TOKYO – As hotels and house rental companies face huge challenges for their businesses due to travel restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some hoteliers and landlords in the Asia-Pacific region are helping to fight against the epidemic by providing rooms for medical workers or patients with mild symptoms.
For those with space to spare, this is an opportunity to use the space for productive purposes, while fulfilling what many see as a social responsibility. But moves are not always welcomed by employees, who fear falling ill themselves.
Chris Byrne, an Airbnb host in Melbourne, signed up for the Airbnb Frontline Stays program to welcome health and medical professionals to his second home, which is listed on the platform. The house was rented to an American doctor and his family for three months, but the pandemic forced them to return home early. Most of Byrne’s reservations for the next six months have been canceled.
“I wanted to do my part to help and make life a little less stressful for these people on the front lines and fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” Byrne told the Nikkei Asian Review. “These people need a place to rest or be secluded. My property is the perfect place for them to do that, and has no impact on their family and friends.” Byrne said he was ready to make his property available for free.
Airbnb launched the Frontline program at the end of March. Globally, there are more than 100,000 lists of people responding to the pandemic, including more than 6,500 lists in Australia and others in New Zealand, Thailand and Malaysia. Hosts may charge a fee, but are encouraged to offer properties for free or at a discount. Airbnb waives fees on the first 100,000 stays.
Airbnb also offers safety guidelines for cleaning up a property after a stay and taking other action. The program is open to government agencies and charities as well as to individual workers. “We want to continue to remain responsive to Australia’s changing needs to help connect COVID-19 healthcare professionals with frontline stays,” said Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb Country Manager for Australia and New Brunswick. Zealand.
Indian budget hotel operator Oyo Hotels and Homes offers free and discounted rooms for medical staff in countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia. In Indonesia, he opened a hotel near a hospital in Jakarta that receives COVID-19 patients. It will offer free rooms to hospital staff. “Not only will [our medical staff] face physical and mental strain, but their accommodations are usually far from our hospital. We need the support of others so that we can focus on the task at hand, ”a doctor said in a statement.
In Japan, APA Group, one of the country’s largest hotel networks, has announced that it will open a hotel in Yokohama for coronavirus patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. The facility, which has more than 2,300 rooms, will be open to these patients from April 20 to the end of August. The move is part of an agreement with Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, the company said.
The hotelier had previously decided to open rooms in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya areas – nearly 5,000 in total – to these patients. The move follows a request from the government to reserve hospital beds for patients with severe symptoms.
APA will rent entire hotels, which typically have hundreds of rooms, so as not to increase risk to other guests. She is in talks with other local authorities on the locations, costs and time to welcome patients. “The novel coronavirus has become the biggest national crisis since the war,” the company said. “We hope that our cooperation can be of help in stopping the spread.”
APA hotels have guest rooms and reception desks but no restaurants or banquet facilities, making them easier to use for quarantines and to disinfect after patients have left.
Masato Takamatsu, an independent consultant specializing in crisis management in tourism, said hotel chains were wondering if they were offering their rooms to those in need. But he warns that efforts to make a “social contribution” also carry “multiple risks,” including the possibility of employees becoming infected.
“Many hotels are closing temporarily because Tokyo and other cities are in a state of emergency. They believe the closure would make it easier to receive a government subsidy, rather than staying open and having 10% occupancy.” , said Takamatsu.
Toyoko Inn, another Japanese hotel chain focused on business travelers, on Friday began welcoming patients and those awaiting diagnostic test results at five of its properties, under agreements with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and local authorities. The hotel has smaller staff than usual and does not serve breakfast or maid service, a company representative said.
Some hotel employees have expressed concerns about the measures being taken to accommodate coronavirus patients. The Japan Federation of Service and Tourism Workers’ Unions, which has staff in many large hotels among its members, told reporters on Tuesday that it opposes the move on principle, fearing that the health of employees may be harmed. is endangered.
“Employees do not know how to treat patients. There is also a shortage of masks, with increasing risks of infection,” Tsuneyasu Goto, president of the federation, told a press conference, adding that the Patients should only be accommodated if the safety and health of staff can be fully protected.
APA said it was developing safety guidelines for its employees.