An Orem family is doing its part to help essential personnel working to ensure residents still have food on the table.
Riley Sorensen, who owns a number of businesses in Utah County, began working to take over the possession of the Lava Hotel in December, formerly the Home Hotel in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The Sorensen family fought to close the deal quickly and begin operations as soon as possible. Then, the World Health Organization announced the pandemic.
Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country was announced, health officials have cautioned people against non-essential travel. In some cases, like in school districts and select states, non-essential travel has been completely prohibited.
Airlines, hotels and other tourism-centered businesses are taking a hit due to the travel bans and recommendations. Despite its uphill battle, the hotel is opening its doors and its beds to offer free stays to truck drivers.
“We still have beds available and our staff still wants to work,” Sorensen said. “We just feel as a family that’s what we can do to pitch in, to come together as Americans and help our truck drivers who are working endless nights, truck driving for days and days on end. Our plan of action is to help that industry out as much as we can.”
The family decided to take the leap and do what it could after seeing how the pandemic was affecting friends in the trucking industry. A number of services truck drivers use daily have been limited or completely shut down in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
To scale down the risk of infection, health officials throughout the nation, including in the state of Utah, have prohibited dine-in restaurant operations, and truck drivers can’t use the drive-thru in their semi-trucks or on foot. Truck stops have also limited their hours or completely closed, often leaving drivers to fend for themselves.
Even warehouses have slimmed down the number of employees to limit the risk of developing COVID-19, causing a back-up of truck drivers who are unable to drop off their trailers full of goods, holding up the next delivery and even their paychecks.
Sorensen said, as a nation, citizens will pull together to get through the pandemic, but this cannot be done without the personal sacrifices truck drivers are making every moment. As long as truck drivers are working, the American people will have food and whatever other supplies they might need, he said.
The hotel also has partnered with the city government to allow truck drivers to park their vehicles on a parking lot owned by the city.
“We can accommodate them,” Sorensen said. “We want to be able to help keep them moving and make things as comfortable as possible for them.”
The offer does not only impact the truck drivers who are able to clean themselves up and sleep on a nice bed for the night, however. The hotel’s employees, who might have gone without a paycheck due to a dip in customers or a complete closure, are still able to work.
“We’re just hoping this passes soon so we can afford to keep everything in operation,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen said while the offer will cause a decrease in revenue, the family is expecting to make up the loss in the future, specifically in the summer months, when he hopes the current situation has blown over.
Truck drivers whose routes are expected to go through Lava Hot Springs can call the hotel’s front desk at (208) 776-5800. Staff members have been trained to collect what information they need, secure the reservation and get the rooms ready at a moment’s notice.