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Hospitality ,Hospitality Management ,Hotels ,Witness Group ,

How Hotels Can Help During Natural Disasters


Hospitality ,Hospitality Management ,Hotels ,Witness Group ,


October 17, 2017

Hospitality Management Companies Do Their Part in Disaster Relief


As much as we all dislike it, natural disasters occur around the world on a regular basis. Earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and more displace millions of people per year, resulting in losses of life and livelihoods.

Fortunately, disasters also demonstrate the goodness of humanity when people come together to aid disaster victims. It’s no different in the hospitality industry, as numerous hotels and resorts have put forth various efforts to help relieve the painful burdens disaster victims experience when they have lost their homes and loved ones. Hotels are already a home away from home for travelers, and it makes sense that they can provide temporary homes for evacuees as well.

Vijay Phatak, Senior Vice President of Operations for hospitality management company The Witness Group, says that hotels choose to aid in natural disaster relief “Because it’s the right thing to do. We are in the ‘hospitality’ industry, and helping those in need during natural disasters is truly living to the core value of hospitality.”

Service happens to be one of The Witness Group’s core values. They define service as “going above and beyond for our guests and team members, but also for giving back to our community and the world we live in.” What better way is there to give back to the community than by helping those who live in it when that community has been damaged?

Here are five ways that the hospitality industry has helped during natural disasters, and how your hotels and hospitality companies can help, too.

They provide free or discounted lodging

Perhaps one of the most common ways that hotels have helped disaster victims is by offering free or discounted lodging to evacuees. Derek Hotels in Houston, for example, offered a $99 evacuation ratefor victims of Hurricane Harvey and even waived pet fees for up to two animals. Texas governor Greg Abbott also suspended hotel occupancy taxes to help reduce the financial burden felt by evacuees.

The Witness Group has done their part, as well. During the most recent ice storm in the Columbus/Worthington, Ohio area, the Holiday Inn Worthington offered discounted rates to local residents who lost power for multiple days. They even had charging stations in the public areas for hotel guests and non-guests alike.

Reducing rates makes excellent PR for hotels. In contrast, some hotels were found guilty of price gouging following Hurricane Harvey and were forced to refund the excess. Needless to say, price gouging will have done nothing to improve those hotels’ public images, as it was apparent they cared more about profit than the wellbeing of those who had lost their homes.

They donate basic necessities

In response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Choice Hotels International donated up to 1,250 free hotel nights to evacuees, first responders, and volunteers via the American Red Cross and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Choice Hotels has also donated blankets and toiletries to victims, such as toothpaste and shampoo.

They generate donations through bookings

Hotel Engine, a hotel booking platform, started generating donations for hurricane victims through its online bookings through September 22, 2017. Any time someone booked a hotel in Florida or within a 300-mile radius of Houston, Texas, Hotel Engine donated 2% of the gross booking revenue to the American Red Cross.

They provide aid for hotel associates

According to Marriott, “The TakeCare Relief Fund (TCRF) provides need-based financial grants to associates at managed Marriott International locations who are facing financial hardship immediately after a natural disaster or an unforeseen personal hardship.” While this only applies to Marriott employees, it is still a great aid to help disaster victims get back on their feet. Marriott issued grants to employees who were victims of Cyclone Winston in Fiji in 2016, a 2015 Nepal earthquake, and Hurricane Odile in Mexico in 2014.

They donate old hotel furniture

One hotel in Lewisville, Texas chose to begin remodeling early and donated two moving pods full of TVs, dressers, nightstands, and chairs to hurricane victims who had been placed in new or temporary housing.

Helping with disaster relief makes excellent PR for the hospitality industry. Vijay Phatak says that such efforts lead to recognition in the community, improved ROI due to better perception, an improved image of the company, and staff involvement followed by pride. While there are pros and cons to opening hotel doors to evacuees, when it comes to helping those in need due to natural disasters, the pros outweigh the cons simply based on humanitarian grounds. Helping people is simply the right thing to do.

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