Irish hotelier John Fitzpatrick is planning a series of changes to how his two hotels in New York operate in preparation for the lifting of lockdown restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
These include an electronic thermometer at its front door that will take the temperature of workers, guests and other visitors to his hotels. He is also trial a robot that would help sterilise bedrooms, and is putting together a “welcome pack” for guests, to include hand sanitisers, face masks, gloves and wipes for hygiene purposes.
He plans to leave slippers inside the door of each bedroom so that guests don’t wear their shoes around the room, while staff operating in public areas will wear face masks.
The Dublin hotelier is also planning changes to the layout of his bars and restaurants to observe social distancing rules. Room keys will be issued in a sealed protective packet while checkout will be automatic and contactless. And room service deliveries will be wrapped in more protective plastic, with guests given the option of having orders left outside their door.
In addition, Mr Fitzpatrick, who has operated in New York for the past 30 years, is considering letting out some of his bedrooms as offices.
Mr Fitzpatrick estimates that the changes will cost him about $250,000 this year, and about $30,000 a month thereafter to maintain until a vaccine is available.
“Guests are going to want something more than a mint on their pillow when the restrictions are lifted,” Mr Fitzpatrick told The Irish Times. ““Times have changed and we’re working hard to find ways to meet the demands of our new normal while still delivering a warm, personalised service.”
At present, the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel on Lexington Avenue is closed while its hotel opposite Grand Central Station is catering for frontline workers who need accommodation in the city.
The group has availed of a wage subsidy scheme to keep its 120 staff on the payroll. Hotel occupancy rates in New York are currently running at just 10 per cent and Mr Fitzpatrick said it could be September before business gets going again in a meaningful way.
“We are currently using sanitised digital thermometers to take the temperature of every guest, employee and visitor entering the building. We are in talks with a company that manufactures a high-tech system that takes the temperatures of all who enter and leave the hotel as they pass through our doorway without any contact at all. We hope to have this solution in place soon.”
Mr Fitzpatrick said anyone showing a temperature higher than 38 degrees would have to leave the hotel, with guests offered an appointment with a local doctor.
Revenues declined by 24 per cent at Mr Fitzpatrick's hotels in the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "I would be very pleased if I can limit the decline to the same level after this crisis," he said, adding that his lender, Bank of Ireland, has been supportive of the company since the lockdown was imposed.