Travelodge Saskatoon helps bus crash victims’ families

SASKATOON,
Sask. — On Friday, April 6, the world’s attention turned to to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy in rural Saskatchewan. The response was immediate and overwhelming. 
At
press time, a GoFundMe
campaign
for the victims and their families stood at almost $12 million – one of the largest campaigns ever. On April 12, Jersey Day was a huge success. 

The hospitality community were among those who reacted with compassion and kindness. Canalta Hotels offered free
accommodation for any family member associated with the crash at four of its
properties from the #CanaltaCares team in Melfort, Humbolt, Tisdale and Martinsville, Sask.

The
survivors were airlifted to hospital in Saskatoon, and families of the
victims ended up at the Travelodge Saskatoon. Here is an account of what transpired from Jaret Waddell, chief operating officer for Airline Hotels, which owns the hotel.

By Jaret Waddell

Jaret Waddell, COO, Airline Hotels.

Jaret Waddell, COO, Airline Hotels.

On Friday evening April 6, 2018 at 9:50 p.m., the Travelodge Hotel Saskatoon created a Facebook post and tweeted, “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Humboldt Broncos. Families if you need accommodation in Saskatoon during this very difficult time we would like to open our doors to you at no cost.  Please contact the hotel directly at (306) 242-8881 or private message us for assistance.”

Within minutes of the post, calls starting coming in from families affected.  By the end of the evening Friday, the Travelodge Saskatoon had 12 rooms checked in. A letter was prepared to greet all of the guests and distributed to the front desk prior to any affected guest's arrival.

Coaching with all associates was provided on dos and don’ts of conversation with grieving guests.  This was important to prepare associates for how to best handle conversations that would be very difficult as guests arrived.

The hotel staff set up a meeting room that all of the affected guests could gather in to be together. This meeting room has been provided daily since the event.

The hotel declined all requests for media, including turning media away as this situation was private for the guests involved.

On Saturday morning, the team called Mobile Crisis and asked for their support.  They attended for 12 hours to provide direct support to those families on site that were affected by the accident.

Throughout the course of the next 72 hours, we were approached by many other companies offering to provide free products and services directly to the guests affected.  We did not allow them to interface directly with the guests.  The offers were very kind and generous but we didn’t want to overwhelm the guests, even if it was with generosity.  Many companies did provide free products and services and we made them available in the meeting room which was theirs to gather and be together in.

The maximum number of rooms per night has been 16.  The average has been 12.  After Tuesday it was six.  It is now down to four.

This horrible tragedy is not about us.  It is about the lives lost in this tragedy, it is about the lives affected.  It is about our friends and family in Canada and in the hockey community. 

The team of our caring associates at the Travelodge are amazing.  Without them, this response wouldn’t have occurred.  We would have had limited outreach and lost the ability to make a difference.  The Travelodge team responded with urgency, care and consideration.  They are amazing people and I learn a little bit about hospitality every day from them.

Out of the darkness and the sadness of this tragedy, we take comfort in seeing people care for other people — in building relationships that will last a lifetime.  The Travelodge has been a part of our community for so long.  We have been the home of hockey in Saskatoon for so long.  To have a chance to give back like this was natural.