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Motel 6 and Home Depot Drop Ad Agency After Its Founder Calls Ad ‘Too Black’

Motel 6, Home Depot and Keurig Dr Pepper have cut ties with the Richards Group, an advertising agency in Dallas, after a report that its founder had made racist remarks in a meeting last week.

During a Zoom gathering of more than three dozen Richards Group employees on Thursday, a creative team working on the Motel 6 account presented an idea for an ad to Stan Richards, who founded the Richards Group in 1976. Mr. Richards responded to the idea by saying, “It’s too Black,” according to a person at the meeting, who said the ad would have featured Black, white and Hispanic guests. Mr. Richards, who is white, added that the ad might offend or alienate Motel 6’s “white supremacist constituents,” the person said.

A Richards Group spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Richards, 87, had made the “too Black” remark, but said in an email that he was trying to convey that the proposed ad “was not multiculturally inclusive enough.”

When asked about Mr. Richards’ comment on white supremacists, which was first reported by the publication AdAge, the agency spokeswoman said, “Although his comments did reference that group, that quote is not correct.” Mr. Richards apologized to hundreds of the agency’s employees on a Zoom call on Friday.

Motel 6, which is owned by the private equity firm Blackstone Group and has more than 1,400 locations in North America, terminated its relationship with the Richards Group on Monday, saying in a statement that it was “outraged” by Mr. Richards’ remarks.

Home Depot, a Richards Group client for more than 25 years, was the next company to cut ties with the agency, saying on Wednesday that it had “immediately begun the process of finding a new advertising agency.” Keurig Dr Pepper also said that it was ending its relationship with the agency, which has worked with beverage brands such as A&W, Clamato, Crush and Dr Pepper.

The Salvation Army, another client, said that it was “deeply concerned” by the comments but “encouraged by the fact that Mr. Richards has made an apology.”

The Richards Group, which describes itself as the nation’s largest independent ad agency, also has worked with the grocery chain H-E-B and the retailer Hobby Lobby.

Glenn Dady, a creative director who was tapped in December as Mr. Richards’ eventual successor, will immediately take control of the company’s operations, the agency said on Wednesday. Mr. Richards, whose name is on the University of Texas at Austin’s advertising school, will remain the agency’s owner.

“We understand and regret the pain and concerns of all those who were deeply troubled by the words our founder spoke,” Mr. Dady said in a statement. “He can’t take them back. We can only ask for forgiveness and promise to learn and be better.”

Motel 6 said it will continue to use its famous slogan — “We’ll leave the light on for you” — which was coined more than three decades ago by the radio personality Tom Bodett after the Richards Group recruited him to be the Motel 6 spokesman.

The roadside chain agreed last year to pay $12 million, mostly in damages, after its employees were found to have provided Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with information on 80,000 guests.

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Lumberjack, Tailor, Counselor, Host: A Hotel Owner Does It All During the Pandemic

Since the pandemic began, Montu Patel has learned how to sew masks and fight with Wall Street lenders. He has helped draft pleas for relief to state and local officials on behalf of small business owners. He knows how to fashion plexiglass.

As the head of a small business, Mr. Patel, whose family owns eight budget hotel franchises, was used to wearing multiple hats. But since March, when the long-haul drivers, families on road trips and business travelers who made up most of his clientele stopped checking in, forcing him to lay off workers and hunt for cash, Mr. Patel has become a one-man army battling for the survival of his business. Its death would be no less than the extinguishing of an American dream.

One August morning, before meeting with a loan officer who he had to convince that the hotel industry had a rosy future, Mr. Patel had to hack down a tree that had fallen across the parking lot of one of his properties.

The hotels are Mr. Patel’s whole life. The son of Indian immigrants, he grew up in and around an Econolodge hotel that his family owned and operated in Bordentown, N.J. He studied real estate in graduate school, knowing he would eventually take over the business from his father.

“My parents came to this country with nothing in their pockets,” Mr. Patel, 43, said. “Everything that we’ve accumulated since then has been gravy.”

Mr. Patel has managed his hotels through tragedy and growth. Two years ago, his sister, who was the business’s finance chief, died of a brain tumor. Last year, Mr. Patel bought four new properties, and now the family runs three Hamptons Inns, two Comfort Inns, two Holiday Inn Expresses and one Days Inn, licensing the popular names from big hotel companies.


Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

The pandemic has forced thousands of small business owners to close shop permanently. Those that have survived, like Mr. Patel’s, have had to readjust and recalibrate constantly, as their owners cling to the hope that things will improve. But a widely available vaccine is at least a year away, there is no guarantee of fresh federal aid weeks before the presidential election and the virus still spreading.

