HOTEL CRASH



The Inside Scoop on How the Hospitality Industry is Surviving

by Silah Saigol

The wrath of COVID-19 took many by surprise, as it spread like wildfire overnight. Lives have been lost, loved ones have been separated and pockets have been emptied. Among the largest hit industries were travel, tourism and hospitality. Summer and spring break hotspots were ghost towns this year. Hotels and airports, once full of life, barely saw a soul.

“COVID-19 brought with it travel bans, hotel closures and closed borders in order to prevent the further spread of what is already a global pandemic,” Kawas Aga (SHA ’22) said. “People don’t feel safe traveling and living in communal spaces like hotels, where they would have to be in contact with others who could be potential carriers of the virus. What did this mean for the hospitality industry? A serious economic crisis that many hotels did not make it out of; and the ones who did are barely surviving.”

He also said that hotels are having to go through a series of protocols. This includes travel questionnaires, mask use, temperature checks and social distancing, to name a few. He believes that is their biggest challenge as well, given they have had to develop and implement never seen before strategies and techniques while trying to maintain budget.

One of many luxury hotels and residences is the Ritz-Carlton Boston. While the residences remain open, the hotel was forced to shut down until 2021, and is losing millions of dollars every day.

Nancy Scholz, Director of Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Residences, North Tower, said that a series of operational changes were deployed in the residence building to protect the health and safety of the community and staff. These changes mirrored recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Taskforce.

“Some of the changes we implemented were minor, such as elimination of communal distribution of coffee, fruit and water,” Scholz said. “We also created a ‘touchless’ lobby experience and moved all incoming packages to a ‘door drop’ program to eliminate traffic in the lobby. When the City of Boston implemented a curfew, we prohibited guests after hours. On a more impactful level, we reduced the size of the on-site workforce in accordance with the governors’ recommendations.”

“The biggest impact is likely the cleanliness plan. As a branded residence, we are fortunate to have the expertise and guidance of Marriott International behind our operation,” said Scholz. “Marriott determined early on that electrostatic spraying would be a factor in protecting the health and welfare of the residents and staff. Accordingly, we have armed our full-time cleaners with EPA approved products to combat the presence of the virus.”

On a more exciting note, the residence has switched to virtual meetings to keep the community engaged in safe socializing. The most popular event is the Zoom Mixology featuring Nancy’s co-worker, Michael Haynes, who is a tips-certified bartender. Residents who RSVP come together virtually to enjoy a presentation on the history of the spirit and “a few bad jokes.”

Scholz said that the resident community has been very understanding and appreciative of the efforts and changes made to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She feels like the community has given their full support and is adapting well. She noted that several residents have commented on the formal operations, cleanliness and social strategies of the Ritz-Carlton Boston North Tower.

The future state of the hospitality industry remains unclear because of the uncertainty the pandemic brings. However, some hotels and residences are doing their best to prevent the virus from entering their communities while still providing safe opportunities for social engagement. The Ritz-Carlton Residences Boston has been a great example of that.

“As the City of Boston goes into the cold and flu season, keeping the fight against COVID-19, a top focus is going to be critical in helping the community navigate through to the other side of the pandemic,” Scholz said.