During these times of COVID-19 where social distancing and self-isolation have become a common feature of everyday life, we at York Durham Headwaters (YDH) understand that travel – luxury, business or otherwise – may not be top of mind for many people. However, you may be surprised to learn that hotels are considered essential services, and many remain open to welcome guests in these unprecedented times.
Service levels and amenities may have changed, but so has the typical traveller. Instead of group corporate bookings, and wedding and sports-related events, hotels are prioritizing accommodations for essential workers and front-line heroes who must either travel as part of their job, or who must isolate from their families and loved ones due to the nature of their work. Naturally, our hotels here in YDH, as well as around the nation, have adapted their policies and procedures to ensure that not only their guests remain safe, but that their employees remain so as well.
To watch these brave men and women continue to provide a necessary service in this time of need is admirable. But what is absolutely astounding is the ways in which they are going above and beyond for the global cause and for their local communities. Many of our hotels in YDH are finding meaningful ways to give back. Vaughan is one such community in York Region whose hotels exemplify this spirit of humanity when it is needed most.
How are our hotels contributing?
We are not exaggerating when we use the phrase “above and beyond.” Here are just a few of the ways in which our hotels in Vaughan are rising to meet the wider need:
- Special rates are being offered to front-line workers
- Sizeable donations of food and cash have been made to local food banks
- Toiletry items like shampoo and soap have been donated to local homeless shelters
- Plate covers have been donated to retirement homes to help contain the spread of illness amongst vulnerable senior citizens
- Linens have been donated to make face masks for front-line industries
- The Four Points by Sheraton Vaughan has been appointed an official Designated Isolation Site, pursuant to section 7 of the Quarantine Act.
It is the truly remarkable people that make our hotels what they are. They are members of our community, and their efforts show just how much they care about their fellow citizens. We had the opportunity to speak to Margarita Battaglia, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Vaughan-Southwest, to find out what drives our hospitality professionals to contribute in meaningful ways.
According to Margarita, the HIEX and Suites Vaughan-Southwest has always been involved in community outreach, from fundraising efforts for Jesse’s Journey (the only Canadian charity dedicated solely to funding research related to Duchenne muscular dystrophy) to participating in the Meta Foundation family walk/run. When the hotel suspended its catering services in response to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s advisory, its staff connected with the Vaughan Food Bank to donate much-needed food to economically vulnerable families. And when employees of the City of Vaughan reached out in search of materials to produce face masks, they were naturally inclined to assist here, too. “With the effort of our team members, we were able to gather and deliver materials for production of [personal protective equipment],” she says. “We were ecstatic to have been able to contribute. We continue to look for ways to give back to our community, especially during these difficult times.”
In living day to day while maintaining operations at the HIEX and Suites Vaughan-Southwest, Margarita notes that every day brings new challenges. But it also brings new opportunities. Now that the initial upheaval of adjusting to the new reality of COVID-19 has passed, the front-line workers in the hotel are adapting to their new purpose. “The brave members of our organization keep smiling while they provide the professional service you would expect, which make our hotels a safe environment to be in, and establishes a home away from home for many,” she states proudly. “We are all looking forward to what the future has to bring. After rain, there’s a rainbow. After a storm, there’s calm. After the night, there’s morning and after an end, there’s a new beginning.”
Although there will be changes to how we conduct business, travel and meet in large groups in the future, Margarita is certain that our hospitality sector will be ready. “We may have had to make changes to the way breakfast is served, distance ourselves during check-in, give you a foot-pump instead of a hand-shake, and carry on with the frequently changing way we keep our environment safe, but we did it all with you in mind,” she assures us. As a word of encouragement, she adds, “You will travel again… not to escape life, but for life not to escape you. When you do, we’ll be ready for you. #HospitalityStrong!”
A word from the Mayor
For all of our front-line workers in our hospitality industry, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua has a few words of gratitude and encouragement:
From the moment the COVID-19 issue emerged, I have been working around-the-clock with all levels of government to implement initiatives to support Vaughan citizens, property taxpayers and small business owners. As the economy slowed down, hotels in Vaughan kept their doors open. From offering discounted rates to essential front-line workers, to making generous donations to local food banks, our hotel industry has been a leader in this pandemic and has demonstrated the spirit of generosity that thrives here in Vaughan.
I want to thank all hotel owners and employees for their hard work, dedication and personal sacrifice. You have made a meaningful and positive difference during these challenging times. By continuing to work together in the spirit of collaboration and compassion, we will emerge stronger.
That, we will, Mayor Bevilacqua. That, we will!
Story by Katherine Ryalen