ITP presents… Disaster Relief in Hotels


Flooding at Taba Heights. Photo: IHG

Flooding at Taba Heights. Photo: IHG

Ten years on from the Asian tsunami that devastated coastal areas and left more than 230,000 people dead, disaster preparedness and relief remains a hot topic in the hotel sector.

Disaster relief in hotels is more diverse an issue than many think – from large scale natural disasters that devastate a whole community to one off events that affect the lives of individual staff.

International Tourism Partnership members have for a long time been some of the industry’s leaders when it comes to Disaster Relief. ITP is now also part of Business in the Community, which runs its own International Disaster Relief programme, producing resources to help businesses develop strategies. Their report, Business’ Unique Contribution: International Disaster Relief outlines the following key areas of disaster relief response:

  • Planning for a disaster and creating a policy
  • Corporate giving
  • Emergency response
  • Engaging employees
  • Partnering with others
  • Preventing disasters

And here are some best practice case studies from ITP members in these areas:

Corporate Giving

Starwood established the Starwood Associate Relief Fund (SARF), a U.S. non-profit, in 2006.  The SARF mission is to provide need-based financial grants to its associates and the employees of its managed and franchised hotel operations who have suffered significantly as a result of a natural disaster or other emergency hardship situation. SARF is supported by donations of Starwood and franchise employees, as well as annual corporate matching funds.  SARF also received donations from family & friends through special room rates.  In 2013, $1.1M was donated to SARF.

Since inception, SARF has granted over $2.6M to 2,816 associates around the world.  It supports associates impacted by large scale disasters such as Hurricane Odile in Los Cabos, as well as individual disasters such as a home fire that displaces an associate and his/her family.

Emergency response

IHG’s Shelter in a Storm programme provides guidance, resources and funds when disaster strikes for any IHG hotel. Between 2013 – 2017 IHG aims to contribute a total of $10 million to communities in need through monetary donations and in-kind support. Fundraising and corporate giving is combined with emergency response.

For example, in January 2014 the UK experienced some of the worst rainfall to hit the UK in more than 100 years. A number of IHG hotels were affected by the severe weather with hotel and corporate colleagues impacted by the flooding. The Crowne Plaza Marlow supported the local community by offering discounted rooms to locals who were displaced by the flooding and allowed people to use their health club facilities free of charge. As a result of families checking in without toys for their children, a Facebook appeal was set up with huge success with the local community donating toys, clothes, baby milk and board games. Hotel staff also delivered food and drink to emergency service crews in the town.

Marriott’s Committee considers activation of their Fund in the United States only when there is a Presidentially-declared disaster, a disaster resulting from certain terrorist or military actions, or an event defined as a qualified disaster by the Internal Revenue Service. Additional factors taken into account when activating the Fund are business interruption, associates’ inability to continue to work, and damage to associates’ homes. Activation for events outside of the United States is determined on a case-by-case basis as a global standard does not exist. Upon activation, the Fund provides financial assistance for immediate disaster relief to affected associates for such items as food, clothing, medicine and shelter. The Committee works with local Marriott leadership, including members of the Marriott Business Council, to assess needs and make decisions about longer-term support. See the full report on Marriott’s response to hurricane Katrina.

Hyatt encourages hotels when possible to engage with the affected community in ways that leverage their non-financial assets, be they product donations, volunteer time etc.  For example, when the tsumani hit Japan, Hyatt’s hotels went to the area and set up “kitchen” and cooked for survivors what in many cases had been their first warm meal in weeks. Brigitta Witt, Global Head, Corporate Responsibility, says;

I think it’s very important for any company to be very clear about when to engage in disaster relief efforts from a financial perspective.  We have a very specific process in place that we mobilize anytime a major rapid onset disaster strikes to quickly assess if/ how Hyatt responds.

Peninsula Hotels all came together for thier Hope for Philippines project whereby all Peninsula hotels raised funds to support the rehabilitation of victims of typhoon Haiyan. The Peninsula Manila has now partnered with a local NGO to build a small village to provide shelter, livelihood and education opportunities to the typhoon victims.

Engaging employees

IHG’s Shelter in a Storm programme puts employees at the core of activities. Green Hotelier recently spoke with Angela Brav, Chief Executive for Europe at IHG. Angela initiated a programme making several employees champions of Shelter in a Storm, to help drive awareness and engagement with the programme. Champions were allocated to each country in the region where they have a presence and worked with hotels about how best to respond to disasters and providing guidance on fundraising. Angela comments, 'I recruited this team because I believe in the programme and in our people. There’s no better way to bring a programme like this to life than through a group of passionate employees. We are here to help and support one another and the response from the employees and our hotels has been fantastic. I had every confidence that this initiative would be a success and it continues to be so.'

Colleagues at IHG are continually updated on Shelter in a Storm activities through the Internal Intranet, Merlin and dedicated CR Facebook page, IHG Planet CR, as well as through internal stakeholder engagement channels and via the IHG Owners Association. Throughout the year employees across the entire estate are encouraged to fundraise for the programme and each year a global colleague engagement and awareness week takes place, called IHG Race Around the World, to globally take part in fundraising activities for IHG Shelter in a Storm. In September 2014, over 63,000 colleagues took part in the event.  For more information see IHG Shelter in a Storm.

Partnering with others

Hyatt has developed a disaster response strategy and Committee. The company has teamed up with two relief and humanitarian organizations, the American Red Cross and Mercy Corps to aid global support. Following typhoon Haiyan, Hyatt pledged to donate $50,000 to Mercy Corps and to match guest and colleague donations up to an additional $25,000. The target was vastly exceeded. For more information see Hyatt’s CSR programme, Thrive.

In addition to SARF, Starwood has a global partnership with the Red Cross, primarily managed through its relationship with the American Red Cross which is a charitable redemption partner through the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program, and a grant partner through the Starwood Foundation.  Starwood is committed to $250,000 in donations per year.

IHG’s strategic partnership with CARE is a vital part of their programme. CARE ensures that help is directed to exactly where it is needed and IHG draws on CARE’s expertise in humanitarian assistance, using its infrastructure to channel funds to local communities. If a disaster strikes where CARE are not responding on the ground, IHG seeks its guidance on the best local partners to use to ensure help still reaches those places it is needed most.

For more information see the following Green Hotelier articles: Angela Brav interviewHotels and disaster relief 10 years on and IHG Shelter in a Storm.  

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