Leading hotel brands have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways—from temporarily suspending brand standards and cutting franchise fees to opening their services to front-line medical staff. Below are the ways in which brands are responding during this crisis. This list is being updated as new information is released and is ordered with the newest updates first.
Outrigger Hospitality Group
On May 28, Outrigger Hospitality Group announced Outrigger’s Clean Commitment—guidelines designed in consultation with healthcare leaders and developed with Ecolab that meet the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AHLA) Safe Stay standards as well as the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association (HLTA) COVID-19 Health, Safety & Security Standards. The global platform incorporates technology, cleaning products, and procedures in compliance with the latest COVID-19 codes, regulations, and brand standards.
On May 27, Marriott informed above-property associates in the United States that furloughs and reduced workweek schedules, which began in April, will be extended through October 2, 2020. Marriott is also rolling out a voluntary transition program for on-property and above-property associates in the United States who choose to leave the company. Given the expectation that prior levels of business will not return until beyond 2021, Marriott announced that the company anticipates a significant number of above-property position eliminations later this year.
On April 21, Marriott launched the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to focus on developing the next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards, norms, and behaviors to minimize risk and enhance safety for consumers and Marriott associates.
On April 8, Marriott Bonvoy launched Rooms for Responders in collaboration with its credit card partners, American Express and JPMorgan Chase, to provide up to $10 million worth of hotel stays at no cost to frontline health care workers in select cities. Administered by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the program will match frontline nurses and doctors with approximately 100,000 room nights at participating hotels in New York City, Newark, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. Marriott Bonvoy members can also donate points to relief organizations, including the American Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF, and World Central Kitchen. Additionally, through its Community Caregiver Program, Marriot is offering special rates for first responders and healthcare professionals who want to book rooms near hospitals.
On March 18, Marriott released a business update and, a day later, a video on Twitter of its President and CEO Arne Sorenson addressing employees. Sorenson said that the number of Marriott associates infected with COVID-19 is low, but the financial impact is more severe than 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis combined. “The worst quarter we had in those earlier crises saw a roughly 25 percent decline in hotel revenues on average across the globe. In this case, which began in Greater China in January, we quickly saw a 90 percent decline in business in China.” Sorenson added that in most markets, business is running 75 percent below normal levels.
At the property level, open hotels are taking measures such as closing F&B outlets, reducing staff, and closing entire floors or properties, depending on the local circumstances. The company has also temporarily deferred most brand standards for owners and franchisees, including delaying renovations due in 2020 by one year, deferring required furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) funding, and suspending brand standard audits.
At the corporate level, the company has suspended all non-essential travel and spending, new hires outside of “mission-critical positions,” hotel initiatives for 2020, and brand marketing. Additionally, Sorenson said that he and Bill Marriott would not be taking a salary for the balance of the year, and executives would take a 50 percent cut in pay. The company is requiring temporary leaves in North America and shortening work weeks around the world. Marriott estimates these measures will reduce 2020 corporate general and administrative costs by at least $140 million.
On May 26, Wyndham announced that the company is extending fee relief measures for its franchisees for an additional 30 days through June 2020, including revenue management service, loyalty retraining, MOP, and quality inspection fees. The company initially deferred all fees accruing for March, April, and May 2020 to September 1, 2020. In addition, Wyndham is postponing its 2021 Global Conference to help relieve franchisees of event-related fees.
On May 4, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts launched “Count on Us,” a new long-term, multi-faceted initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees, and an extension of Wyndham’s Count on Me service culture. Launch of the new initiative follows dialogue and collaboration with franchisees, members of Wyndham’s Franchise Advisory Councils, industry partners, and trade organizations like the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). The immediate focus is to further elevate health and safety protocols in the wake of COVID-19, shore up critical supply chains, and introduce new standards, training, and guidelines grounded in guidance from the CDC. Wyndham will also require consistent use of Ecolab’s EPA-approved disinfectants in hotel guestrooms and public spaces nationwide.
On April 14, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts launched its #EverydayHeroes initiative, offering all essential workers instant complimentary Gold membership upgrades in Wyndham Rewards.
On April 6, Wyndham announced that the company has partnered with leading organizations to give hotel-level and corporate team members whose positions have been furloughed or eliminated access to available full-time, part-time, or temporary positions in retail, grocery, and senior living, among other sectors. The companies include Albertsons Companies, Amazon, Dollar Tree & Family Dollar, Domino’s, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Senior Living Works, University of Texas Medical Branch, Walgreens, and Walmart. Wyndham is also working with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and the AHLA Foundation to identify and make available additional relevant work opportunities for hospitality professionals.
On March 30, Wyndham released a statement announcing that in addition to furloughs and closures at its managed hotels, nearly half of its 2,500 corporate employees would be impacted by job eliminations, salary reductions, and reduced-hour work weeks. The company also announced that its president and CEO is indefinitely forgoing 100 percent of his salary, and the Board of Directors is forgoing 100 percent of its cash compensation.
On March 24, Wyndham announced that franchisees may defer fees accrued in March, April, and May 2020 until September 1, 2020. Wyndham hotels that were restricted from the CRS in February or March will be reconnected without a fee until September 30, 2020, and there will not be any new CRS restrictions due to non-payment until September 1, 2020. Wyndham is deferring all brand standards except health and safety-related standards, as well as property improvement plans until January 1, 2021.
For the months of April and May 2020, Wyndham is waiving 50 percent of SynXis PMS fees, 100 percent of RMS fees, and 100 percent of MOP fees. For the months of March, April, and May 2020, the Wyndham Rewards enrollment requirements and related fees are waived, as well as Quality Assurance and Wyndham Quality Circle inspections and fees. Through June 1, 2020, Wyndham is giving general managers additional time to complete its Hospitality Management Program and is waiving fees for rescheduling. In addition, hotels may still offer breakfasts that are not buffet-style and follow the sanitation guidelines from the CDC and WHO. Hotels may offer pre-assembled breakfast bags at the front desk during breakfast hours.
On March 18, Wyndham released an update on the company’s response to COVID-19, detailing its updated cancellation policies and temporary policies for its Wyndham Rewards loyalty program as well as its general response to the pandemic. “Due to the current situation with coronavirus, our hotels are implementing new processes to protect the safety of our guests and team members,” the company said in the statement. “This may result in a reduction in certain services and amenities that are normally available at our hotels.”
My Place Hotels
On May 18, My Place Hotels of America announced an enhanced range of hotel cleanliness processes and procedures alongside its operators, franchising partners, Ecolab, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). The brand’s new initiative, Always Clean, includes measures like increased cleaning of high-touch areas throughout public spaces and guestrooms using sanitation products from Ecolab; expanding options for contactless payment methods; signage and collateral rollout to promote CDC guidelines; modified housekeeping schedule based on guest requirements; and continued guidance and training provided to all hotel staff. As a part of this push, My Place Hotels is participating in AHLA’s Safe Stay Advisory Council.
On April 13, My Place Hotels of America announced the launch of the brand’s “Help Our Heroes” initiative through which My Place is donating 5 percent of the cost of each room, exclusive of taxes, to First Responders Children’s Foundation for rooms booked by May 31.
On May 18, IHG announced new science-led protocols and service measures developed in partnership with Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab, and Diversey and the launch of its global IHG Clean Promise, which will roll out globally starting June 1. The new initiative expands the IHG Way of Clean program, which IHG developed with Ecolab and Diversey and launched in 2015. Enhanced measures will include reduced contact at check-in; visible verification of sanitized items in the guestroom (e.g., glassware, remote control) as well as a reduction of in-room furnishings/high-touch items; and more. Hotel teams will also appoint Clean Champions to navigate the new environment and help on-property teams deliver new standards. IHG’s new Global Cleanliness Board—a group of IHG experts in operations, health, safety, and guest experience—will work with external specialists, including James Merlino, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Cleveland Clinic, to define solutions, best practice, and implement processes.
On April 16, IHG announced its partnership with #FirstRespondersFirst to provide free accommodation at U.S. hotels for frontline COVID-19 first responders, including physicians, nurses, home-care workers, social workers, and beyond. As part of this partnership, first responders will have access to a dedicated VIP reservation service from IHG, which will match local needs with nearby hotels. IHG will cover accommodation costs up to 50 million IHG Rewards Club points.
On March 30, IHG announced its IHG Hotel Colleague Job Center website for its hotel employees. The website supports hotels in the United States affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources, advice, and guidance are available on the website, as well as connections to job opportunities across the country.
On March 20, IHG released a business update. “Demand for hotels is currently at the lowest levels we’ve ever seen,” said Keith Barr, CEO of IHG. The company reported that global RevPAR decreased 6 percent in January and February, with flat U.S. performance offset by a nearly 90 percent decline in Greater China in February. “During March, given the measures adopted by governments around the world to restrict travel and social contact, we are anticipating Global RevPAR declines of around 60 percent, with steeper declines in those markets most impacted by restrictions. Cancellation activity for April and May, and current booking trends, indicate continued challenging conditions,” Barr said.
The company’s actions to reduce cost include reducing salary and incentives, including decreases for board and Executive Committee members, that will decrease fee business costs by $150 million. Additionally, the company is reducing marketing spend and containing costs across its owned, leased, and managed properties.
For owners, IHG is delaying renovations and relaxing brand standards.
On May 15, Accor announced a new wellbeing platform for its North and Central America region: ALL Stay Well. The group is partnering with top experts, investing in research and insights, and rolling out new standards of safety, enhanced protocols, and procedures to address the new reality of travel in a world with COVID-19. Phase one of the program includes the group’s new ALLSAFE label as well as oversight by a team that includes Bureau Veritas, a world leader in hygiene and cleanliness inspection; Dr. Amesh Adalja, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America; and Ruth Petran, Ph.D., CFS, Senior Corporate Scientist, Food Safety and Public Health, for Ecolab. In addition, Accor is partnering with AXA, an insurance firm, to provide medical support to guests across its hotels worldwide.
On April 20, Accor announced that it has joined forces with Bureau Veritas, a provider in testing, inspection, and certification, to develop a label to certify that the appropriate safety standards and cleaning protocols have been achieved to allow businesses to reopen.
On April 2, Accor announced that more than half of its branded hotels worldwide are currently closed and more than two-thirds will likely be closed in the coming weeks. Accor announced travel bans, hiring freezes, reduced schedules, and/or furloughing for 75 percent of its global head office teams, in addition to other cost reduction efforts, including in sales, marketing, and IT.
Accor also announced that it is allocating 25 percent of its planned dividend to the launch of the ALL Heartist Fund, which will assist the group’s 300,000 employees, pledging to pay for their COVID-19-related hospital expenses for those who do not have social security or medical insurance, as well as other employees on a case-by-case basis, including furloughed employees and individual partners financial difficulty. Board members collectively decided to reduce their attendance fees by 20 percent to the benefit of the ALL Heartist Fund and Chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin will forego 25 percent of his compensation during the crisis, contributing the cash equivalent to the Fund.
Accor announced on March 24 that it is opening its services to front-line medical staff, the French people fighting against the spread of COVID-19, and to the most vulnerable populations. Over 40 Accor hotels have opened a total of 1,000 to 2,000 hotel beds to homeless people throughout France. In collaboration with AP-HP university hospitality trust and its partners, Accor is also housing medical staff by offering accommodations near their jobs through the Coronavirus Emergency Desk Accor (CEDA) platform. Requests from public authorities and professional associations will also be centralized on the CEDA platform.
