Hotels marketing rooms as office spaces to survive coronavirus pandemic

Several hotels throughout the country are marketing their rooms as office spaces as they attempt to find creative ways to tackle low occupancy rates amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, the NoMo SoHo hotel launched YourPlace, offering rooms for day-use private workspaces while awaiting the return of tourism to New York City. Prices through August can range from $89 to $119 for a four-hour block. Perks include high-speed Wi-Fi, complimentary snacks, and access to a fitness center and the hotel’s outdoor terraces.

“We decided that the demand is going to be there, the demand for places where you can work silently [and] basically practice social distancing outside of your place,” said Amir Richulsky, the CEO of Sapir Corp., the company that owns the hotel.

Leah Nebett utilized one of the rooms after struggling with working in a one-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend.

“It was a way for me to, like, get out of Astoria for the day and, like, do my work in a space on my own,” said Nebett.

NoMo SoHo isn’t alone. The Best Western Plus White Bear Country Inn outside of Minneapolis has a similar program. For $59, guests can book rooms from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That option, combined with other offers that the hotel has launched, has helped increase its occupancy rate to about 60 percent. The number is still lower than what it would be during a normal summer season, but it is an improvement from March and April, when they would only have a maximum of five rooms booked.

“It’s just exposure. People go hey, I just had to get work done. It’s all different things,” said Bill Foussard, owner of the White Bear Country Inn.

Bento Living in Nashville has a different option for those craving to take a break from working from home. It offers flexible stay options, whether it be for a night or a month, with special packages for essential workers through a program called “Living in Gratitude.”

The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn went a step further, partnering with workplace provider Industrious to transform 14 rooms on its second floor into offices. Prices range from $200 to $275 depending on how many people use the space.

“We realized pretty quickly that all of our business was going to be local and that lots of people have been working from home under difficult circumstances. And so having some rooms in the hotel without any beds, with desks, seemed like an idea worth pursuing,” said Peter Lawrence, the Wythe’s principal owner.

The coronavirus has delivered what some experts say is the worst hit the hotel industry has ever seen. Figures from the American Hotel and Lodging Association show hotels have already lost more than $46 billion in room revenue since the public health crisis began in mid-February. AHLA predicts the hotels are “currently on pace to lose up to $400 million in room revenue per day based on current occupancy rates and revenue trends,” forcing companies to adapt.

While the concept of using hotel rooms for day use is not new, Jamie Hodari, the co-founder and CEO of Industrious, says the growing popularity of temporary private offices could lead to a long-term shift in the industry.

“If we’re moving toward something more like the Uber model, where people are utilizing a network of spaces some of the time, hotels are really well set up for that,” said Hodari.


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