Inside the reopening of New York’s most famous hotel, The Plaza
New York City, the first U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, is all but fully reopened for business—and especially eager to get tourists back as well. Last month, the city government launched a $30 million campaign in an effort to bring back tourism. And this week, most businesses—including dining and hospitality—are able to operate at normal, 100% capacity again.
While not all businesses might not rush into 100% capacity or occupancy right away, many hotels and restaurants are ramping up staffing and other reopening logistics ahead of what is expected (or at least, hoped) to be a very busy—and crucial—summer season.
In a sign of just how far the comeback has progressed, The Plaza—arguably New York’s most famous hotel—reopened its doors to guests on May 20, after closing due to the pandemic shutdown in March 2020. This is the longest the hotel has been closed, other than a 3-year renovation from 2005 through 2008.
The Plaza, a Fairmont-managed property, is reopening at initially 20% occupancy, with plans to steadily increase that figure throughout the summer. Representatives for the hotel told Fortune that while they were initially expecting most bookings to come from domestic leisure tourists, they have received a surprise number of reservations from international business travelers filling up their agendas with meetings in midtown Manhattan.
“The initial demand for reservations has exceeded our expectations,” says George Cozonis, managing director at The Plaza. “We expect to be back at full occupancy for Christmas, which is really the most magical time at The Plaza and in New York City.”
While some of the hotel’s flagship businesses—like the Guerlain spa and its luxurious wellness treatments as well as afternoon tea at The Palm Court—will also be reopening, The Plaza is leaning into some of the social distancing trends set during the pandemic.
For example, the events team is reconsidering all of the spaces in the hotel for smaller venue options, such as a microwedding reception in one of the two-story penthouse suites or a greater variety private events in the Eloise-themed suite. And The Plaza will begin hosting banquet events again in September.
The occasion will marks a turning point for the prestigious establishment, which first opened its doors in 1907. The hotel is still nothing short of luxurious, and its rooms, while renovated with all the modern fixtures and technological necessities (i.e. HDTVs in each room, wireless charging docks for smartphones, etc.), still retain its late Belle Epoque-era charm.
But hotel managers know that even though there is an eagerness in the air to travel again, they will still need to work to woo guests back. With the reservation of any of the hotel’s 29 Legacy Suites, which feature Alexandra Champalimaud-designed interiors with views of Fifth Avenue or Central Park, guests will receive arrival and departure transportation up to 60 miles from the hotel. The hotel suggests this could be ideal for local guests looking for an upgraded staycation or summer weekend getaway.
Of course, health and safety remains a priority, and while keeping in line with CDC guidance, face masks are still mandatory inside, and there are social distancing markers in busier areas of the hotel, such as the concierge desk and at check-in. Private dining will be available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And pre-arrival programs include the option of contactless check-ins, while in-suite COVID testing will be available for travelers heading off to their next destination.
Rates start at $725, per night. The hotel does not require a minimum number of nights to book. The Plaza is running a number of special promotions amid the reopening, including the Celebrations Return, the Royal Return, and the Legacy Suite Escape packages.
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