Connect with us

Vacation

Once a Hotel Suite, Now an Office Space

Published

on

Like many hotels pummeled by the pandemic, the InterContinental Times Square is trying to hang on.

After tourists stopped arriving this spring, the 607-room property transformed into housing for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients. When they checked out, the high-rise began offering blocks of rooms as office space. And with its reopening this month, the InterContinental will again play office landlord, this time on a suite-by-suite basis.

“We’re trying to be creative,” said Gul Turkmenoglu, the general manager, “and hope our ideas take off.”

Across the country, as the hospitality industry grapples with a severe downturn, hotels have been trying to reinvent themselves — as schools, emergency housing, wedding halls or homeless shelters — even as the new uses may come up short on revenue.

There are signs of financial distress. In New York, 44 hotel loans backed by bonds totaling $1.2 billion are delinquent, according to September data from Trepp, an analytics firm. In second place was Houston, with 39 delinquent loans at $682 million, followed by Chicago with 29 at $990 million.

Though a foreclosure would not necessarily cause a hotel to close, many analysts do not expect the industry to fully recover till 2023.

“Generally speaking, every hotel in America has lost 20 to 35 percent of its value in the last six months,” said Keith Thompson, a principal of the hospitality group at the brokerage firm Avison Young, which is starting to list distressed hotels at steep discounts.

Government efforts to house people in need have picked up some slack. New York, for instance, leased 11,000 rooms in hotels from April to July for medical workers who did not want to infect their families, as well as Covid-19 patients who could not isolate properly at home. One was a Hilton Garden Inn on West 37th Street, where three patients died in April after being discharged from hospitals.

This spring, New York also leased 63 of the city’s 700 hotels to house homeless residents, who are vulnerable to the coronavirus in open-layout shelters. The city pays $120 per room per night to those hotels, which received 9,500 people during the pandemic, most of whom are still there, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services said.

Included are outposts of chains like DoubleTree and SpringHill Suites, but also Kixby, a 195-room boutique property on West 35th Street with a “mixology” bar in the lobby.

But the plan’s rollout hasn’t always been smooth. Some of the 300 men put up in the Lucerne, an Upper West Side hotel, took drugs and were rowdy, according to neighborhood residents. The city later relocated the group.

Miami took a similar approach to coronavirus containment. Five hotels were designated as housing for doctors, the homeless and Covid-19 patients, for a total of more than 2,100 people from July to September, officials said.

State and county funds cover the rooms and meals, said Frank Rollason, the director of emergency management for Miami-Dade County. “We had to evict some people. A meth lab was set up in one room,” Mr. Rollason said. “But we have also saved lives by stopping a pyramid of people from being infected.”

Whether new residents wind up as troublemakers or not, hotels seem eager for a lifeline. About 100 have emailed Mr. Rollason about participating in the program, he said. Their interest seems understandable, as the number of tourists is sharply down.

But the state money can be a pittance compared with what came before. The Doral Inn and Suites, a 112-room property catering to business and leisure travelers near Miami’s airport, collects $35 a night for units that once traded at $250. A week ago, 73 rooms were taken.

Alex Nahabetian, the manager of the family-owned hotel, said he had been planning to renovate the property, which was built in the 1980s. But then the pandemic hit, and his lender pulled financing because hotels were at risk. That lender would also grant Mr. Nahabetian only a three-month forbearance on his mortgage payments, a grace period that expired in June.

“The program has been a major lifesaver,” he said. “Otherwise, we would be permanently closed.”

Hotels not selected for government relief are often converting rooms into offices, at a time when office buildings remain closed.

At London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, a 226-unit property in West Hollywood, Calif., beds were removed to create work spaces more like boardrooms. About five have been rented each month since June for $5,000, a spokeswoman said.

But most properties seem to be betting that workers simply need a desk, and because most rooms already have one, the hotel doesn’t have to splurge on a makeover.

Employees of the Hotel Figueroa, a renovated Spanish Colonial landmark in downtown Los Angeles, generally reposition furniture only at a client’s request. The 268-room hotel, which housed medical workers in the pandemic, has leased 200 offices since June for $25,000, a spokeswoman said.

But office space is usually much cheaper than standard rooms. At the InterContinental Times Square, offices, which are leased by the day, are about 30 percent less than overnight stays, and rates for those overnight rooms are down more than half since last year, Ms. Turkmenoglu said.

Hotels are rethinking common areas, too. Last month, five families rented a conference room at a Courtyard by Marriott in suburban Elmhurst, Ill., so their first-grade students could comfortably engage in remote learning. Gym class was in the hotel’s pool.

