The travel industry may have been brought to its knees by travel restrictions and social distancing measures implemented across the globe in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t dampened its spirit.
Companies around the UK are doing what they can to help.
Here are six ways travel companies are doing their bit by spreading a little compassion and kindness, from offering hotels to key workers to repatriating Brits stranded abroad.
Setting up floating hospitals
Saga has offered two of its cruise ships as floating hospitals to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.
The 37,000-ton Saga Sapphire and 58,000-ton Spirit of Discovery, docked at Tilbury in Essex, could provide space for more than 2,600 patients in separate cabins.
Saga’s owners have reportedly spoken to government officials about making use of the liners, which have been withdrawn from sailing during the pandemic, as temporary hospitals.
A source told Sky News: “The ships are laying idle, the government expects its hospitals to be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, so it makes sense to look at this option.”
Opening hotels to NHS staff
Former Manchester United footballer Gary Neville is to open his hotels free of charge to health workers.
His two Manchester hotels, Hotel Football at Old Trafford and the Stock Exchange Hotel in Manchester city centre, will provide 176 beds for NHS and medical staff.
Hotel staff have also been promised they won’t be made redundant or made to take unpaid leave.
“It is something we are delighted to have been able to come to an agreement with,” Neville said.
“It is at this moment in time that the whole of our industry needs to show solidarity, not just for our staff in these uncertain times, but for the people who need the accommodation most in the coming months.”
He added: “Our staff will operate the hotel as normal when health workers are allowed to stay there without any cost whatsoever when they need isolation away from family members who might be affected.”
The Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell has also closed its doors to all customers, but will stay open for NHS workers in need of free overnight accommodation.
Hotels open for stranded travellers
Three hotels near Kings Cross Station are offering free stays for people stranded on the way to or from Paris via the Eurostar: The Megaro, The Gyle and The California. All are offering accommodation and hospitality without charge where required.
The Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath is still open for anyone in need of somewhere to stay on a longer-term basis, “whether that’s to be close to local family who might not have space in their own house, or for vulnerable people currently on their own who would prefer to have other people close by while they self-isolate”. The hotel is offering a 25 per cent discount across accommodation and food and drink.
General manager Ken Milton said: “We know that there are many people in the local area who are now facing weeks of isolation which they may struggle with both practically and emotionally.
“We would welcome them to join us at The Clarendon so that they can at least be closer to other people, and where we can cook, clean and care for them – with minimal, if any, physical contact – to help them through this incredibly difficult time.”
Turning vehicles into ambulances
Indie Campers, a company that hires out campervans, is offering its vehicles up as “makeshift ambulances” and food delivery trucks. It has 850 vans, many of which will be offered free of charge to aid front-line services across Europe.
“They can be turned into food distribution vehicles, patient transportation, places for medical staff to sleep and clean themselves, or even makeshift ambulances,” head of inbound marketing Miguel Fraga told The Telegraph.
“In Italy, local NGOs are using them to allow health personnel to carry out home health checks in a protected way.”
Ian Crighton, general manager of the Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne, Dorset, said the hotel is offering a discounted take away menu for the over-70s and NHS workers. The local Sherborne Chamber of Trade and Commerce is also offering free distribution of products and food to the elderly.
The Merry Harriers hotel in Godalming, Surrey, is offering a takeaway menu, with free delivery offered by villagers. There’s also free hot drinks and a 50 per cent discount on food being offered for NHS workers.
On the island of Guernsey, the Duke of Richmond hotel has launched a complimentary no-contact dinner delivery service for elderly neighbours. The hotel is delivering meals to elderly individuals who are within walking distance and is looking to extend the service to dozens of immediate neighbours who require assistance – they just need to call the hotel before 1pm and a meal will be delivered to their doorstep that evening.
Offering hand sanitiser to the vulnerable
The Cary Arms & Spa in Devon has contacted all of its regular locals and close neighbours who are in the higher risk age group to tell them they can give the hotel a call for support if they need it. It has also been in touch with Rowcroft, a local cancer hospice, offering an “endless supply of sanitiser” as the hotel has the ability to make it.