“As long as the pandemic subsides next year, we will be in good shape to start replenishing our savings, digging ourselves out of the hole we’re in,” Mr. Patel said.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey — the states where Mr. Patel has his hotels — instituted lockdowns. Mr. Patel watched helplessly as business plummeted. Occupancy fell by 90 percent. But he and his staff were kept busy by new types of guests.

In Maryland, the state’s health department took over a floor of Mr. Patel’s Hampton Inn in Salisbury and put up homeless people who had contracted the virus. One May morning, the state police came to the hotel, followed by funeral home workers. A guest had died.

At Mr. Patel’s Holiday Inn Express near the Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport, crews from a Russian air cargo company, Volga-Dnepr Airlines, began checking in at regular intervals. They were flying masks, gloves and other protective gear from Russia to help overcome a sudden shortage in the United States.

In Hershey, Pa., where the Patel family owns another Hampton Inn, an emergency room doctor brought in to help handle Covid-19 cases at Hershey Medical Center was, for a time, the only guest. The doctor asked that hotel staff stay away from his room.

Operating the hotels required adjustments. Elevator buttons had to be cleaned hourly, and electronic key cards had to be sanitized each time they were returned. Front desks required plexiglass screens. Trays and equipment for meals served buffet-style — a common feature of budget hotels — were removed. Gyms were shut; pools were closed.

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Any time Mr. Patel had a particularly good idea for how to do something, he shared it on one of several WhatsApp groups that hotel owners had formed to commiserate and swap advice. “I feel like we are driving down the interstate trying to avoid one fiery crash after another,” a group member wrote. “If you lost money in 2018, 2019 or 2020, carry back those losses up to five years,” wrote another, describing ways to lower federal tax bills. “More little-known benefits coming.”

Mr. Patel shored up his hotels’ finances. Between April and August, he drew roughly $500,000 from a pool of cash contributions made by friends and family. He secured forgivable loans of about $150,000 per hotel through the federal government’s $650 billion Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, which he used to pay employees through the early stretch of the lockdowns.

With few guests, Mr. Patel assigned some of his staff to deep-cleaning jobs. Still, he furloughed around 225 people, or about 75 percent of his work force. (He has now asked almost everyone to come back, but some have chosen not to, he said.) He tried to upgrade the properties, but it became harder to do as supply chains faltered. LED vanity mirrors and faucets were back-ordered. He also struggled in the spring to find a reliable supply of masks and hand sanitizer, which the hotel chains overseeing his properties required him to provide free to every guest. Supplies were easier to get as the summer progressed, but it was still hard to pay for them.

“When you’re renting rooms at a steeply discounted rate and still trying to offer all of these additional things, it’s either a very thin profit or not profitable at all,” Mr. Patel said. He added that some of the hotel companies’ requirements had started to seem unreasonable. “They can come up with any rules for the franchisee that they want, and they don’t have to worry about fulfilling them,” he said. “They’re not part of our hardship at all.”

Mr. Patel has pleaded with government officials for help, especially for his property in Hershey, a town once popular with tourists. In late August, he attended a county commissioners’ meeting in Harrisburg, Pa., seeking relief for himself and other local businesses on property taxes. The commissioners said there was nothing they could do.


Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Over time, having fewer guests created fresh peril with lenders. Rather than take out a traditional bank loan for his Hershey property, Mr. Patel had borrowed from Wall Street, attracted by terms that did not allow for the seizure of his personal assets in case of a default. It turned into a nightmare. The commercial mortgage-backed securities loan was controlled by a contract with onerous terms that were almost impossible to change.

Mr. Patel worried that if he fell behind on payments, the property could be seized by investors who held the bonds that his loan was packaged into. In June, desperate for help, he visited the Federal Reserve’s website and read about a program that the central bank had revived — the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF — to prop up the financial markets.

When he saw that the program, created during the 2008 financial crisis, was meant “to support the flow of credit to consumers and businesses,” he wondered: Could that help him get short-term relief on the Hershey loan? No, as it turned out; TALF was designed to help bondholders by lending them money in exchange for bonds like the one linked to the Hershey property as collateral, but it offered no relief to the actual borrowers.

Mr. Patel worries that he may lose the Hershey property. He has set aside $200,000, taken from his company’s other holdings, to pay the $60,000 monthly shortfall he expects to face starting in November, for four months. After that, only another round of aid from the government could keep the property afloat. He is also finding it harder to deal with traditional banks, which typically have more straightforward loan terms but became stricter during the pandemic about negotiating changes to existing loans and even with disbursing what they have already agreed to lend.

In early August, Mr. Patel’s biggest lender asked him for a 12-month “pro forma,” a detailed estimate for how his business would perform over the next year, a monumental request considering how uncertain the future remains. On the morning he had to make a bullish case to the loan officer about the hotel business, the dissipating winds of hurricane Isaias had knocked down the tree in his Hampton Inn parking lot in New Jersey, forcing him to grab a chain saw.