Use of the room would normally be $600 a week; the families paid $350. That’s not insignificant when occupancy is a third of its normal rate, said Tania Gawel, the director of sales at the 140-room property.

“It’s been very slow,” Ms. Gawel said, “so it’s all about thinking outside of the box.”

Other hotels, like the Great Wolf Lodge resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, have set up remote-learning facilities to lure vacationers. And ballrooms that once hosted business conventions are now marketed for “micro-weddings” that are substitutes for larger parties that were canceled.

The backdrop to the survival efforts is gloomy. Nationwide, about three dozen hotels had closed for good as of last month, including in Austin, Texas; Denver; and Washington, according to STR, a hospitality analytics firm, though that number is expected to skyrocket.

“For some properties, just keeping the lights on could cost $1 million a month,” said Jeffrey Davis, a broker with the commercial real estate firm JLL and co-head of its hospitality group. He added that debt service could add $5 million.

By late September, 188 of 700 hotels in New York had closed, and their status is unknown, according to the Hotel Association of New York City. Closures have included Omni Berkshire Place, Hilton Times Square and two Courtyard by Marriott hotels. Some may be purposefully staying dark to save on labor costs until the market improves, brokers said. But taxes are gobbling reserves in the meantime.

Most of San Francisco’s 215 hotels are temporarily closed, with some not planning to reopen until next year, said Kevin Carroll, the chief executive of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, a trade group. As in other cities, hotels there have filled empty rooms with essential workers, people needing to quarantine and those looking for alternatives to home offices. Evacuees from the region’s devastating fires have also taken up residence, Mr. Carroll said.

But turning over hotels to other uses, especially as homeless shelters, can hurt properties in the short run, Mr. Davis said. “You may be getting a good bang for your buck for your rooms, but the wear and tear in your hotel is something to be reckoned with.”

Some of the rebranding could become permanent. Already, Mr. Davis has seen buyers interested in converting struggling hotels to college dormitories or “micro-apartments.”

“That is something that’s totally new, that we haven’t seen in previous downturns,” Mr. Davis said. “And it’s probably one of the most interesting.”

By: C. J. Hughes
Title: Once a Hotel Suite, Now an Office Space
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/business/hotels-transformation-offices-shelters-coronavirus.html
Published Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2020 09:00:24 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://vistagaze.com/vacation/sizing-up-the-rural-urban-travel-divide-whos-up-and-whos-down/

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Vacation

Witnessing Peru’s Enduring, if Altered, Snow Star Festival

Published

on

By


Stubbornly unfazed by warnings of “soroche,” or altitude sickness, I swung my legs up onto a donkey and began to ascend the steep trails. After trekking for a few dizzying hours alongside hundreds of others, I approached a glacial basin. The scene began to unfold before us: an immense valley flooded with so many pilgrims that it seemed to be covered in confetti, each tiny speck representing a huddled collection of tents and people.

The altitude sickness began to overtake every inch of my body. Even my eyeballs ached. But, undeterred, I slowly navigated through the throngs of people trying to take in every sight and sound.

Each year in late May or early June, thousands of pilgrims trek for hours on foot and horseback through Peru’s Andean highlands — slowly snaking their way up the mountainous terrain — for the religious celebrations of Qoyllur Rit’i, held some 50 miles east of Cusco, once the capital of the Incan empire.

Practiced annually for hundreds of years, the celebrations mark the start of the harvest season, when the Pleiades, a prominent cluster of stars, return to the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. The syncretic festival, which is on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, interweaves Indigenous and Incan customs with Catholic traditions introduced by Spanish colonizers, who sought to undermine Andean cosmology.

Celebrations were suspended this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the route to the valley completely blocked off. But when I attended in 2013, the crowds were remarkably dense.

The festival takes place in the Sinakara Valley, a glacial basin that sits around 16,000 feet above sea level. Celebrants swarm in colorful droves with costumes, enormous flags, instruments and provisions in tow.

The festivities begin with the arrival of a statue of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i, transported from the nearby town of Mahuayani, to the valley’s small chapel. For three days, from morning until night, amid the nonstop sounds of drums, flutes, whistles, accordions, cymbals and electric keyboards, the air is filled with billowing clouds of dust kicked up from twirling dancers; it settles on the sequins, neon scarves, ribbons, tassels and feathers that adorn people’s traditional costumes and attire.

Pilgrims here are divided into “nations,” which correspond to their place of origin. Most belong to the Quechua-speaking agricultural regions to the northwest, or to the Aymara-speaking regions to the southeast. The delegation from Paucartambo has been making the pilgrimage for longer than any other.

