It works for hotels of all shapes and sizes: Adam Terpening, Room to Reward

Director of Room to Reward, Adam Terpening talks to BHN about his work at Room to Reward, that donates empty hotel rooms to charity volunteers. 

  • What inspired you to set up Room to Reward?

I wish I could take credit for the idea! I was fortunate to enjoy a long career in hospitality, meeting and working with many inspirational people.

I worked for Harbour Hotels for many years and, when I came to retire, Nicolas Roach – chairman of the group – came to me with this inspired initiative, asking hotels to treat an unsold room as a wasted asset and put some value on it by donating to someone deserving.

The whole idea behind Room to Reward came from Nicolas and it has been my privilege to set it up and be director of the charity.

We all know a ‘Hidden Hero’ – someone who gives up their time to truly make a difference to the lives of people in need. Over 500 inspirational individuals have been nominated to Room to Reward since we started. The hospitality industry has pledged more than £365,000 worth of breaks, at virtually no cost.

I believe it is the first time the industry has successfully put a currency on an unsold room. It is also a fantastic mechanism to utilise wasted assets for good. It’s a win for the hotels, a win for charities and, most importantly, a win for Hidden Heroes.

  • How do you choose your Hidden Heroes?

We ask our charity partners to nominate their Hidden Heroes. After all, they are best placed to judge which volunteers have the biggest impact and really make a difference.

Each charity has a set amount of nominations per year, the number of which depends on the charity’s size and income.

We ask our charity partners to submit a detailed and compelling nomination statement, demonstrating why their chosen nominee qualifies as a Hidden Hero. The statement can include information on their volunteer role, their length of service, examples of times they have gone above and beyond and anything else that shows their commitment and impact.

At least once a week, we sit together as a team of four and read through the nominations. To protect the integrity of the scheme, we require unanimous agreement before approving a nomination. The stories we read are emotional, inspiring and humbling. Often there isn’t a dry eye in the house by the time we’ve finished!

As well as taking nominations over the course of the year, we also partner with charities for their existing volunteer awards. This has been a great way for charities to utilise their nominations and the R2R scheme, whilst for us it’s easy to approve award-wining nominations! Recently, we have been part of the awards for Action for Children, Emmaus UK, National Autistic Society and St. John Ambulance.

  • Your first mission is to reach £1 million worth of donated stays. How close are you to achieving this?

As a charity, we have a few key performance indicators.

The first is the value of donated breaks. Each time an R2R break is completed, we replicate the booking to see how much it would ordinarily have cost. At the moment, our current total of donated breaks is more than £175,000.

Next, we have the value of donated breaks in progress. This is where the nomination has been submitted and approved and the Hidden Hero is in the process of choosing their hotel. Currently this number is approximately £70,000.

Finally, we have the value of pledged breaks. This is the estimated value of unsold rooms donated to Room to Reward by all our hotel partners. Today, that number is approximately £365,000.

Ahead of their break, we share a bit of information about the Hidden Hero with their chosen hotel. Often, our hotel partners are so taken back and moved by their stories and how much these volunteers do, they go the extra mile and include things like dinner and spa treatments.

We have also seen the R2R principle expand beyond hotels. Museums, golf clubs, ferries and restaurants have become involved and enhanced breaks with extra support.

  • Who are your hotel partners and how do you encourage them to join Room to Reward?

We are extremely grateful for the way the hospitality industry has taken R2R to its heart. We have over 330 hotel partners and this is growing by the day.

R2R is an initiative that works for hotels of all shapes and sizes. For example, we partner with major groups such as Jury’s Inn, Bespoke Hotels, Iconic Luxury Hotels and the Splendid Hospitality Group, world famous properties like The Dorchester, The Four Seasons and Rosewood London and small independent B&B’s.

Regardless of the nature of the hotel, the principle of making use of an unsold room is the same. The value of an R2R break to the Hidden Heroes and a demonstration of the difference they can make is usually all the encouragement hotels need to get involved.

We are also fortunate to enjoy tremendous support from the industry. We are an official charity partner of the Institute of Hospitality – Robin Sheppard and Peter Ducker are two of our Ambassadors – and were the featured charity at the 2018 AA Hospitality Awards, whose MD, Simon Numphud, is also an Ambassador.

We have received further generous support from The Master Innholders, HOSPA, the Independent Hotel Show and the Food and Beverage Managers Association. We are hugely grateful for all the wonderful support we get and it really does make a difference.

  • What are your plans for the future of Room to Reward?

Our future is simple – more. More hotels, more charities and more Hidden Heroes. Our target of £1million worth of donated stays sounds like a lot, but in reality it requires less than 1% of the annual number of unsold rooms.

If everyone donates a little, together we can give a lot. We are asking for small, simple donations to make a really big, valuable difference to those who truly deserve our thanks.

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