INDIANAPOLIS - The month of March will be a big one for the hospitality industry in Indianapolis as the city prepares to host major sporting events like the Big Ten and NCAA basketball tournaments.
Hotels are filling up and some employees at hotels have been brought back to work and they prepare to host college basketball players, their families and fans.
“Just to have a three-week run of solid business is fantastic,” said Phil Ray, General Manager of the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.
It’s a solid run of business hotels in downtown Indianapolis haven’t seen in more than a year.
“We were so excited just because we knew this was going to give us the opportunity to be busy and bring a lot of people back to work,” said Ray.
Hotels across the country have had to furlough or lay people off due to the pandemic. Some say downtown Indianapolis has been hit especially hard.
“Frankly we are a convention city in Indianapolis. We do that very well. The big box hotels, which we have, have been tremendously even more so significantly impacted,” said Patrick Tamm, President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.
He says sporting events like this could be the jump start hotels and restaurants in downtown Indianapolis need.
“It is really signaling to the world that Indiana has its act together. Whether it's in our vaccine rollout, in terms of how we manage groups of people, how we manage industries as well during this tough time,” Tamm said. “We don't expect to get back to pre-pandemic employment levels until 2023, so anything we can do in the state of Indiana to be ahead of our competitors not just only serves us today, but serves us five years down the road 30 years down the road.”
The JW Marriott has brought back around 30%-40% of its staff so far. They hope to continue bringing more in the months that follow
“If we do this well, which I'm sure we're going to everyone is going to make it happen, it is a springboard for the rest of the year. the Indy 500 shortly behind that and then the second half of the year we have conventions still lined up to happen, so hopefully by the third or fourth quarter of the year we will be back to almost normal business,” Ray said.
He says they are doing everything they can to keep staff and guests safe. He is hoping visitors do their part as well.
The JW Marriott, like many other hotels and businesses downtown, have signed the Hoosier Hospitality Promise. It is a statewide initiative that spells out specific guidelines on how to best prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visitors and guests are asked to “make the promise” as well and they can get discounts for doing so.
You can learn more about the Hoosier Hospitality Promise here.