During the height of New York City’s lockdown and at the peak of the COVID-19 curve, the InterContinental New York Times Square decided to open its then-closed rooms to house first responders who had come to New York to save lives during the pandemic.
General Manager Gul Turkmenoglu told Business Traveler, “Hotel managers are trained in the skill of crisis management. 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.”
Now Turkmenoglu and the InterContinental Times Square are pivoting again to respond to a new challenge: Making a hotel marketable in a pandemic when businesses are curtailing business travel and everyone is working from home.
The InterContinental New York Times Square is now one of the first hotels to transform its regular rooms and suites into work space, available for companies to book for employees to work – or to work and live – for both long-term and short-term stays.
“We’re setting 20 percent of our room aside as office space,” says Turkmenoglu, who explains that while the office space is currently available, the regular hotel rooms for guests are not yet online and the hotel is still not “open” in the traditional sense, but aims to open in September.
“We set up the room based on client’s needs. We can add in laptops, scanners, desks, whatever is needed. All the rooms have a strong WiFi system and are capable of good video streaming.”
The rooms set aside as workspace are all newly renovated. “We have a company coming in August which will stay with us until the end of November,” Turkmenoglu explains. “They are taking over almost our entire meeting room spaces.”
Rooms are not time limited and can be rented for 24 hours or more. Turkmenoglu sees the demand as remaining strong throughout 2020.
“It’s a good business model,” she says. “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.”
The first responders who were housed at the property in the early stages of the pandemic have left. Following their departure, Turkmenoglu explains, the hotel did a very deep cleaning, including changing air filters, part of the IHG Clean Promise initiative launched in May.
The good vibes from the hardworking medical crews housed at the hotel still remain. “They were great,” says Turkmenoglu. “At the time, I couldn’t believe their energy level. After 36-hour shifts, they still had a big smile on their faces.”
Turkmenoglu says that these special guests “will remain in our hearts and minds. It’s a great memory and what they’ve done has been amazing.”
The property may increase the office space inventory “if the demand is there.” As Turkmenoglu explains, “We don’t know yet it if will continue to be as strong as it is now but we won’t turn it down if it is.”