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Empty hotel rooms offer quiet space for working parents


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Who needs WeWork when you can work in a private room with a minibar?

Hotels slammed by the coronavirus pandemic are turning to a different kind of guest: The cooped-up parent down the street. Big hotel chains — including Hilton, Sheraton and Marriott — are increasingly finding they can boost their quarantine business by catering to parents in search of a quiet place to conduct a Zoom conference followed by an uninterrupted hour at the gym.

“Need a productive office day?” read a recent ad by Hilton’s Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel. The ad features a mother rubbing her temple as her two children run amok, including one who is pounding at the mom’s open laptop. The hotel promises “complimentary WiFi and coffee, along with a desk in quiet comfort.” Guests pay $69 for a room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“I needed to focus and when you have a 1-year-old in quarantine, you can’t do that,” explained Jess Solomon, owner of Kansas City, Mo.-based Experience Events Group, of her recent two days working out of a hotel after her co-working space closed. “It was worth every penny for me,” said Solomon, 37, who used the time to launch the virtual arm of her events business.

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Located just five minutes from her home, The Raphael Hotel had been promoting a 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. office package starting at $65 a day. Currently, about 10 percent of the boutique property’s business are locals like Solomon and another guest who’s studying for his medical boards, according to The Raphael’s director of sales, Patrick Joyce.

Sales to locally based working stiffs accounted for 30 percent of April and May occupancy at the Sheraton College Park North hotel in Maryland, General Manager Andrew Labetti told The Post. “They are helping us to pay our bills,” said Labetti, who says occupancy overall has fallen to 18 percent in the pandemic.

Instead of conference-goers and tourists, the hotel — located off of I-95 between Baltimore and Washington, DC — now rents rooms to about 15 area residents in need to a quiet place to do their jobs. Some guests also take advantage of the hotel’s gym, which is kept locked and monitored for social distancing, Labetti said.

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Since the hotel’s restaurant has been off-limits, Labetti upgraded the food options in its gift shop — stocking heartier snacks like crackers and cheese, yogurts and fruit cups.

In the early days of the pandemic, Labetti said he reached out to hospitals and corporate accounts to fill the Sheraton’s rooms. “We did everything to find business,” Labetti said. Then quarantined parents started trickling in.

“They found us,” he said. “We see the same faces. They have become our friends since there are so few of us working at the hotel right now,” he said of his staff of 12, down from 40 pre-coronavirus.

Amy Domizi, director of sales and marketing for StepStone Hospitality, which operates 14 hotels across the country, says bookings from locals have only increased as lockdowns around the country have been extended. “People will sometimes work for a few hours and use the fitness centers afterwards.”

Six of StepStone’s hotels now offer a “remote office package,” which lets guests book a room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for as little as $69.

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The Cincinnati Netherland Plaza has also made a robust business during the pandemic selling tote bags stuffed with luxury goods, including champagne, caviar and cheeses, from its critically acclaimed eatery, Orchids.

The bags, which cost between $34 to $54, have been selling at a rate of 80 a week, including purchases by local residents looking to spice up their virtual happy hour, said Brian Louis, director of sales.

The new revenue stream is expected to continue to trickle in through the summer — even as businesses and coworking spaces like WeWork reopen, sources added.

“Missouri lifted its restrictions on May 15, but some of our clients have told us they are not returning to their offices until Labor Day,” said Joyce of The Raphael.

Solomon, the entrepreneur mom, agreed.

Although her co-working space has now reopened, she plans to continue to use the hotel so she can avoid sharing a bathroom and reception area, she said.

“Our office is technically open now, but I’ll probably go to the hotel again,” she said.

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