By Sarah Kuta
If you’re tired of battling your roommates for bandwidth during your umpteenth work Zoom call or you just need a break from hunching over your laptop in your bedroom (aka your “home office”), there’s a new remote workspace to consider: a hotel room.
Rooms you can rent by the day or by the hour usually get a bad rap, but the newest travel and hospitality pandemic pivot is trying to flip that unsavory stereotype on its head.
Gutted by the lack of travelers during the coronavirus pandemic, hotels are now letting guests rent rooms just for the day — no overnight stay required — in the hopes of attracting stir-crazy work-from-home professionals and weary parents who want their kids to burn off some energy in the hotel pool.
Travelers typically check in during the late afternoon and check out sometime the next morning, meaning they can’t stay in their room or use the hotel’s facilities in the middle of the day. Now, hotels are pitching themselves more like coworking spaces, with their guest rooms available as clean, functional and COVID-19-safe remote workspaces during normal business hours.
Day-use packages vary across hotels, but they typically feature a discounted room rate for use during the day only, often between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Though rates fluctuate based on demand and availability (just like overnight rates), day-use rentals can range anywhere from $74 per day to $100 per hour. In addition to the room, guests can use all of the hotel’s normal amenities — the gym, the pool, the WiFi, in-room coffee — plus, they get some extra business-specific perks like printing, computer monitors, whiteboards and other tech.
Day-use room rentals are not new, but the pandemic has made this offering more popular among mid-tier and upscale hotels, including several in Colorado.
Day-use hotel booking platform Dayuse.com, which first launched in Europe in 2010 and began serving U.S. hotels and customers five years ago, has experienced a surge in demand over the last year.
In February, before the pandemic decimated travel here, there were 850 U.S. hotels offering rooms for rent by the day on the site, which operates much like other third-party hotel booking sites like Expedia and Priceline. Today, there are roughly 1,500 U.S. hotels using the platform. And those are just the hotels that met the website’s standards. (Dayuse.com works primarily with three-, four- and five-star properties in city centers.)
More than 2,000 U.S. hotels applied to join the platform over the last year, says Melanie Marcombe, the company’s head of global sales. (Travelers can also book day-use rentals with hotels directly.)
Hotels are hoping day-use rentals will create a new revenue stream while tapping into an existing resource — their real estate. In the same vein, some hotels across the country are now offering up their empty kitchens and banquet halls to restaurateurs as ghost kitchens, or kitchens that only produce takeout and delivery meals.
Average annual hotel room occupancy dipped to 44 percent in 2020, a sharp decline from 66 percent average annual occupancy in 2019, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a hotel industry trade group. Those numbers are expected to rebound a little to 52 percent in 2021, but the association notes that this is still below the break-even point for many hotels.
In 2020, hotel room revenue also fell by 50 percent across the United States, according to the association’s figures. And that number doesn’t account for lost revenue from meeting rooms and other sources.
“You could take a property with 100 rooms, people are coming in for business or leisure purposes, checking into the hotel between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and checking out after breakfast between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.,” Marcombe said. “During the day, more than 60 percent of the rooms are sitting empty. They are empty, clean, not used for anything. Hotels can sell those rooms and get incremental revenue. You can sell those rooms again and increase your revenue, without impacting your main revenue stream which is, of course, the overnights.”
At the Sheraton Denver Downtown, guests can rent the hotel’s newly renovated studios by the day or by the hour. (Provided by Sheraton Denver Downtown)
In Colorado, a handful of hotels are now offering day-use packages. Hotel Born, located downtown at Denver’s Union Station, began offering its new “Work From Home” day-use package in January. Guests can rent a guest room or a small meeting space (rates start at $350 per day for either option) outfitted with a conference phone, flat-screen monitor with HDMI cable, coffee, WiFi and a 10 percent discount at on-site restaurant Citizen Rail.
Pre-pandemic, the hotel hosted many business travelers and corporate groups during the workweek. Now, however, the hotel’s meeting spaces and conference rooms are largely empty.
“Everyone, pre-pandemic, thought working from home was this really super-sexy way to do work and innovative, but now there’s a bit of fatigue,” said Von de Luna, Hotel Born’s general manager. “Hopefully we can relieve some of that fatigue and offer something that’s a little more comforting outside of what they’ve been experiencing for the last year.”
At the Sheraton Denver Downtown, guests can rent the hotel’s newly renovated studios — private conference rooms and work areas — for as little as $99 a day (when occupancy is low) or by the hour (up to $100 an hour, when occupancy is high). The hotel also offers a “work from anywhere” pass that guests can add to overnight stays that includes 6 a.m. check-in and 6 p.m. check-out, a four-hour private studio reservation, bottled water and a $10 food and beverage credit.
Since November, Hilton Garden Inn Denver Union Station has also offered day-use room rentals from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with rates starting at $88 per day.
Hyatt Place Pena Station/Denver Airport, which opened near Denver International Airport in the fall of 2019, began offering day-use room rentals in November, with rates starting at $74 per day. Guests can use their room from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and they get a 15 percent food and beverage discount, which includes the full-service Starbucks in the hotel’s lobby. They can also use hotel business services like printing, faxing and scanning, as well as the hotel’s gym and pool.
So far, guests have been slow to book rooms during the day, but the hotel’s leaders are optimistic it will pick up speed as the pandemic drags on and more people crave a change of scenery.
“There are those people who are looking for a place either to get away from their home office or honestly it would be appealing to families who are just trying to entertain their kids,” said Stasia Patience, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “It’s just a different offering. It’s almost like renting out a meeting space, which we also have available, but we have more sleeping rooms obviously. It’s giving us that opportunity to pivot just a little bit.”