Hospitality heroes during the crisis

Businesses within the hospitality industry are stepping up and selflessly offering up their services in generous and creative ways in order to aid governments and healthcare professionals to contain the crisis.

As the COVID 19 crisis rages across the world at frightening speeds, multiple governments, businesses, charities and individuals are rising to fight the spread head-on. We are collectively relearning the old lesson: not all heroes wear capes. Some may wear scrubs and white coats to risk their lives to heal the sick. Some put on their name tags and uniforms to serve us our food while we are in quarantine and many are the very individuals that we would call our colleagues just months ago.

Indeed, many businesses within the hospitality industry are stepping up and selflessly offering their services in generous and creative ways in order to aid governments and healthcare professionals to contain the crisis. Below I tell some of their stories.

The restaurants feeding the front-lines

While there are many individuals that are pitching in to fight COVID-19, those in the health care profession are undoubtedly taking the brunt of the crisis. With many working double or triple shifts, having to spend long periods of time away from their family and risking illness and death everyday. They are very much the front-line soldiers in the war against COVID-19.

Recognising this sacrifice, many have sought to help them with their grueling task. Most notably there has been a massive upsurge of companies, community groups and movements in the USA (currently the country with the highest number of reported cases) aimed at providing free meals to those on the front lines. At the forefront of this are restaurants.

While the restaurant industry in the USA has taken a huge blow from the lockdown regulations imposed by the US government, there has continued to be a huge, charitable output for those who need it. Starting with the big chains: Taco Bell  organised roaming carts on the week of the 27th of March to distribute free tacos- in addition to doanting 1 million dollars to charity “no kid hungry” as a response to the shutdown of the schools and free school lunch program. This trend has followed into many other big-name brands such as Chipotle, KFC, Just Salad, Just greens and more have pledged to donate much needed food to healthcares and others in need due to the crisis. 

The charitable spirit of hospitality isn’t just reserved to the big chains. A number of smaller restaurants have taken up the call for help, for example a small pizza joint in New York: Sauce Restaurant has already donated 2000 pizzas to half a dozen hospitals in the city and aims to continue cooking 300 pies a day for the cause. This is by no means a single occurrence, as many other  small businesses in New York City and elsewhere are pitching in despite their dwindling resources.

For their part, the community has not turned a blind eye to such efforts, many initiatives aim to both feed the healthcare workers and save many of the small businesses that were worst hit. As donations come in from the public to buy meals for the workers, the restaurants can pay their workers while also delivering food to our frontline workers.

Preferred Hotels: the hotel group that stepped up

There are many in the hospitality industry and elsewhere that have (justifiably) viewed the coming economic and health crisis with despair and terror. However, there are also a noble few who looked it straight in the eye and said “nope, not on my watch”. A number of these few belonged to the hotel group: Preferred Hotels Group.

Now, it is worth mentioning Preferred Hotels Group (let’s call them PHG from now on) does not actually operate any of its hotels, but is actually an organisation that comprises many independently managed hotels. But the number of hotels in this organization showing generosity and creativity in this situation have earned them a place in this article!

For starters, Michael Fetherstone, (the owner of PHG’s K-Club hotel in Kildare, Ireland) Gave a direct offer to the state government, allowing them to use the hotel for whatever manner they see fit, free of charge, in order to fight COVID 19. The idea would be that the 134 bedroom, 550 acre estate could house healthcare workers separated from their families as well as patients no longer requiring medical attention. This will no doubt be invaluable for the health services in the coming weeks.

In another tale of warm hospitality from the emerald isle, another PHG hotel - Dromoland castle - teamed up with a local artist Una Heaton to provide arts and crafts lessons to children on the hotel’s youtube channel. The idea behind this collaboration was to help parents across the country find constructive entertainment for their children who were now unable to go to school due to the lockdown.

While PHG Ireland has its fair share of inspiring hospitality stories, there are a number of other members of the group that have participated in the fight against corona. For example, across the pond, the Bobby Hotel in Nashville, USA was once popular for its live music concerts and gigs. These have, of course, had to come to an end due to the lockdown. But due to popular demand the hotel quickly found a way to keep these shows going. Through their series of live virtual concerts “keep it spinning” the hotel has continued to bring music and culture into the lives of Nashville's residents and any of the rest of us needing a break from our daily quarantine lives.

Health Hotels: a united front

In the past weeks, Spain has unfortunately seen an explosion of cases related to COVID-19. At the time of writing Spain is globally poised at the second highest number of cases, behind the USA. As a result many hotels have had to close due to the lockdown and lack of guests. These empty multi-roomed structures are potentially a very valuable asset in the fight against COVID-19- which is exactly the thinking that birthed Proyecto Hotel Salut

Proyecto Hotel Salut (or Project Health Hotel) is a partnership between the state government and numerous hotel chains in Barcelona (including Cotton House and Hotel Catalonia) who will allow their now vacant properties to house discharged coronavirus patients and self isolating health workers. The staff of these “health hotels” will receive special training in order to minimise the risk of infection in the establishments. 

This project has also sprung up in the capital of Madrid, and the Southern region of Andalucia where hotels have donated their properties to the governments to use to combat the virus. Many of these hotels have now been converted into fully fledged field hospitals to alleviate the already overwhelmed hospitals in the country. 

In these hotels, baggage and suitcases have been replaced with respirators and medical sheets, the smiling doormen have been replaced with surly police guards, but still the spirit of hospitality remains.

The Lights of Love and Hope

Support comes in many forms, sometimes it’s through physical donations such as money, food or accommodation. Other times it can be through giving your community a symbol of hope to rally behind. The latter has been what Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) have been aiming (and succeeding) to achieve.

While the properties of IHG in many countries have found themselves to be entirely or partially empty, the group has used the down time to achieve an inspirational project. By strategically operating the lights of their buildings, IHG properties across the world (such as Berlin, Amsterdam, Davos, and many more) were emblazoned with a huge dazzling heart symbol. The group displayed this symbol to show its solidarity with the global community in these troubling times. They also urged others to follow their lead and display their lights in a similar fashion using the hashtag #lightsoflove- you can see the heartfelt result from the link!

While I tried to include as many of the inspiring stories from our colleagues as possible in a short article, I didn’t even get past the tip of the iceberg! In these past few weeks, thousands (maybe millions) of people in the hospitality industry and many other industries have stepped up to fight this challenge head on. If there is any silver lining to this global tragedy that we’ve found ourselves in, it’s that it has truly exposed how good human nature can be!

Nowadays, it’s very easy to get sucked into the pit of negativity that has become the daily news cycle but now more than ever it is important for us to recognize the positivity that has begun to shine. So, I challenge you all to look for more of these heroes and give them the recognition they deserve,not just for them but for yourselves! Because let’s face it, we could all do with a little more good news right about now. So let’s stay positive and #stayhospitalian together!

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