The Intercontinental Times Square is at a crossroads. Literally, it is at one of the country’s most storied intersections, but figuratively, its pivot from refuge for first responders to a remote workspace for displaced corporate executives defines the COVID-19 era for hotels and what they must do to survive and thrive.
“Hotel managers are trained in the skill of crisis management,” the hotel’s general manager Gul Turkmenoglu told Business Traveler. “You need to be agile and resilient. The most important thing is how can you change your operation within 24 hours to adjust to a new situation.”
Turkmenoglu and the senior staff of the Intercontinental Times Square had made the decision in the thick of New York City’s rising pandemic numbers to close to the general public and to offer their rooms to local first responders. “Those health care workers and other first responders were amazing,” Turkmenoglu recalls. “Their energy was phenomenal, and they will remain in our hearts and minds.”
The hotel said goodbye to the last of the itinerant first responders at the end of the summer and knew they had to make some quick decisions about how to fill the hotel which was then not yet open to the public. “We set 20 percent of our rooms aside as office space,” Turkmenoglu says. “We put the rooms together based on client’s needs and can add in laptops, scanners, desks – whatever is needed. All the rooms have a strong WiFi system and also capable of video streaming.
Response was quick and positive. “We had a company coming in August that will stay with us until the end of November,” Turmenoglu says. “They are taking over almost our entire meeting room spaces.”
Rooms are not time restricted and can be booked for 24 hours or more. “It’s a good business model,” says the general manager. “A company doesn’t want to pay a million dollars for real estate. If they need space or want to entertain clients, this is a great opportunity.” She says that the Intercontinental Times Square may even increase office space inventory, “if the demand is there.”
Accommodating the Work
But it is isn’t just hotels at the heart of New York’s Times Square that are morphing into the latest incarnation of the remote work space business. NoMo SoHo offers a new day room work space alternative called, “YourPlace” which offers premium day rooms with complimentary snacks and fitness center access. Room service and even cocktails for that three-martini work lunch are available from the kitchen. There are outdoor terraces and public spaces reconfigured for social distancing so you don’t have to spend all your time in your room. When you’re in room, “YourPlace” includes a “proper” working desk, high speed WiFi and free coffee. The hotel’s board rooms are available for small groups of meeting participants.
Across the river, in Brooklyn, the chic boutique Wythe Hotel which also housed first responders in the thick of the COVID-19 initial response, is working with the co-working space Industrious to offer 13 second-story guest rooms with balconies as day room/work space. The Wythe’s re-imagined rooms are dog-friendly for day workers with pets.
Global hotel group Accor has announced the launch of a new Hotel Office concept allowing daytime use of its rooms for work as part of a growing trend toward combining remote work in a hotel environment. Accor is initially offering the service at 250 hotels in the UK and a further 70 across Europe.
Washington DC’s Hamilton Hotel across the street from the White House is offering a “Home Away From Home” package that includes a room available from 7 AM to 4 PM with a daily breakfast bag, a Keurig coffee maker and self-care shower facilities in room. The hotel can also arrange additional services like printing and faxing.
The Ballantyne in Charlotte, NC, is offering converted boardrooms as private office spaces that are bookable for week-long stays or longer. Perks include “The Commissary Menu” with workday lunches, coffee, water and soda. The Ballantyne also offers the perk of accruing Marriott Bonvoy points for work stays in converted accommodations.
Also accruing Marriott Bonvoy points but in the hip hotels category are Manhattan’s Moxy properties – Moxy Chelsea, Moxy East Village and Moxy Times Square – which were opened by national real estate developer Lightstone. All three properties are available for daytime work use on Dayuse and HotelsHero. After a day of working from Moxy East Village, the weary remote executive can grab dinner and drinks at the hotel’s Cathédrale Restaurant, a French-Mediterranean eatery that features a hidden outdoor dining terrace with a retractable roof. Moxy Times Square features dining at the Magic Hour rooftop.
According to Mitchell Hochberg, president of Lightstone, “We recognized a long time ago that to accommodate today’s traveler, our hotels needed to be more than just a place to rest your head – so we’ve always designed with an eye towards flexibility, allowing our guests to easily transition from co-working areas in our lobbies to working from the comfort and privacy of their rooms.
As a result, Hochberg explains, “There’s very little we’ve had to change to accommodate the trend in ‘working from hotels.’”
How Remote Can You Go?
Finally, destinations themselves are getting into the mix of the remote work from hospitality phenomenon. If you’re truly a work-from-anywhere employee or entrepreneur, a growing number of places around the world are rolling out the red carpet for you.
High in the Rockies, The St. Regis Aspen Resort is offering an ‘Alpine Office Annex’ package for a work environment with both altitude and attitude. The office provides both hard-working productivity and luxury resort pampering, including technology enhancements and a chance to have the hotel’s mountain dog, Kitty the Bernese, lend a paw in your virtual meetings. Part of the Alpine Office Annex package proceeds will be donated to Lucky Day Animal Rescue. The Alpine Office Annex package starts at $899.00 a day and needs to be booked ahead of arrival at (970) 429-9500 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For about as non-cubicle-farm an environment as you could imagine, connect to the natural surroundings of Bermuda and you can get a visa to work under their One-Year Residential Certification program. The island country will welcome employees who can prove that they do not need to seek work in Bermuda in order to be solvent. The residency carries a one-time $263.00 fee to apply and is found at the government website gov.bm. You’ll have to pass a COVID-19 test prior to departing, after you arrive and periodically thereafter.
Other sunny, beachy climes that might lure the remotest of remote workers include Barbados with its Welcome Stamp visa. Applying for the 12-month incentive costs $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for the family, and you have to certify that you expect to earn $50,000 a year or more, and will be able to support yourself and your family during your stay. barbadoswelcomestamp.bb
Another Caribbean work-from-paradise offer is Aruba’s three-month One Happy Workation packages, which offer deals at some of the island’s finest hotels, villas, condos and more. Since the 90-day stay is the maximum for a US passport holder anyway, there are no applications for the program and no extra fees, but there is a mandatory visitors’ insurance policy with per diem premiums on a sliding scale that total $224 on any stay over 50 days. aruba.com/us/one-happy-workation
Half a world away from the warm waters of the Caribbean, Estonia is a small country on the Baltic Sea – hardly the first place that comes to mind for working escapes. But the country is one of the world’s most technologically advanced and the cost of living is far lower than in the US. Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa, an extension of its e-Residency program, lets location-independent workers stay for up to a year, provided they meet the minimum income threshold of about $4,150 a month from sources outside Estonia. As a bonus, the year includes 90 days of travel across the Schengen area, opening up more leisure (or business) travel opportunities. The application fee for long stays is €100 ($118). e-resident.gov.ee/nomadvisa
Another transatlantic office getaway may be opening up at the crossroads of Europe and Asia in the country of Georgia. The official government website says an online platform has been developed to take applications for remote workers who plan to stay for at least six month. agenda.ge/en/news/2020/2265
Back home the fashion forward glamping site Collective Governors Island in New York provides overnight and day guests the chance to rent a desk at the retreat, where they can enjoy the freeze sea breeze and look out at the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. Collective’s Island Office includes 10 AM. to 6 PM access to desk space, temperature controlled indoor/outdoor pavilion, unlimited high speed WiFi, complimentary printing and scanning, unlimited coffee service and 10 percent off food and drink. Guests need to reserve a space on the Ferry via Eventbrite before booking.