Owners Scramble to Make NYC Hotels Safe During COVID-19

Hotel owners are working to answer existential questions, like how to make their public spaces safe? How to serve guests without coming into close contact with them? Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By : Hadassa Kalatizadeh

While the Coronavirus has impacted every industry, perhaps the hardest hit in New York City is the hospitality industry.  With tourism and traveling virtually non-existent, hotels are counting on locals and staycations to bring in some business.  Many hotels have not yet decided if it will be worth reopening their doors.  The problems of social distancing and increased cleaning protocols for public spaces still present obstacles.  As reported by Crain’s NY, hotel owners are working to answer existential questions, like how to make their public spaces safe?  How to serve guests without coming into close contact with them?  The hardest question of all for now is, does the city need so many hotels with tourism at historical lows?  The Big Apple already has close to 123,000 hotel rooms.  More hotels are in construction, with 25 additional hotels expected for next year, and another eight set to open in 2022-23   “Many discussions are going on,” said Vijay Dandapani, chief executive of the Hotel Association of New York City.

Hotel owners are working on necessary changes to enhance safety.  David Orowitz’s new 46-floor mixed-use hotel, rising above West 47th Street, boasts 75,000 square feet of retail space on eight floors, and an elevated 4,000 square foot outdoor Theatre.  Located on Broadway and Seventh Avenue, the TSX Broadway tower, is under construction at the former sight of the Double Tree Hilton hotel and the landmark Palace Theatre.   The outer facade will feature an 18,000-square-foot LED advertisement sign, and the 669 hotel rooms will feature floor to ceiling glass windows with views overlooking Times Square.  The $2.5 billion tower, which is set to open in early 2022, is already working to implement changes to make the tower safer.  “Obviously we’re evaluating things,” said Orowitz.  Ventilation systems may be altered to improve air flow. Windows may be reconfigured so they can be opened.  Guests probably won’t use keys to enter their rooms, but rather an app for touchless entry.  The hotel is lucky to have time on their side and be able to make alterations to the building now for optimal results when they open.

If the pandemic’s grip does not let up soon, however, some say there is a possibility that some underpreforming hotels will be converted for other uses, such as apartments to meet the city’s housing needs.  Hotel owners, however, may not be very keen to convert into apartments with rent payments currently in mayhem.  “If your rental income is sliding, why convert to another use that’s not working well?” Dandapani said.  Office buildings may be another option, but middle class jobs in the hospitality industry would take a big loss.  The hotel workers union said that 95 percent of its 40,000 members were laid off when the city was shuttered for COVID-19 concerns.