His daily routine has changed, too. He used to reach for his phone while still in bed each morning and scroll through spreadsheets that showed the daily activity at each hotel. But there was little point in doing so after the lockdowns slashed occupancy.

“If I were to calculate all the money that we’re losing, I think I would become unable to just do and see the strategy ahead,” he said.

These days, he often spends hours every day on the phone talking to employees who can’t make it back to work because of child care conflicts or transportation problems. He strategizes about how to help them pay for transportation and their families’ care. He has also found more time to spend with his wife and three children, his parents and members of his extended family who help run the business.

When a vice president in the company started sewing masks in April, Mr. Patel, his wife and his parents joined her in the effort. They kept some of the masks they made for personal use and donated the rest to a hospital. And Mr. Patel picked up a new skill: “I learned how to sew.”

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Pummeled by the Pandemic, Hotel Owners Get Creative With Their Space

Like many hotels pummeled by the pandemic, the InterContinental Times Square is trying to hang on.

After tourists stopped arriving this spring, the 607-room property transformed into housing for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients. When they checked out, the high-rise began offering blocks of rooms as office space. And with its reopening this month, the InterContinental will again play office landlord, this time on a suite-by-suite basis.

“We’re trying to be creative,” said Gul Turkmenoglu, the general manager, “and hope our ideas take off.”

Across the country, as the hospitality industry grapples with a severe downturn, hotels have been trying to reinvent themselves — as schools, emergency housing, wedding halls or homeless shelters — even as the new uses may come up short on revenue.

There are signs of financial distress. In New York, 44 hotel loans backed by bonds totaling $1.2 billion are delinquent, according to September data from Trepp, an analytics firm. In second place was Houston, with 39 delinquent loans at $682 million, followed by Chicago with 29 at $990 million.

Though a foreclosure would not necessarily cause a hotel to close, many analysts do not expect the industry to fully recover till 2023.

“Generally speaking, every hotel in America has lost 20 to 35 percent of its value in the last six months,” said Keith Thompson, a principal of the hospitality group at the brokerage firm Avison Young, which is starting to list distressed hotels at steep discounts.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Government efforts to house people in need have picked up some slack. New York, for instance, leased 11,000 rooms in hotels from April to July for medical workers who did not want to infect their families, as well as Covid-19 patients who could not isolate properly at home. One was a Hilton Garden Inn on West 37th Street, where three patients died in April after being discharged from hospitals.

This spring, New York also leased 63 of the city’s 700 hotels to house homeless residents, who are vulnerable to the coronavirus in open-layout shelters. The city pays $120 per room per night to those hotels, which received 9,500 people during the pandemic, most of whom are still there, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services said.

Included are outposts of chains like DoubleTree and SpringHill Suites, but also Kixby, a 195-room boutique property on West 35th Street with a “mixology” bar in the lobby.

But the plan’s rollout hasn’t always been smooth. Some of the 300 men put up in the Lucerne, an Upper West Side hotel, took drugs and were rowdy, according to neighborhood residents. The city later relocated the group.

Miami took a similar approach to coronavirus containment. Five hotels were designated as housing for doctors, the homeless and Covid-19 patients, for a total of more than 2,100 people from July to September, officials said.

State and county funds cover the rooms and meals, said Frank Rollason, the director of emergency management for Miami-Dade County. “We had to evict some people. A meth lab was set up in one room,” Mr. Rollason said. “But we have also saved lives by stopping a pyramid of people from being infected.”

Whether new residents wind up as troublemakers or not, hotels seem eager for a lifeline. About 100 have emailed Mr. Rollason about participating in the program, he said. Their interest seems understandable, as the number of tourists is sharply down.


Credit…Angel Valentin for The New York Times

But the state money can be a pittance compared with what came before. The Doral Inn and Suites, a 112-room property catering to business and leisure travelers near Miami’s airport, collects $35 a night for units that once traded at $250. A week ago, 73 rooms were taken.

Alex Nahabetian, the manager of the family-owned hotel, said he had been planning to renovate the property, which was built in the 1980s. But then the pandemic hit, and his lender pulled financing because hotels were at risk. That lender would also grant Mr. Nahabetian only a three-month forbearance on his mortgage payments, a grace period that expired in June.

“The program has been a major lifesaver,” he said. “Otherwise, we would be permanently closed.”


Credit…Angel Valentin for The New York Times

Hotels not selected for government relief are often converting rooms into offices, at a time when office buildings remain closed.

At London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, a 226-unit property in West Hollywood, Calif., beds were removed to create work spaces more like boardrooms. About five have been rented each month since June for $5,000, a spokeswoman said.

