As hotel rooms across the country sit empty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some operators are offering their properties to health care workers and first responders looking for a place to rest away from home.
Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts announced late last month that all open, Diamond-managed properties would offer complimentary accommodations to medical personnel and first responders. That offer includes Polo Towers, Cancun Resort and Desert Paradise Resort in Las Vegas.
As of Tuesday, such workers have booked more than 2,500 free nights at Diamond Resorts properties across the country.
“It is truly having an impact,” CEO Mike Flaskey said. “We think it’s the right thing to do.”
Despite being deemed an essential business in multiple jurisdictions, Diamond Resorts’ open properties had between 70 and 80 percent vacancy levels before the initiative began.
That’s when executives began to wonder what sort of difference the rooms would make to health care professionals, first responders and their families, Flaskey said.
“We were able to provide an opportunity for (these families) to get that distance … to make sure those with underlying health conditions weren’t affected,” Flaskey said.
One health care worker told Flaskey she was finally able to afford to self-distance from her high-risk family, and another said Diamond Resorts gave her a way to distance herself from her three children — two of which are high risk and have special needs.
A company statement from March 28 said suites are, on average, larger than typical hotel rooms, and a majority include in-suite kitchens with refrigerators, ovens and stoves, plus full bathrooms and laundry facilities.
The company has implemented “stringent safety procedures” to help protect the guests — who are often at a higher risk of exposure because of their jobs — while also protecting the health of staff, according to the statement. That includes contactless check-in and checkout, additional cleaning and a 72-hour offline time for rooms in between stays.
About 77 percent of the company workforce has been furloughed because the outbreak, which was done in part to preserve liquidity, Flaskey said. But he is confident that after the shutdown is over, the hospitality industry in Las Vegas will bounce back “stronger than ever.”
Hospitality for Hope
Diamond Resorts isn’t the only Las Vegas property that is welcoming health care workers and first responders.
As of Monday morning, there were at least 67 other properties in Nevada that are taking similar action, but as part of the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Hospitality for Hope program, which launched last month. Thirty-six of those are in Las Vegas, according to AHLA spokeswoman Marua Morton.
The AHLA declined to share which Nevada properties are participating.
As of March 24, more than 6,500 U.S. properties had taken part in the program, which is meant to connect first responders and those in the health community struggling to find housing with hotel properties offering rooms, sometimes at a free or reduced price.
“The hotel industry is uniquely positioned to support and help strengthen our communities and first responders who are on the front lines of dealing with this ongoing public health crisis,” said AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers in a March 24 statement from AHLA. “Hotels have always been an active member of our local communities, and this time is no different.”
Pearl Amaechi, a spokeswoman for Choice Hotels International, said the franchiser is supporting the Hospitality for Hope program, and many of its independently owned and operated properties “are indeed supporting health care professionals and first responders with rooms and discounted stays at this time.”
The company, which owns brands like Comfort Inn and Quality Inn, was not able to provide a list of which Nevada properties were part of Hospitality for Hope.
Roughly 1,400 of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ U.S. hotels have signed up to participate in the initiative, including an undisclosed number of Nevada properties.
“In these unprecedented times, we are extremely proud to see an increasing number of our hotels doing their part to support their local communities, medical centers and those on the front lines of this pandemic,” according to a statement from the company.
Other properties have also looked into this issue.
Jacob Hawkins, a spokesman for InterContinental Hotels Group, said a number of its hotels across the country “have received requests, or are already supporting, governments, agencies, hospitals or healthcare providers to provide facilities for COVID-19 relief.”
Because most IGH-branded properties are independently owned and operators, Hawkins was not able to provide a list of which properties are taking part.
A statement Monday from Hilton said the company would be donating up to 1 million hotel room nights across the country to front-line medical professionals fighting against COVID-19, beginning next week.
Hilton spokeswoman Lisa Cole said front-line medical staff in need of a place to sleep or isolate from their families can “get some rest at our hotels in Nevada,” but did not provide a list of which Hilton properties were available to do so.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company offered housing to a task force administered by Clark County’s Multi-Agency Coordination Center, but the company was told resorts of its size and scale “are not ideally suited for medical housing.” Instead, the company is offering financial aid, food and personal protective equipment to local medical facilities and nonprofits in Las Vegas.
Caesars spokesman Richard Broome said the company is not offering housing because it does not have staff working at any of its properties to service guests. Representatives of MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Boyd Gaming Corp. and Red Rock Resorts did not comment.
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