Extended Stay America
On May 15, Extended Stay America announced its STAY Confident initiative, building on its experience as the only major hotel brand to remain open at all of its 634 locations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. STAY Confident includes three focus areas. STAY Safe focuses on the safety of employees and guests through measures like the installation of transparent shields at front desks, protective equipment for all staff, and the temporary closure of shared spaces like pools and fitness centers, among other measures. STAY Healthy includes a partnership with Procter & Gamble to expand Extended Stay America’s cleaning processes and inspection program, including having a member of the management team inspect and approve each room prior to releasing it for check-in. Lastly, STAY Comfortable includes measures like giving guests the ability to request items like towels or linens without having a housekeeper enter the room.
On May 12, MGM Resorts released a report outlining the health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to re-opening its domestic properties and resorts, which were temporarily closed in March. The company is working with Dr. Shannon Magari—VP of Health Sciences for Colden Corporation, an occupational health, safety, and environmental firm—as its lead health and safety advisor. Among other measures, MGM Resorts’ Seven-Point Safety Plan includes employee screening, temperature checks, and training; a self-screening protocol for guests; masks will be offered for free to guests; employees will be provided and required to wear masks and PPE; custom-built handwashing stations with soap and water, along with hand-sanitizing stations, will be readily available in high-traffic areas; and using technology to transition current processes into contactless options, like digital keys and menus.
On March 27, MGM Resorts announced the availability of approximately $3.9 billion in operating cash to support liquidity during its property closures and believes this will fund its current obligations for the foreseeable future. Additionally, MGM Resorts announced strong operational performance in January and February 2020, with its net income being up to $1.3 billion from $27 million in January and February 2019.
MGM Resorts announced on March 23 several initiatives to support those impacted economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a $1 million crisis and disaster relief pledge into an employee emergency grant fund and donating the equivalent of 400,000 meals across the United States.
The MGM Resorts Emergency Relief Fund provides employees and their immediate families with short-term relief in making payments or to meet obligations during unexpected hardships and emergencies. MGM Resorts’ $1 million pledge will provide expanded coverage for the fund to assist those impacted by the coronavirus, including: full-time employees, on-call employees, and those facing layoff, separation, or furlough.
After temporarily closing its properties across the country on March 16, MGM Resorts is working with local food banks to ensure all available fresh food from its resorts is safely and quickly donated to charitable organizations in several underserved areas, and has donated over 480,000 pounds of food so far.
On May 11, Hyatt announced plans to implement layoffs and restructure roles across its global corporate functions beginning June 1, 2020. These actions will impact approximately 1,300 employees worldwide. Laid off Hyatt employees will be eligible to receive severance pay, outplacement services, and benefits commensurate with their years of service.
On May 8, Hyatt and American Airlines announced that the two companies are giving three-night complimentary vacations to staff at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. From doctors and nurses to facilities and food service teams, more than 4,000 will be awarded roundtrip flights on American Airlines to Hyatt hotels in select destinations across the United States and the Caribbean.
Hyatt announced on April 29 its Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment to further enhance its operational guidance and resources around employee and guest safety and peace of mind. The commitment will include an accreditation process by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC, a division of ISSA) at all hotels around the world; employee training and support resources; hotel-level sanitization specialists; and a cross-functional working group of medical experts and industry professionals that will contribute to various aspects of the hotel experience.
On April 14, Hyatt launched the Hyatt Care Fund to help employees across its owned, managed, and franchised hotels and corporate offices who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 following furloughs or reduced hours. Initially, grants will be prioritized for those currently working zero hours and not eligible for government assistance and will help fund rent payments, groceries, childcare assistance, utilities, and other monthly payments. Initial contributions come from the Hyatt Hotels Foundation, salary reductions of Hyatt’s senior leadership team and Board of Directors, and donations from Pritzker family foundations.
On March 24, Hyatt released a statement on the actions the company is taking at the corporate level, which include suspending operations at some hotels, temporary furloughs, and pay and work reductions from April 1 through May 31. Corporate employees will still be eligible for healthcare and other benefits and can file for unemployment, the company said, adding that Hyatt is working to protect and fund full benefit coverage, including employee premiums, for furloughed workers on a company healthcare plan for up to two months. The company is asking temporarily furloughed colleagues to use PTO days to cover pay.