But most properties seem to be betting that workers simply need a desk, and because most rooms already have one, the hotel doesn’t have to splurge on a makeover.

Employees of the Hotel Figueroa, a renovated Spanish Colonial landmark in downtown Los Angeles, generally reposition furniture only at a client’s request. The 268-room hotel, which housed medical workers in the pandemic, has leased 200 offices since June for $25,000, a spokeswoman said.

But office space is usually much cheaper than standard rooms. At the InterContinental Times Square, offices, which are leased by the day, are about 30 percent less than overnight stays, and rates for those overnight rooms are down more than half since last year, Ms. Turkmenoglu said.

Hotels are rethinking common areas, too. Last month, five families rented a conference room at a Courtyard by Marriott in suburban Elmhurst, Ill., so their first-grade students could comfortably engage in remote learning. Gym class was in the hotel’s pool.

Use of the room would normally be $600 a week; the families paid $350. That’s not insignificant when occupancy is a third of its normal rate, said Tania Gawel, the director of sales at the 140-room property.

“It’s been very slow,” Ms. Gawel said, “so it’s all about thinking outside of the box.”


Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Other hotels, like the Great Wolf Lodge resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, have set up remote-learning facilities to lure vacationers. And ballrooms that once hosted business conventions are now marketed for “micro-weddings” that are substitutes for larger parties that were canceled.

The backdrop to the survival efforts is gloomy. Nationwide, about three dozen hotels had closed for good as of last month, including in Austin, Texas; Denver; and Washington, according to STR, a hospitality analytics firm, though that number is expected to skyrocket.

“For some properties, just keeping the lights on could cost $1 million a month,” said Jeffrey Davis, a broker with the commercial real estate firm JLL and co-head of its hospitality group. He added that debt service could add $5 million.

By late September, 188 of 700 hotels in New York had closed, and their status is unknown, according to the Hotel Association of New York City. Closures have included Omni Berkshire Place, Hilton Times Square and two Courtyard by Marriott hotels. Some may be purposefully staying dark to save on labor costs until the market improves, brokers said. But taxes are gobbling reserves in the meantime.

Most of San Francisco’s 215 hotels are temporarily closed, with some not planning to reopen until next year, said Kevin Carroll, the chief executive of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, a trade group. As in other cities, hotels there have filled empty rooms with essential workers, people needing to quarantine and those looking for alternatives to home offices. Evacuees from the region’s devastating fires have also taken up residence, Mr. Carroll said.

But turning over hotels to other uses, especially as homeless shelters, can hurt properties in the short run, Mr. Davis said. “You may be getting a good bang for your buck for your rooms, but the wear and tear in your hotel is something to be reckoned with.”

Some of the rebranding could become permanent. Already, Mr. Davis has seen buyers interested in converting struggling hotels to college dormitories or “micro-apartments.”

“That is something that’s totally new, that we haven’t seen in previous downturns,” Mr. Davis said. “And it’s probably one of the most interesting.”

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Hotels Are Promoting the Nostalgia of the Family Road Trip

As the United States slowly, haltingly reopens, hotels are trying to persuade Americans to make this the summer of the road trip.

Although some hotels have kept a trickle of guests coming through the doors by catering to essential workers, people seeking a change in scenery and willing to drive to a vacation spot are the industry’s lifeline for the foreseeable future. A good number of hotels in the country remain closed. Most business travel and nearly all group bookings remain on hold, and many travelers are reluctant to take unnecessary plane trips.

“Everything that we’ve seen and read was pointing to the summer of the drive market and drive destinations,” said John Davies, vice president of marketing at Benchmark Resorts & Hotels.

Jan Freitag, senior vice president for STR, a lodging consulting firm, agreed that many people would want to drive somewhere after months of being largely stuck at home. “It’s not going to be very hard to convince people to drive because they just want to get away,” he said.

So, hotel marketing campaigns are leaning into nostalgia, invoking the familiar tropes of the family car ride to a beach, the mountains or a national park. “This is really going back 50 years or more when people were very eager to get in the car and drive,” said Chekitan Dev, professor of marketing and branding at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.

While the campaigns may evoke an earlier era, hotel marketing departments are interacting with would-be travelers on social media and using web browsing data analytics to figure out which images, activities and places people search for when they think about a getaway.

Benchmark rolled out a summer road trip campaign that divides the United States into seven regions, highlighting outdoor activities and local attractions in each. “We felt that all they needed was the motivation to give them a reason to leave the house,” Mr. Davies said. “We put a huge focus on that with a message that’s more comforting and uplifting and kind of inviting for people to kind of get away from the chaos of the crisis.”

That is a shift from the messaging hotels rolled out during the initial surge of the pandemic in the spring, when their marketing was largely focused on cleanliness. