doctors and others who are fighting on the front lines every day to get the pandemic under control.

In This Post

Providing support

Many Marriott properties across the world — like the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina shown below — are demonstrating solidarity and civic pride by displaying messages of love and encouragement to both workers on the front lines fighting the coronavirus as well as those who are quarantined in their homes. You can see messages from hotels all over by searching the hashtag #MarriottStrong on social media.

(Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Many IHG properties worldwide have also joined the efforts to boost morale and encourage all affected by the pandemic, including this property in the United Arab Emirates below. Social media users are sharing photos of these properties with the hashtag #lightsoflove:

(Photo courtesy of IHG)
(Photo courtesy of IHG)

Southwest Airlines shared a heartwarming post with a tribute to healthcare workers who were traveling from Atlanta to New York City to help the country’s hardest-hit city. The passengers were photographed smiling and holding up hearts — a signature symbol of Southwest — formed with their hands. Despite having practically no demand for flights, the country’s airlines are stepping up to transport frontline medical workers and other healthcare professionals to the areas around the nation that need help the most.

Providing accommodations

As people have essentially stopped travelling, many hotels and vacation rental properties across the nation are sitting vacant. But many companies in the lodging industry have taken action to help front line responders.

Related: Complete guide to travelling during the coronavirus outbreak

Many of the specific initiatives that are being taken right now come from individual companies and even independent hotels.

One of the Big Apple’s finest hotels, for example, the Four Seasons New York, has closed to guests and is currently not taking reservations until 15 April 2020. In the meantime, the hotel is providing free accommodation — in rooms that regularly command upwards of £800 per night — for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who are working in nearby New York hospitals. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted the hotel in a tweet last week and thanked the property for stepping up to help those working to combat this crisis.

(Image courtesy of the Four Seasons New York)

The mayor of London has worked with two IHG hotels in the city to secure rooms at two hotels in the city for homeless people, who are some of the most at-risk people for contracting COVID-19. The more than 300 rooms will be used to ensure that those sleeping on the streets can self-isolate in order to help stop the spread of the disease.

(Photo by: onurdongel/Getty Images)

Holiday rental platform Airbnb announced last week a plan to house up to 100,000 health care personnel, emergency responders and relief workers in either free or subsidized housing throughout its network.

Airbnb hosts can volunteer their properties to be used in this programme, and then those properties will have to “follow new cleanliness protocols based on recommendations from medical experts”, according to a statement from Airbnb.

Hilton is committed to helping the communities in which it has hotels in a variety of ways. On 6 April, Hilton and American Express announced that a new partnership would see the two donating one million free nights in select Hilton hotels for medical professionals around the U.S.

Assisting medical professionals

Crews prepare a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 (Registration G-VBOW) with Rolls Royce engines at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. © 2019 Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy
(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy)

The National Health Service (NHS) has called on furloughed cabin crew employees of both Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet to put their advanced CPR and medical training they received to work for the airlines to good use.

These volunteers can assist doctors, nurses and other medical professionals at the new hospitals the NHS has set up specifically for treating coronavirus patients. All volunteers and paid staff who are assisting in the government’s effort will receive free meals and free accommodations at nearby hotels.

Collecting points and miles for donation

Hilton has set up several ways for Honors members to donate points: to the World Central Kitchen, Clean the World, Project Hope or Direct Relief. If you choose to make a donation, your points will be converted to cash and then that money will be donated to whichever organization you choose.

(Photo courtesy of the Hotel Revival)
(Photo courtesy of the Hotel Revival)

Chicago-based Hyatt has acted on the corporate level as well as through individual properties around the world to assist its guests, its employees and its communities. It has set up the Hyatt Care Fund, which will distribute proceeds to Hyatt employees “with the most pressing financial needs due to loss of income”, according to a Hyatt spokesperson. It will be fully funded from the temporary reductions in executive team salaries.

The world’s largest hotel chain, Marriott, has also set up a donation platform — fully focused on coronavirus relief efforts — for members to donate their Bonvoy points to a number of organizations including World Central Kitchen, Unicef, the American Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Marriott International Disaster Relief Fund. The points that you donate will be converted to cash and then sent to the organization that you choose.

Keeping communities fed

Hyatt’s Hotel Revival, a Joie de Vivre Hotel in Baltimore is making its kitchen available to chefs and restaurants in the Baltimore area who no longer have spaces to cook due to the closure of businesses. They will be able to use the hotel’s kitchen to operate take-out food businesses while the shutdown continues.

In London, the Kimpton Fitzroy London hotel is giving complimentary breakfast or lunch at its restaurant Burr & Co. London to NHS workers, emergency services teams, service industry employees and local residents.

After closing all 37 Vail Resorts, the group has donated in excess of 50,000 pounds of food to 30 local food banks, schools, and community organizations in the communities in which Vail Resorts has properties.

Offering free transportation

Ride-hail giant Uber is offering 200,000 free rides to and from work for NHS and HSC workers. In addition, it’s offering 100,000 free meals through Uber Eats for NHS and HSC workers.

In the U.S., Delta and JetBlue are offering free flights for healthcare workers flying to help affected communities.

Also in the U.S., car rental giant Hertz is also doing its part to assist the relief effort by making free, month-long rentals available to health care workers through 30 April. You’ll need to prove you are indeed a health care worker with a valid medical ID, an email address with a health care domain and a driver’s license, and then you’ll be able to book a car rental for as little as a week and up to a month, free of charge.

Bottom line

We’re living through unprecedented times, with immense disruptions to our daily lives, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who have fallen ill around the world due to the novel coronavirus.

As the travel industry reels from this crisis, it’s encouraging to see so many major travel brands stepping up to contribute what they can to the fight against the spread of this disease. We’re sure to see ever more examples of good things happening like this as the weeks go on, and it’s further evidence that if we all work together and do what we can — however small that gesture may seem — we can defeat this pandemic and get back to doing the thing we love most: travelling.

Featured image courtesy of the Four Seasons New York.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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