Photo: Flickr/The Toad
Earlier this week a Rhode Island construction worker was killed and another man remains in critical condition as the result of a lethal carbon monoxide leak at a Holiday Inn Express Hotel in West Virginia, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.Charleston authorities are still investigating how a pool heater pipe came unattached and leaked the fatal, colorless, odorless fumes into hotel rooms. The hotel’s rooms did not have carbon monoxide detectors, which are not required under West Virginia state law, according to the Daily Mail.
We emailed the press relations team at Holiday Inn’s parent company Intercontinental Hotels Group to see what kind of damage control strategy they are employing. We got this PR response:
The Holiday Inn Express South Charleston holds the safety, comfort and well-being of its guests and employees as its top priority and concern. Our thoughts and prayers are with the guests’ families and friends during this time. This franchised hotel is independently owned and operated and is cooperating fully with local authorities in their investigation. Since this is an open investigation, all further questions should be directed to the South Charleston Police Department.
So far, hotel officials have made few public comments, and they’ve been quick to remind everyone that the hotel where the incident happened is independently owned and operated. It’s an effort to distance its brand from the blame.
But Holiday Inn’s brand is still exposed. It’s the price a company pays when it allows independent owners or franchisees to use its brand — a practice common to the hotel industry. When anyone associated with it makes a mistake (especially one that’s serious enough to get someone killed), it brings the entire brand along for the ride.
Now, Holiday Inn needs to do something to ease future travellers’ fears. There are plenty of other independently owned Holiday Inns out there — how do hotel-goers know which ones are franchised and which ones aren’t, and what’s the company doing to make sure that they’re keeping up to standards?
One of the best things IHG could do would be to preempt any new laws and announce that Holiday Inn will now require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all of their hotels. Just because not all state laws require them doesn’t mean hotels should take the easy way out. At less than $50 a pop, the detectors would be a justifiable business expense.
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