“It’s important to maintain this tradition, because we have a lot of faith,” said a young Paucartambo pilgrim dressed as an ukuku, a mythical half-man and half-bear creature. Costumed in red, white and black alpaca robes, the ukukus are responsible for ensuring the safety of the pilgrims; they act as intermediaries between the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i and the people.

Other participants include the ch’unchus, who wear headdresses and represent Indigenous communities from the Amazon; the qhapaq qollas, who wear knitted masks and represent inhabitants from the southern Altiplano region; and the machulas, who wear long coats over fake humpbacks and represent the mythological people to first populate the Andes.

Hundreds of ceremonies are held throughout the three-day festival. But the long-awaited main event is carried out by the ukukus in the early morning hours of the last day. Carrying towering crosses and candles, ukukus from each nation ascend the Qullqipunku mountain toward a nearby glacier, regarded as alive and sentient. (The snow-capped mountains circling the valley are also believed to be mountain gods, or Apus, that provide protection.)

According to oral traditions, the ukukus, after scaling the icy slopes, once partook in ritualistic battles that were eventually prohibited by the Catholic Church.

Another tradition was also recently put to rest, this time by Mother Nature.

Up until only a few years ago, ukukus would carve slabs of ice from the glacier, whose melted water is revered as medicinal. Pilgrims would eagerly await the ukukus, backs bent from the weight of the ice, who would place the blocks along the pathway to the temple, to be used as holy water. Sometimes the ice was even transported to Cusco’s main square where, as Qoyllur Rit’i draws to a close, Corpus Christi celebrations kick off with comparable religious zeal.

Many believed that carrying the ice was a penance for sins, and that fulfilling this ritual meant the Apus would offer blessings.

But because much of the glacier has melted, significantly reducing its size, the tradition of carrying chunks of sacred ice down the mountain has been banned.

Climate scientists say that glaciers in the tropical Andes have been reduced by nearly a quarter in the last 40 years. Some scientists predict that such glaciers could disappear entirely by 2070.

These changes have not only affected agricultural practices in the Andes, but also, as witnessed by Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrims, cultural ones, too.

Although the ukukus now carry only wooden crosses back down the mountain, they’re still met with great jubilation — a testament to human resilience in the face of destruction caused by climate change.

By: Danielle Villasana
Title: Witnessing Peru’s Enduring, if Altered, Snow Star Festival
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/travel/qoyllur-riti-snow-star-festival-peru.html
Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 09:00:33 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://vistagaze.com/vacation/british-airways-updates-interim-catering-with-gasp-hot-food-2/

Continue Reading

Vacation

British Airways updates interim catering with – gasp! – hot food

Published

on

By

British Airways have been offering an extremely abbreviated on board service during the pandemic. Only passengers in first class received hot meals, with everyone else relegated to cold food. The interim catering has received a mixed reaction, especially as other airlines continue to offer full on board service.

All of this was wrapped in the safety banner, to reduce touch points and protect people. While perhaps admirable in its intention, frequent flyers have pointed the finger squarely at cost cutting, due to various inconsistencies in the approach. Either way, things are now moving back towards normality.

Updated Interim Catering

Hot food is back on British Airways long-haul services. First class continue to have theirs, and now everyone else on the plane gets to experience it too. That means business class passengers flying Club World, premium economy World Traveller Plus and economy World Traveller people can all chow down on something a little more fitting.

The Club World meal will be hot and served on a meal tray with a table cloth, with the second service a chilled item delivered the same way. The second service will come in a box as it does now on some return catered flights.



Those at the back of the bus will also get a hot meal, served on a half tray for the interim catering period. The second service will be chilled and be issued in a box or bag, depending on how lucky you are.

What About European Flights?

There are no changes to the current interim catering for European flights. This means that Club Europe continue to get a meal in a box or bag, and EuroTraveller customers receive a small complimentary on board snack.



The previous buy on board menu from M&S won’t be coming back, as the agreement expired this year and is not being renewed. A replacement British retailer is in the process of being recruited, so we will see a totally new buy on board menu on BA in due course.

Overall Thoughts

It is great to see some changes in the long-haul interim catering offering at British Airways. Not too soon either! Emirates return to their usual pre-Covid service on board from 1 November for example, so competition is afoot.

No doubt we will see further changes from BA as time passes on. Until the catering changes, I see no value in booking a flight with BA in a premium cabin. All my future travel is booked in economy with BA, as the value proposition for me in the higher classes has a lot to do with the food and drinks, which anyone who has read a flight review of mine will well know.