Hyatt also reported that the company is setting up a global Hyatt Care Fund, with initial contributions coming from leadership salary reductions. President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian and Chairman of the Board Tom Pritzker are forgoing their full salaries, and the senior leadership team is taking a 50 percent pay cut through the end of May. “The proceeds of this fund will be distributed to those colleagues with the most pressing financial needs due to loss of income,” the company reported.
On May 7, G6 Hospitality, the parent company of Motel 6 and Studio 6, launched “Clean@6.” In the program’s first phase, G6 updated its Infectious Disease Protocols and partnered with Corporate Medical Advisors, a subsidiary of International SOS, which will review and provide ongoing guidance on its COVID-19 operating protocols. The company also partnered with Diversey to procure EPA-registered disinfectants, and works with cleaning and restoration company, SERVPRO.
On May 4, Motel 6 announced that the economy lodging brand has become the first hospitality partner of Trucker Path, an app for truckers looking for truck stops and available parking. The partnership is aimed at helping professional drivers, who are continuing to haul essential goods during the current global health crisis, find any of the nearly 1,400 Motel 6 locations through the app while on the job.
Motel 6 has also launched enhanced protection protocols for guests and team members, supporting social distancing and increased cleaning frequency for common areas.
Radisson Hotel Group
On May 6, Radisson Hotel Group announced its Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol in partnership with SGS, an inspection, verification, testing, and certification company. The company conducted a review of all existing health and safety processes and worked with a team of experts to develop and validate additional protocols, which will be adapted based on local requirements and recommendations. The guidelines include enhanced cleaning and disinfection guidelines developed in collaboration with global hygiene solutions provider, Diversey, among other measures. In addition, the company will be introducing an official label of cleanliness and disinfection issued by SGS, which individual hotels can receive upon completion of a local audit that includes on-site testing.
In a letter to guests shared on March 15, Federico J. González Tejera, president and CEO of Radisson Hospitality AB and chairman of Radisson Hotel Group’s Global Steering Committee, announced an updated global cancellation policy and extensions for loyalty members while outlining the steps the company is taking in response to this crisis, including increased cleaning and sanitizing frequency.
Red Lion Hotels Corporation
On May 6, RLH Corporation announced enhanced cleanliness recommendations for its more than 1,000 independently owned and operated hotels. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has released guidelines and resources to franchisees and licensees urging them to adopt vigilant cleanliness and sanitation practices based on guidance from the CDC, WHO, hospitality trade associations such as the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), and commercial cleaning and sanitation companies like Ecolab, Proctor & Gamble, and Diversey.
On April 15, RLH Corporation launched its “Keep Our Country Moving” program to provide essential workers with a 50 percent discount per room between now and the end of June. This campaign is available to truck drivers, delivery personnel, construction workers, EMS teams, healthcare professionals, law enforcement agents, and anyone who is continuing to work in essential industries during this time.
On April 2, Red Lion Hotels Corporation announced organizational changes and cost-cutting measures, including changes to senior management, a reduction in its workforce, and the closing of the company’s Spokane office.
Nate Troup was promoted to CFO from chief accounting officer after Julie Shiflett, existing CFO, announced she is leaving the company to pursue other interests. Paul Moerner was promoted to chief accounting officer from his previous role as senior director of technical accounting and reporting. The Board of Directors has also suspended the company’s search for a permanent CEO. John Russell, as interim CEO, will continue to lead the organization.
The company’s cost-cutting measures include reducing its corporate workforce by roughly 40 percent to approximately 100 full-time equivalent employees; salary cuts ranging from 5-25 percent for virtually all associates, including a 25 percent reduction for Interim CEO John Russell and the Board’s base retainer for Q2; sub-leasing its surplus office space in Denver and closing its Spokane office; and a reduction in capital expenditures.
On May 6, Red Roof launched Red Roof RediClean—enhanced cleaning protocols to give consumers the confidence they need to hit the road again.
