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[Update] The tourism sector's show of solidarity with Ukrainians

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a military operation to invade Ukraine. Since then, dozens of solidarity actions have taken place around the world to help the Ukrainian people who are in a precarious situation.

The Ukrainian tourist board has called on professionals in the sector to protest against this war and to take restrictive measures against Russia. And it would seem that the message has been passed on, if we are to believe the numerous actions taken by the world's tourism actors in recent days.

The American group Expedia has announced that it will stop sales to and from Russia. It is no longer possible to book a stay in Russia on the platform. This is a relatively symbolic decision, as the country represents a small market share for the group. 

We are saddened by what continues to happen in Ukraine and will continue to do what we can to support affected travellers, partners and team members who have family and friends in the affected areas. 

Expedia Group said in a statement

Many other companies are now doing the same such as Booking.com, TripAdvisor, eDreams Odigeo, GetYourGuide, The Travel Corporation, G Adventures, Kensington Tours, Trafalgar, SmarTours and Intrepid Travel.

Airbnb.org, the non-profit organisation of the holiday rental giant, has decided to fund temporary accommodation for up to 100,000 people from Ukraine. To achieve this, the platform is asking Airbnb hosts to offer free or discounted temporary stays on Airbnb.org, or to make a donation to fund stays.

The two co-founders of Airbnb have even sent letters to governments across Europe. Starting with the leaders of Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania, offering Airbnb.org's support for hosting refugees on their territory. The rental platform also decided to suspend its activities in Russia and Belarus.

Now, Airbnb.org is developing several partnerships to further help refugees. The organisation has announced that it is working with HIAS, a world leader in humanitarian aid and refugee assistance, and Nova Ukraine, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to provide humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people and to raise awareness of Ukraine worldwide. In addition, there are partnerships with the International Organisation for Migration and Save the Children Sweden, which offers free temporary stays in Sweden to refugees in need. 

In France, the Centaurus Group has joined forces with AHTOP, the Association for Professional Accommodation and Tourism, and Best Western France to mobilise their forces and resources to deliver several trucks full of food and basic necessities to the Ukrainians on 7 March.

As experts in hospitality and citizens of the country of Human Rights, this operation called "We are committed to Ukraine" seemed obvious to each of us to respond to the emergency that is taking place at the Ukrainian borders and to assist these families in the face of this unacceptable situation that affects the peace and freedom that are so dear to us. 

Jean-Bernard Falco, President and Founder of the Centaurus Group 

The Presidents of the French regions also affirmed their commitment to the Ukrainians, on the one hand by coordinating the spontaneous donations that are made throughout France. On the other hand, by facilitating the reception of refugees, notably with free travel on TER and interurban transport. Finally, the Regions want to take part in the national solidarity effort as quickly as possible, as soon as the creation of a support fund by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs has been agreed. This fund will support the work of NGOs and other associations. 

The network of guest houses and holiday rentals, Gîtes de France, has relaunched its Initiatives platform to raise funds for people in need of assistance in Ukraine. 100% of the donations collected will be allocated to a charity or humanitarian organisation on the ground. 

Corsica Linea is making a ferry available to Ukrainian refugees, a measure supported by the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Renaud Muselier. The operation began on 29 March, and each ferry can accommodate up to 1,600 people. Subsequently, local authorities and employers will join in this project to find schooling, training and employment solutions for the refugees.

Greek actors are also keen to contribute, such as the Sani/Ikos Group, which is offering 300 Ukrainians jobs and free accommodation under the same conditions and wages as local employees. The Greek Minister of Tourism has already welcomed the initiative. And the European Union authorities have announced that they will set up a quick and easy process that will bypass the usual bureaucracy of refugees. Many Greek hotel operators are also announcing that they are making their properties available to accommodate Ukrainian refugees in need.

Germany joins this vast solidarity movement. The Deutsche Bahn railway company offers tickets to refugees to enable them to travel free of charge across the country and the government provides accommodation for refugees in public properties. The amusement park EuropaPark is also mobilising to welcome Ukrainian refugees and the Colosseo hotel is currently housing 70 refugees. They will of course be able to use the park's facilities to "have a good time together" with their families.

Marriott group shares in a press release its feelings regarding this worrying situation and shows a deep solidarity towards the Ukrainian people who are going through a trying time: 

We are deeply concerned to see the humanitarian crisis impacting the people of Ukraine and neighbouring countries and our teams are mobilising to help those in need. Supporting the communities in which we operate has always been part of Marriott International’s culture and the company has a long history of working with numerous international organizations in support of refugees and displaced peoples globally. We are currently working with charitable organizations on the ground focused on providing meals, healthcare and safe water, with a number of hotels also providing accommodation and supplies to refugees fleeing their homes. The safety and security of our associates and guests in the region also remains a top priority. We deplore the suffering and loss of life in the region and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution.

