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Fee waivers, virtual art shows and online cooking lessons
In an undated handout photo, Silvia Grossi, the executive chef at Il Salviatino, in Fiesole, near Florence, Italy, who has taken to social media to host cooking lessons. Some in the travel industry are stepping up with offers for everything from online yoga classes to storage space for displaced students. Il Salviatino via The New York Times.

by Charu Suri


NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- With flights canceled around the world, and bars and restaurants shutting down as efforts to control coronavirus cases accelerate, some hotels, cultural institutions and car rental companies are extending a helping hand with efforts that range from community outreach to fee waivers. Others, including museums, are coming up with virtual offerings.

Fee waivers from Enterprise
Enterprise car rental is waiving fees for prepaid rentals and is dropping fees if customers need to drive cars and drop them off at a different location from the pickup point. “If your doctor says you can’t fly home at this time, and you need to drive the car back to Michigan, the dropoff fees will be waived,” a customer service representative said.

Online yoga
The holistic-minded Soul Community Planet’s 49-room in Redmond, Oregon, typically offers weekly yoga and meditation classes in partnership with Namaspa Yoga & Massage; these have transitioned online through the Zoom app or Facebook Live and are posted on the hotel’s Facebook timeline for everyone to use.

“A lot of our community members have formed great relationships with the instructors, and since it’s currently socially irresponsible to gather in groups right now, they get to interact with the instructors they know, online,” said the chief executive, Ken Cruse.

Virtual exhibitions
Many cultural institutions, including museums, are delivering their collections to armchair travelers.

The digital platform Google Arts & Culture has partnered with more than 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Exhibitions feature works like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Terrace of a Café at Night,” from the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands, to modern art collections from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan.

Irvin Lippman, executive director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida, has started a series of free online programs for children called “Keep Kids Smart with Art” to help families who can’t travel but want to foster creativity at home. “We are still developing these digital programs for all ages, not only for children but also for seniors,” Lippman said. The museum and art school, which opened in 1950, normally has more than 100,000 annual visitors.

30-day storage for students
Moving and storage company U-Haul, which has 22,000 truck and trailer locations, is offering 30 days of free storage to students who have been displaced.

Jeremy Collins, a U-Haul representative, said that “for serious conditions in the world, we’ve typically offered people a free month of storage.” (Storage rates for a 5-by-10-foot unit typically start at $99.95 a month).

Virtual karaoke, bingo and trivia
The 6-year-old Hotel Gaythering in Miami Beach has taken its weekly karaoke, bingo and trivia nights online.

Drag queen Karla Croqueta hosted a virtual karaoke night on Instagram on March 16 that drew 485 viewers. “We sang Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ and Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Shoop’ and we could have kept going,” co-owner Alex Guerra said. Virtual trivia nights are Wednesdays at 8, and bingo nights are Thursdays at 9 on the property’s social media channels.

Virtual travel stories for children

“When kids are stuck at home, they can still travel the world through storybooks,” said author Sucheta Rawal, who has written five “Beato Goes To” books, in which the main character, an explorer cat, visits places from Greenland to Japan.

Children around the world are invited to join 30-minute live session to “meet” the author and listen to a book reading on her Facebook page.

Culinary lessons and wine tastings
Silvia Grossi, executive chef of the 44-room villa Il Salviatino, in Fiesole, near Florence, Italy, has taken to social media to host cooking lessons from her kitchen.

She said that these are “easy recipes that can be created with ingredients most people already have in their homes — flour, spices, canned foods and eggs, for example.” Her Instagram stories are conducted in Italian and have had an “uplifting response,” she said. “It’s incredible how connected we are, even when apart.”

She kicked off her lessons with a homemade whole grain pici pasta (a thick, hand-rolled pasta), garnished with spring onions, spices and bergamot.

Wine educator Caroline Conner, who works with tourists in Lyon, France, is hosting free virtual wine tastings that meet through the Zoom app, for six people at a time. “I’ll talk them through how to write a tasting note, we’ll compare our wines and hopefully have a fun, distracting and social experience,” she said. Participants can sign up and see the schedule at the Lyon Wine Tastings site.

Shopping and pharmacy runs
The 85-room Hari hotel in Belgravia, London, is supporting its neighborhood by lending a hand to those in need in the form of grocery and general shopping services, collecting supplies from the pharmacy and even being on hand for a friendly phone call.

“Hotels have a kind of responsibility to provide their community with what they really need,” said general manager Andrew Coney, adding that the property has started working with local suppliers and has helped 40 to 50 households in just a few days. “The response has been phenomenal.” If you live in London, send @theharilondon a direct message through Instagram or email info@thehari.com for any assistance.

© 2020 The New York Times Company






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