INDIANAPOLIS — The JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis is taking reservations with plans to reopen to guests this Thursday, July 9.
Indiana’s largest hotel temporarily closed down operations more than 100 days ago due to the business decline caused by COVID-19. At that time, roughly 600 people worked at the JW Marriott in various capacities. Over the last few months, however, that staff has been reduced to only a handful of people.
“It has been frustrating between all that’s happened over these last hundred-plus days, and we still know there’s some challenging times ahead,” said JW Marriott general manager Phil Ray. “We want to get back open, and that’s the key for us. We want to start to get those first groups to come.”
Ray said the rehiring process is underway to support the July 9 reopening.
“It’s going to be a slow process, we believe based on the business levels,” Ray said. “Probably about 25 to 30% of our staff will be back initially as we get our legs underneath us.”
The hotel and hospitality industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Indianapolis, hotels lost about 90% of their occupancy. VisitIndy estimates about half of the 83,000 residents who rely on hospitality in Indianapolis were forced out of work by the health crisis.
Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association, said reopening the JW Marriott will send a signal that the hospitality industry is ready to start a comeback.
“Trying to reopen that, getting that reopened signifies to the world that Indianapolis will welcome, we’re ready for guests,” Tamm said.
Tamm and Ray both believe there have been encouraging signs in the last few weeks with youth sports helping to drive business into Indianapolis.
“We’re having a lot of sports teams,” Ray said. “There’s a basketball tournament that’s going on here at the convention center this week, which is our first major event. So that’s driving some business.”
The JW Marriott’s facade, which has become famous for its public messages, lit up Monday night with the message “We are Back Open July 9.”
The hotel’s reopening includes several renovations that have been happening in the last couple months while the building was empty. It also includes the Stay Confident cleaning program, which involves multiple precautionary sterilization measures to guard against the spread of COVID-19 within the building.
“Things in the guest rooms, as far as using the hospital grade disinfectant,” Ray said. “We’re going to make sure all the high-touch areas are hit twice during the cleaning process.”
Guests arriving at the hotel will notice hand sanitizers stations throughout the lobby, plexiglass shields, TV remotes wrapped in plastic and no-touch digital food menus.
“High Velocity, one of the JW’s restaurants will open with a limited menu and appropriate safety standards,” a press release said. “OP Italian will remain closed for the time being. The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown is expected to open later this month.”
The hotel also has a plan called Meet Confident, which includes enhanced procedures to keep meetings and event attendees safe from the coronavirus.
At the same time, VisitIndy continues its You Have Earned It campaign, offering up to 50% off room rates for Hoosiers. The program is aimed at encouraging in-state travel from drivable distances.
Ray hopes a strong opening will get the hotel’s wheels turning ahead of the rescheduled Indy 500 on August 23.
“It’s a huge event for us,” Ray said. “And our hope is that will be kind of the planting the flag in the ground and saying, ‘Okay, we’re really back open now.’”