On April 6, Red Roof expanded its “Room in Your Heart” program to include nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, and emergency medical providers combatting COVID-19, many of whom are also self-quarantining away from their homes. Through May 31, Red Roof is donating a limited number of available rooms to these first responders, who can book directly at participating hotels.
Announced on March 30 in response to the interruption of work environments during the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Roof is implementing the Work Under Our Roof program. Made specifically for people that live with many others or have small living spaces, Red Roof rooms are available at select properties for rent from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and priced at reduced rates starting from $29.
On March 24, Red Roof announced the launched the Student Support Program to help students displaced as a result of college campus closures in response to COVID-19. The Support Program provides students with a 30 percent discount per room for stays at participating locations across the country including Red Roof Inn and Red Roof PLUS+ properties. Students looking for longer-term accommodation (seven days or more) will receive a $25 Amazon gift card to help purchase essential items.
On May 5, Hilton announced a $1 million contribution from American Express to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) to provide healthy, freshly prepared meals to the frontline healthcare professionals who are staying at participating Hilton properties in cities across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. WCK began this free meal program at select Hilton properties in Los Angeles in April and is expanding to New York, and Washington, D.C., with additional cities under consideration. The donation will enable WCK to cover the price of the ingredients and wages of restaurant employees who may have previously been out of work.
On April 27, Hilton announced that the company will collaborate with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, and consult with Mayo Clinic to develop elevated processes and employee training. Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection, as the program will be called in North America, will incorporate RB’s approach to cleaning practices and product offerings. Experts from Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team will advise and assist in enhancing Hilton’s cleaning and disinfection protocols.
On April 6, Hilton and American Express, in partnership with Hilton’s ownership community, announced plans to donate up to 1 million hotel room nights across the United States to doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and other frontline medical staff who need a place to sleep, recharge, or isolate from their families beginning next week and through the end of May. Hilton is initially working with 10 associations to provide access to the program. American Express is investing alongside Hilton in the donation of the hotel rooms, which will be provided at or below cost by Hilton’s network of independent owners and franchisees.
On March 23, Hilton announced a tool to connect furloughed workers with short-term jobs created by the current COVID-19 crisis. Hilton Workforce Resource Center lists temporary jobs at companies like Albertsons, Amazon, CVS, Lidl, Sunrise Senior Living, and Walgreens. In a news release, the company said it plans to expand the program globally and “welcome these team members back when travel resumes.”
On March 17 in a meeting between hotel CEOs and President Trump, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said that the bulk of Hilton hotels in major cities are closing and that occupancy would likely decline to 10-15 percent around the world. “If you look at the major cities around the United States, they’re running in the single digits, which means, for the first time in 100 years—Hilton has been around 100 years—we’ve never closed a hotel that wasn’t going to be demolished for rebuilding. The bulk of our hotels in the major cities are closing, as we speak,” Nassetta said.
On May 4, Choice Hotels International announced Commitment to Clean, a health and safety initiative that leverages the company’s relationship with Ecolab; guidance from the CDC, WHO, and the U.S. Travel Association; and Choice’s membership in the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) Safe Stay Advisory Council. Every Choice-branded hotel will designate a “Commitment to Clean Captain” who will complete applicable training and be responsible for incorporating new protocols.
On April 15, Choice announced that it is teaming up with Serta’s “Stay Home, Send Beds” initiative to help address nationwide bed shortages at hospitals and temporary medical facilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of Choice Privileges can donate their points towards beds for hospitals in need, and Choice will match 100 percent of the donated points. All Serta mattress donations are being facilitated through the nonprofit Relief Bed International.
On April 8, Choice announced several mitigation efforts, including reduced compensation for the Board of Directors, CEO, and other executive officers for the remainder of 2020; a hiring freeze except with respect to certain critical positions; suspending associates’ 401(k) match; a temporary furlough for certain positions in Europe, where government-mandated and other closures have been more prevalent; eliminated, reduced, or deferred non-essential expenditures, discretionary capital expenditures, and investments; suspending the company’s share repurchase plan; and suspending future, undeclared dividends for the remainder of 2020.