Marriott is also inviting members of its Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programme to donate points to support UNICEF and World Central Kitchen, which are assisting those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. The group is committed to doubling the donations afterwards. One month on, Marriott is still lamenting the situation in Ukraine and also providing an update on donations received. To date, more than 46 million Marriott Bonvoy points have been donated and the group's hotels and associates have collected more than $1.7 million in cash and in-kind donations. Also, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has donated a large amount of money to the Marriott Foundation. Marriott Foundation donated $1 million to support associates and organizations on the ground, including UNICEF, World Central Kitchen and the International Rescue Committee. 

Accor also condemns this conflict and announces that it is already welcoming refugees in its hotels, notably in Poland, Romania, Hungary and France. The Group is mobilising the ALL Heartist fund to support its employees and their families. The Accor Heartist Solidarity fund is also open to donations from employees, which will then be matched by the group. 

Hyatt also commented in a statement:

For the time being, we are focused on the safety and well-being of our employees and customers in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, who are facing these unacceptable challenges. The Hyatt family has come together, including through a rapidly growing relief fund, to provide resources to our colleagues in the region who are in urgent need of basic necessities, relocation and care. We are inspired by their stories of courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

Hyatt Group has also decided to suspend its development and investment plans in Russia. As the situation evolves, it will evaluate its existing management agreements with third-party entities that own Hyatt hotels in Russia, while complying with applicable sanctions and U.S. government guidelines. More than a month after the war began, Hyatt says it is still devastated by the situation but is trying to provide all possible assistance to the refugees and its Ukrainian employees. In addition, World of Hyatt members have the opportunity to support the relief efforts of the World Red Cross by donating their World of Hyatt points.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts also shows its support for the Ukrainian people through various actions. In particular, it is committed to the Save the Children association, by donating $100,000 and one million Wyndham Rewards points. The group also created a Wyndham Rewards points donation programme for the Save the Children's Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, open to its 92 million members as well as franchisees and employees. Wyndham is also donating profits from its business operations in Russia and is implementing a donation campaign in which franchisees and employees can take part by sending much-needed hygiene products to those in need.

IHG is as committed as any of the world's major hotel groups and states in a press release dated 8 April :

We continue to be deeply saddened by the humanitarian crisis as a result of the war in Ukraine. We have previously announced the suspension of future investments, development activity and new hotel openings in Russia. We do not intend to resume any investment or development activity in the foreseeable future. We also closed our corporate office in Moscow while continuing to support our colleagues. These steps followed significant donations to our humanitarian charity partners and a commitment to work with hotel owners in other countries to shelter refugees. 

The Big Mamma Group is supporting the #CookforUkraine movement by selling a specially developed recipe in its London properties that highlights Ukrainian cuisine. All proceeds from the dish will go towards #CookForUkraine's fundraising for UNICEF, which assists children and families in Ukraine.

Tourism industry professionals such as Beachcomber Tours and Go Cruise & Travel have decided to book accommodation on Airbnb in Kiev so that locals can benefit from income via the platform. This is another way of showing their solidarity with the capital's inhabitants. Upon request, the founders of Airbnb decided to waive guest and host fees for bookings in Ukraine. 

Hospitality-Helps.org was created on the initiative of several hospitality specialists to assist people who had to leave Ukraine and are now seeking shelter. Dozens of families have already found shelter thanks to this initiative, and hundreds more are expected to be housed in the coming days. According to the UN, more than 600,000 people have fled the country since the conflict began. 

The Confederation of Tourism Actors has also taken a position in this conflict through a letter addressed to the Ukrainian Ambassador. Through this letter, they "strongly condemn the attack suffered" by Ukraine and wish to express their support to the country as well as to all citizens and the Government. In particular, they hope that "the Ukrainian people will be spared this armed conflict" and are ready to listen to the Ambassador "for any action towards the actors and professionals of tourism" in Ukraine. They also recall that "tourism is a vector of economic and social development, tourism is the meeting of all peoples, tourism is always combined with peace".

On Tuesday 8 March 2022 an emergency session of the UNWTO Executive Council will be held. Following the request by Guatemala, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Ukraine to suspend the Russian Federation from the organisation. This is an unprecedented request. But it seems logical since Article 3 of the UNWTO statutes states that the fundamental principles of the organisation are "the promotion and development of tourism with a view to contributing to economic development, international understanding, peace, prosperity and universal respect for and observance of human rights". However, as the organisation has already recognised, this invasion constitutes "a clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine".

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