It seems when it comes to any kind of crisis from natural disasters to health emergencies, hotels often play a critical role in the response and recovery efforts and the current Coronavirus pandemic is no exception.
According to data from Chicago-based BuildCentral, Inc., some 76 hotels—and 156 commercial buildings in total, including convention centers and universities—within the U.S. were tied to COVID-19 response. The properties were converted into everything from quarantine centers to temporary medical centers and even remote offices in some cases.
Kyle Camp, vp, business development, BuildCentral, provided some perspective on why the hospitality industry is often part of the solution.
“Hotels are tuned into to trying to be responsive to people’s needs, whatever they are, and to provide comfort to people. It’s just natural for them to be an immediate responder in certain situations,” he said.
For starters, Camp touted the flexibility of hotels in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak. “We saw things happen very quickly as hoteliers quickly adjusted to meet the guests’ changing needs, whether that was extending their stay because they were stationed and couldn’t get back home or adjusting because of the travel situations that were being embargoed,” he said.
Camp further noted hotels pitched into the cause in a variety of ways initially. “We watched certain hotels actually reach out to the local population and offer them a space to rent a room for the day or by the week so that they could have an office space that had Internet facilities or separation from distractions in their home,” he said.
However, the response from hoteliers continued to evolve as a significant number of properties converted into possible quarantine centers “where they could hold people or people could stay safely until their test results were back,” according to Camp.
In addition, he noted that many hotels provided rooms for first responders “giving them a place to have sanctuary.” Camp added that ultimately that was followed by a more significant opportunity to act as health treatment centers, particularly in areas in close proximity to hospitals. In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers actually provided guidelines for properties to turn into health facilities with recommendations, including details on adding elements like vinyl flooring and adjusting air movement centers.
Meanwhile, many hotels were able to pitch into the cause by transitioning part of their unused inventory for COVID-19 relief. As an example, the famed Statler Hotel in Dallas—a luxury hotel renovated and reopened by Centurion American in 2017—designated two floors in the downtown hotel for free lodging for medical professionals during the COVID-19 crisis. The hotel has been working with area hospitals, including Baylor Medical Center, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Memorial Hospital, to identify medical personnel in need of respite.
“I am very blessed to be in a position that allows me to help many people,” explained Sean Terry, vp, Centurion American Development Group, in a statement. “I am proud to work with Centurion American and our partners to help those medical heroes on the front line to get much needed rest while preserving the safety of their families.”
In addition, Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC, an Oxford Capital Group, LLC affiliate, is supplying more than 250 hotel rooms to the City and County of San Francisco. The rooms are providing sanctuary for first responders who are fighting against COVID-19 as well as other guests seeking or requiring isolation.
“We’re proud to play a role in aiding the community by providing sanctuary for those who need it during this difficult time,” stated John Rutledge, founder, president, and CEO of Oxford Capital Group, LLC, and Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC. “Supplying these rooms allows for our brave medical professionals to focus on their most critical patients in their hospitals.”
In addition to aiding the efforts in the war against COVID-19 in San Francisco, several of Oxford’s Chicago hotels are providing up to 1,100 rooms for first responders and others in that city.
Meanwhile, two Cleveland area properties—a DoubleTree by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express—are working with the CareGiver Shelter Fund to provide housing for medical professionals. The initiative is part of an effort from Ohio-based Airriva, which also put together a fund to benefit medical professionals on the front line.