Additionally, the company announced fee-deferral programs for domestic and international franchisees; suspended one-time finance charges, reputation management fees, and guest relations handling fees; and paused quality assurance reviews, extended capital-intensive brand deadlines, and created more flexible brand standard options in line with the current operating environment.
On March 17, Choice released an update of its 2020 outlook withdrawing its previously issued guidance on February 18. That same day, Pat Pacious, president and CEO of Choice Hotels, met with President Trump along with other hotel CEOs at the White House to advocate for expanding SBA lending during the COVID-19 crisis. Pacious told President Trump that 90 percent of Choice Hotels are SBA eligible, and hotel owners are focused on what to do with employees and how to pay their mortgage when operating at zero occupancy. “It is this question of employee retention and liquidity so that you get through this period,” Pacious said.
On April 30, Best Western Hotels & Resorts expanded its I Care Clean program, which the company rolled out in 2012, with the launch of We Care Clean. Based on guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Health Canada, the new program addresses everything from guestroom and common area cleanliness to streamlined processes that minimize contact between guests and associates while maintaining customer service. The program will be updated regularly based upon the latest standards and recommendations by governmental agencies and industry groups.
On April 13, Best Western Hotels & Resorts launched a support package that includes a discount of at least 10 percent to essential workers at participating properties across North America and Best Western Rewards (BWR) Elite status upgrade to those on the frontlines. Additionally, points donated by BWR members to BWHR’s charitable arm, Best Western for a Better World, or charitable partner, the Red Cross, will support COVID-19 relief efforts.
On March 19, Best Western Hotels & Resorts (BWHR) released a news release on its response to COVID-19, which includes: waiving half of hoteliers’ monthly fees and property revenue management fees; reducing Best Western Rewards (BWR) loyalty point fees charged to members by half without lowering points awarded to loyalty program participants; increasing hotel redemption compensation for BWR loyalty guest stays by 50 percent; and waiving in entirety BWHR co-op marketing fees. Additionally, the company reported that it is delaying certain fees until November and will offer program extensions to its members.
In addition, the company’s Board of Directors and Executive Team announced that they are voluntarily reducing their compensation by 20 percent.
On April 23, Benchmark announced its Essential Heroes program. Through the program, the company’s managed hotels within its two luxury brands, Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and Gemstone Collection, will offer employee accommodation rates to essential frontline healthcare workers and first responders for the remainder of the year. Participating hotels that are currently closed in response to COVID-19 will accept reservations for future 2020 travel dates when they reopen for guests in coordination with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local, and state officials.
[Updated on April 15, 2020] Montage International has rolled out several initiatives to support associates across all properties in the Montage Hotels & Resorts and Pendry Hotels & Resorts portfolio. The program includes the Hearts of Montage Relief Fund, which guests can donate to directly or purchase a $500 Montage certificate or $250 Pendry certificate for a one-night stay through May 15, 2021 (100 percent of the proceeds will go towards the fund). In addition, the company will sponsor the distribution of meals and care packages for families at all Montage and Pendry properties two times a month. Lastly, the company rolled out new weekly programming, including professional development programs, recipes and cooking demos, yoga, meditation, storytime with author Brad Meltzer, and more.
GreenTree Hospitality Group
On March 26, GreenTree Hospitality Group released a statement waiving franchise and marketing fees for its U.S. franchise and management agreements. GreenTree had previously waived its reservation change fees and cancellation fees for its guests. Following CDC guidelines, GreenTree has implemented strict safety, hygiene, and housekeeping protocols.
Dream Hotel Group
On March 16, Dream Hotel Group released a statement on the COVID-19 pandemic, writing that the company is expanding policies around “cleanliness, frequency of cleaning, food safety, and associate well-being and support,” which might reduce services and amenities. Dream Hotel Group also modified its cancellation policies.