Hotels are not hosting as many guests during the coronavirus pandemic — though one guest was surprised to see a solicitation for donations to the hotel in his Hyatt room earlier this week.
“I understand things are really hard for the industry right now, but for a hotel to ask for essentially free money (plus tax!) was something I’d never have expected,” Alex Kremer, of Boulder, Colorado, told USA TODAY of his stay at the Motif Seattle.
The message read: “As we all navigate these uncertain times together, please consider giving a one time gift of $25 to this hotel. This hotel will receive 100% of this contribution.”
A Hyatt spokesperson noted this was not in line with its policies. “As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we immediately investigated with the hotel and its IT provider, and the message was removed from guest room TVs immediately,” according to a statement provided by Mark Pardue, Hyatt’s SVP of operations. “We are looking into the situation further, and at this time, we believe this was an isolated situation.”
“It is not Hyatt’s practice to encourage contributions from guests to support hotel properties in this manner,” Pardue added.
Sonifi, a hotel industry technology provider that provides guest room video Wi-Fi and interactive solutions, was responsible for the message. It serves around one million hotel rooms and thousands of hotels in North America.
Sonifi deployed this messaging as part of its interactive systems on TVs amid the pandemic in April at certain U.S. hotels in an effort to support the struggling hotel industry; all proceeds would go directly to individual hotels.
“We thought this would be one small way we would collectively be able to support our clients in getting through these difficult times,” Ahmad Ouri, CEO of Sonifi, told USA TODAY.
Some guests began making contributions, but it resulted in more questions than benefits, according to Ouri. “Some of our hoteliers viewed this helpful while others found it not to be in alignment with their positioning.” They ultimately removed the message.
The feature was mistakenly still available at the Motif Seattle hotel but is now gone. “This was fully our mistake, and we take full responsibility for that,” Ouri said.
Kremer, 40, stayed at the Seattle hotel Aug. 3 to 5. As a member of the travel industry himself — he co-founded a series of travel conferences called Arival — he’s usually on the road more than 150 nights per year.
But this ask struck him, leading him to tweet the photo. USA TODAY has reached out to the Motif Seattle for further comment.
“It didn’t upset me as much as it did underline just how desperate times must be right now for a hotel to even consider putting a message like that up there,” he said. “I tweeted it because of its extraordinary nature.”
Kremer added that there were no amenities during his stay, no housekeeping and the restaurant was closed — all generally in line with what one can expect when staying at a hotel during the coronavirus pandemic. Kremer said the hotel was “charging north of $150 a night, plus a $20 destination fee.” USA TODAY found rates starting from $160 to $209 on the hotel’s website.
Hotel occupancy in the U.S. has been mostly on the upswing the past few months, though is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. The occupancy rate for U.S. hotels was 48.9% for the week ending Aug. 1, according to data firm STR, down 34.5% from the comparable period last year.
Hyatt posted a loss of $236 million in the second-quarter, compared to $86 million in income in 2019.
Last-minute trips? Hotel guests booking only days in advance as COVID-19 pandemic continues, Hyatt CEO says
Noted:Is it safe to stay in a hotel amid the coronavirus pandemic?