TravelStore processed 650,000 hotel reservations providing shelter for frontline workers and released inmates

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Skift take

This high number of hotel bookings is a testament to the work the State of California is doing through its healthcare worker program, but also reveals the scale of the battle it faces.

Matthew Parsons, Skift

California hotels still play a major role in the ongoing fight to contain the spread of the pandemic, but more needs to be done.

The state-designated business travel agency Travelstore has seen no slack in the management of frontline worker accommodation since Skift spoke to its senior vice president in April.

As the virus began to spread in the United States, Travelstore’s team of 215 staff and another of its 100 independent consultants first worked on the safe housing of medical staff and caregivers.

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But his clients now include thousands of inmates, who must be quarantined after early releases from infected prisons. Agricultural workers are also booked into hotels to reduce their exposure to Covid-19.

More than 5 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 160,000 have died. California, with more than 600,000 confirmed cases, topped New York as the highest number in the country.

“A lot has changed since April. The program has grown significantly, ”Trudy Flores, senior vice president of TravelStore, general manager for Northern California, told Skift.

The agency originally worked with hotels in 21 counties, but it has since spread to 58 counties. In the past four months alone, he has booked 650,000 room nights at the 2,000 hotels that make up the Healthcare Worker Program, which equates to an expense of $ 70 million, all paid for by the State of California. .

“It’s more than usual for hotels alone. If we booked the plane, the car and the hotel with it, that number is not that impressive, ”said Flores.

Virtual progression

One of the requirements for hotels to join the program was to accept virtual payments.

In the past, Flores has said that many properties have objected to accepting this type of payment.

“They want us to fill out this manual form and send it…. you’ve always had the difficulty of knowing who’s at the reception desk, and do they know if that little piece of paper that says it’s prepaid really means it’s prepaid, ”Flores said. “We have made tremendous progress with this program. If a hotel wants a portion of the revenue from a reservation from all healthcare workers, it must accept virtual payments. “

Trudy Flores, Senior Vice President of TravelStore, General Manager for Northern California.

Their acceptance is important because it means that emergency workers do not pay for housing out of their own pocket and then wait for the state to reimburse them. “And it’s quite an accounting nightmare anyway,” Flores added.

It also pays tribute to the work accomplished by the travel department of the General Services Department, and in particular Bill Amaral, responsible for business partnerships and travel.

“They are very progressive,” said Flores. “When it comes to travel, they want the state to be run like a private business.”

For his own business, it’s business as usual. The agency made six layoffs, while seven employees took early departure measures. The remaining staff continue to focus on an ever-expanding healthcare agenda, playing their part in a battle no one would have dared imagine going on for so long.

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