Hurt by Virus, Hotels Turn Into Hospitals

Hotels around the world are being converted into emergency medical facilities, and in some cases, temporary lodging for health-care workers.
Image via Pixabay

From China to the U.S., the hotel industry has suffered staggering drops in revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Marriott, one of the biggest hospitality brands in the world, reportedly lost up to 90 percent of its business in China in the early stages of the outbreak.

According to a CBRE research report from March 25, U.S. RevPAR is expected to decline by 37 percent in 2020, with a contraction of more than 60 percent in Q2.

But as hospital bed capacity in cities across the globe begins to become exhausted, officials are looking at hotels to fill the need for desperately needed medical facilities and in some cases, as temporary housing for health-care workers on the front lines.

In Spain, currently one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, hotels are already up and running as emergency hospital space. The four-star Gran Hotel Colon in Madrid, the country’s capital, is now using its 359-bed property to serve patients with mild cases of coronavirus. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from one of Madrid’s largest hospital.

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted Wednesday that the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan would provide free lodging to doctors, nurses and other medical personnel caring for patients with the COVID-19 virus.

“The first of many hotels we hope will make their rooms available,” said Cuomo.

At a press conference earlier this week inside the Javits Center, a massive 1.8 million-square-foot convention center on the far west side of Manhattan that is being turned into emergency hospital space, Cuomo said he had been talking to hotel owners in the city about turning their rooms into hospital use. New York, the epicenter of the outbreak with nearly 20,000 cases as of March 25, could soon have its hospital capacity overwhelmed, officials have said. Cuomo directed hospitals in the city to expand their capacity by 50 percent.

“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need,” he said at the press conference.

Officials in other parts of the U.S. have indicated they will also look to turn hotels into hospitals if need be, including Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, who said the state would look to hotels to provide beds if the outbreak worsened, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who already unveiled a plan that would entail five hotels providing up to 2,000 hotel beds for medical use by the end of the week.

In California, which has been under a shelter-in-place rule since March 19, officials are negotiating with nearly 1,000 hotels and motels to acquire hotel rooms for coronavirus patients needing hospitalization as well as homeless individuals, who are more at risk of contracting the disease.

“If we meet this moment, we can truly bend the curve to reduce the need to surge, to reduce the need to have to go out and begin to cobble all those assets together,” said Newsom in a press conference March 19. “Though I want you to know, we are doing just that.”