Extended Stay America Takes the Gold on Corporate Social Responsibility

By Tom Seddon Chief Marketing Officer, Extended Stay America | August 28, 2016

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important part of Extended Stay America® hotels' DNA, and for many years, the company has supported a variety of different causes. But about three years ago, we decided that we really wanted to focus our charitable efforts on one, singular cause and make a tangible difference. To ensure buy-in company wide, we turned to our employees and inquired what cause they would like to see ESA get behind? The American Cancer Society rose to the top as the resounding winner, as cancer unfortunately touches the lives of millions of people each year. With the encouragement of our front line-the brand's more than 8,500 employees, who essentially paved the way for Extended Stay America's efforts in the fight against cancer, we met with the American Cancer to learn about how we could help.

As a hospitality company in the business of taking care of people who are building a better life for themselves and their family, initially we were uncertain of how we, could help save the lives of those fighting cancer. But what we found out was that with an estimated 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with some type of cancer every year, and of those, thousands will have to travel away from home for potentially lifesaving treatment. Upon learning that the cost of lodging is among the greatest barriers keeping cancer patients from receiving treatment, as health insurance seldom covers the hundreds of added lodging costs associated with traveling away from home for treatment – it became clear that as the largest owner operated hotel chain in the country, Extended Stay America could fill a massive need in the fight against cancer.

Extended Stay America manages 629 hotels with properties in every major market, many of which are located near top medical centers, like MD Anderson in Houston and Dana-Farber in Boston, some of the best and most sought after facilities in the country. With the majority of guests staying an average of 24 nights, our hotels are specifically designed to bring the comforts and conveniences of home. All of our more than 69,000 rooms are complete with fully equipped kitchens, all with full sized refrigerators, allowing patients to store and prepare the foods they enjoy or need for a specific diet, which is important during treatment. Guests have candidly shared their incredible stories of having to journey hours away from home for treatments and endure things like five-hour long chemotherapy sessions every day for multiple weeks at a time or clinical trials that pull them away from their usual comforts each month. Away from familiar faces, Extended Stay America's free wi-fi access allows patients to stay connected with loved ones while away from home. Being a pet-friendly hotel also gives guests the option of having their beloved pets with them for the healing comfort of companionship.

Since we own and operate all of our hotels, we aren't challenged with any operational barriers that other hotels might experience when implementing a program of this scope and scale. There is no red tape to work through, we just make the decision to do, and we do it. The realization that what we do best is exactly what the American Cancer Society needed –that was a magical moment for us.

Hope is defined as "a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen," and in 2012, Extended Stay America officially partnered with the America Cancer Society to launch an exclusive donation program that would impact real people, when they needed it most and provide a sense of hope against the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Leveraging our most valuable asset- comfortable hotel rooms with an essence of home, we developed our flagship hotel room donation program, Hotel Keys of Hope℠.

In the first year, the brand donated 10,000 free hotel rooms and another 10,000 rooms at $12 dollars a night. With the addition of nearly 10,000 incremental room nights during the initial two years, Extended Stay America donated more than 50,000 hotel rooms to over 8,000 cancer patients who would otherwise face financial hardships or not have access to necessary treatment away from home. Additionally, the partnership extends a hand to help alleviate the demand on the 31 American Cancer Society Hope Lodge facilities, which often run at capacity – ultimately meeting the lodging needs of many more patients.

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