What say you? Are you happy with the improvements to the interim catering at British Airways? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by Rafael Luiz Canossa on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
With thanks to Inflight With James.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: British Airways updates interim catering with – gasp! – hot food
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/british-airways-interim-catering/
Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 13:03:17 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://vistagaze.com/vacation/4-top-stargazing-places-to-visit-in-2020-2/

Continue Reading

Vacation

4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020

Published

on

By

Dark skies, bright stars are every stargazer’s main attraction spots. All around the world, people travel to experience the best spot the world has to offer. To most city dwellers, their experience with stargazing is bumping into the latest celebrity at the mall or grocery store checkout line thanks to air pollution and the city lights.

But there is nothing as magical as looking up into the dark skies dotted with constellations, planets, and shooting stars. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recognizes over 130 spots that preserve the most star-filled skies. UNESCO recognizes several starlight reserves on its Astronomical Heritage sites list. These spectacular spots offer stargazers an opportunity to reconnect with the planet and learn more about the universe.

We believe you deserve to know the top spots that will give you the most magical experience, yet.  Here are 4 top places to visit in 2020 for stargazing.

The Best Stargazing Places to Visit

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Located in the remote Lake Powell of Utah, Natural Bridges was the first to be certified by the IDA as the international dark sky park. The IDA is the leading organization in combating light pollution, it is a big deal. The designation recognizes areas with some of the darkest and clearest skies in the world. It acknowledged darkness as a resource worthy of conservation and protection and appreciates the efforts extended to achieve this. The main attraction of the dark skies of Natural Bridges is a phenomenon that rises over the natural rock formation of Owachomo Bridge creating one of the most spectacular Milky Way you have ever seen. The bridge forms some sort of a window to the sky by beautifully framing thousands of stars, all of which are visible with the naked eye.

Plan to camp here overnight to have the full experience. Night photographers do get some of the most marvelous shots at the Natural Bridges National Monument, but always remember artificial sources of light for photography are prohibited.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, United States

Located about 2,500 miles Southwest of California, Hawaii has evolved to be one of the leading astronomy destinations. The high volcanic peaks offer some of the most spectacular sceneries around the world.

Mauna Kea Summit is perhaps the most popular stargazing spots in Hawaii.

13,803 feet above the town of Hilo and close to Mauna Kea is the Mauna Kea Observatory, the largest of its kind in the world. It is a major astronomy hub.

What’s more, is that it is one of the few places on earth you can drive nearly 14,000 above sea level. Just make sure you check-in at the Visitors Station to acclimatize. You don’t want to experience altitude sickness. Still, the journey is magical with starry rewards. Make sure to bring the best telescopes as from this spot you get to see the celestial wonders of the Northern Hemisphere from bands of Jupiter to the constellations of Orion. Also because Mauna Kea is close to the equator, the stars of the Southern Hemisphere are visible, too. This means that over 80% of the earth’s stars can be seen from Mauna Kea.

Photographers have been known to capture the rare lunar rainbow from Mauna Kea. Lunar rainbows are essentially lit by the moon and not the sun, and occur under precise conditions.

Pic du Midi, France

Located in the Pyrénées Mountains of France, Pic Ddu Midi is good enough of a spot for NASA to take photos of the moon surface in preparation for their missions; it’s good enough for you.

A cable car from the La Mongie will get you to the summit, where an observatory is perched right above the clouds.

Also, the reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a major French national park. Plan to book an overnight stay to experience an unforgettable night under the stars.

Los Angeles, California

It is primarily known for another kind of star, the Hollywood star, and smog that is ever-present. To many, Lost Angeles does not come off as an ideal place to go stargazing. But those that have visited the iconic Griffith Observatory will tell you otherwise. Perched atop Mount Hollywood, it is one of the most astronomically intriguing places to visit. Depending on the time of the year, from Griffith Observatory you can observe assorted double stars, nebulae, Jupiter, and Venus. And with powerful telescopes, the incredibly detailed view of the Moon’s craggy surface can be visible.

The stars are accessible from most places and to everyone but some locations can get you the most from a night sky. Add these spots to your bucket list and start ticking. Once you do, you’ll be treated to an amazing view few people will even get to see.

The post 4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020 appeared first on Travel Experta – Family Travel Blog.

By: Marina Villatoro
Title: 4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020
Sourced From: feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheTravelExperta/~3/uLPw0ytsHf8/4-top-stargazing-places-visit-2020.html
Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 15:30:03 +0000

Continue Reading

Tags

Trending