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Health Workers Provide Lifeline for Valley Hotels

Six weeks into the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19, the Burbank Airport Marriott has opened a meager revenue stream housing hospital and health care workers. With 488 rooms, the operation at 2500 Hollywood Way is ranked No. 2 on the Business Journal’s list of largest Valley hotels. “There’s a number of programs we’re involved in,” said the hotel’s General Manager Alan Tate. “We’re looking to generate revenue, but we’re also looking for ways to help.” Tate said staff from Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, various Kaiser Permanente hospitals and even Olympia Medical Center in West L.A. have been staying at the Burbank Airport Marriott during the outbreak to prevent from potentially endangering friends or family at home after possibly coming into contact with the virus at their jobs. “That’s been the main driver of revenue,” Tate said. “A lot of the programs are funded by the state; some are funded by the organizations (the health care workers) work for,” Tate said. He said the health workforce is now the hotel’s primary consumer base since business and leisure travel dried up in mid-March. “We’re a hotel that runs about 84 percent occupancy annually, and we’re running anywhere between 7 and 10 percent now,” Tate said. “(Coronavirus) has been a challenge for the entire industry and certainly the Burbank market.” He said that decline has resulted in layoffs for the majority of the Marriott’s staff. At first, the hotel was able to sustain some business from airline workers. But that disappeared quickly as the national lockdown intensified. “We initially were housing a small number of airline crew from the limited flights that were still flying,” said Tate, referring to Hollywood Burbank Airport across the street from the hotel. “They’re very few and far between at this point in time.” Though the Marriott has opened its doors to hospital workers, Tate said it isn’t prepared to house patients. “Out hotel isn’t equipped with (personal protective equipment) or training to manage COVID-19 patients,” he said. “Safety is the utmost concern.” He added the hotel has a few guests who just wanted to get out of their homes for a day or two. A bit south, The Garland in North Hollywood is also offering its beds to at-risk workers. “We are in ongoing discussions about how we can provide aid to health care workers and other organizations that need a safe place to shelter,” General Manager Scott Mills told the Business Journal in an email. Unlike the Marriott, the Garland has closed to the public. The Garland has 257 rooms and is ranked No. 13 on the Business Journal’s list. Tourism in Burbank According to Tate, the Burbank Airport Marriott had some help in advertising its availability to house high-risk workers from Visit Burbank, an organization that promotes tourism for the City of Burbank. “They’re doing the same thing we’re doing in trying to reach out and let them know we’re accommodating,” Tate said. Visit Burbank functions as a partner to local tourism-reliant businesses, helping them market themselves and the city to business and leisure travelers. Tate said the two have been strategizing ways to best proceed when restrictions are lifted. In the leisure travel sector, he said activity will be dictated by the opening of Universal Studios and other entertainment industry attractions. He said business travel will be a little trickier because it usually happens in clusters. Tate acknowledged that even as the economy reopens, regulators could continue to encourage social distancing in public places. “Right now, groups of 10 people are OK together. … We don’t envision that (restrictions on) larger groups will be lifted as soon as (restrictions on) smaller groups. They’ll probably start off slowly. We’re talking to Visit Burbank about that as well. What does a meeting of 50 people look like today versus what it looked like six months ago? Six months ago you were sitting shoulder to shoulder.” The Marriott doesn’t expect that to be the case right off the bat. As such, the hotel is preparing to change the way it accommodates and feeds guests. “Buffets, community food, is something you want to stay away from. We’re looking at more individual, packaged servings to make sure we can operate with any restrictions still in play,” Tate said. The hotel expects events to look different, too, with fewer people spread out in bigger spaces. “A meeting that used to fit in a room may not fit in that room. It would have to be in a larger room to keep up with social distancing,” Tate said.

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