According to an I.R.C. spokesman, Welcome Home is focused on New York and Northern California because they’re areas that see a high number of refugee arrivals, compared with other places in the United States.
This isn’t the first time that TripAdvisor has teamed with the I.R.C.: the company initially got involved in the refugee crisis in 2015 by sending an email plea to its more than 100 million members for donations to help refugees and offering to match these contributions — in 48 hours, the initiative raised $1.4 million for the I.R.C. as well as for the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. In 2016, the company committed $5 million to the crisis, and a large portion of these funds went to the I.R.C.
While Welcome Home is a commendable program, said Dr. Bjorn Hanson, an adjunct professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality at New York University, it’s also one that’s a creative marketing campaign for TripAdvisor. “The company is part of a very crowded market of online travel agencies, and making a push to get the message out there that it’s aiding refugees is a way for it to stand out more to the general public,” he said.
Whether it’s a good marketing tool or not, Dr. Rummy Pandit, the executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University in New Jersey, said that TripAdvisor’s tours are valuable. “Helping refugees resettle with jobs and by teaching them the local language is critical, but it’s also important for them to feel comfortable in their new surroundings,” he said. “Sightseeing tours are one way to do that.”
TripAdvisor is among a handful of large hospitality brands to support refugees.
Marriott International, for one, began supporting the I.R.C.’s Hospitality Link program in 2016 initially as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which Marriott later acquired that year. Hospitality Link is an eight-week program in various cities that trains resettled refugees in hospitality skills and helps them find careers in the field. Marriott International supports Hospitality Link in San Diego and Dallas, and in 2018, helped expand it to Elizabeth, N.J. Part of the training involves refugees shadowing existing employees in the company’s hotels, said Melissa Flood, Marriott’s vice president for social impact and public affairs.
Since the collaboration began, around 650 refugees have enrolled in the Marriott-supported programs, with nearly 100 now employed at various companies, including some of Marriott International’s hotels, Ms. Flood said.
Internationally, the Munich-based Motel One, a budget design chain with 65 hotels in Europe, launched an integration project in 2016 in Munich where refugees receive a six-month work placement and have the option to do a two-year apprenticeship with the company. They also get state-subsidized language courses, a mentor from Motel One and workshops to strengthen intercultural skills. In 2017, Motel One expanded this program to include Berlin.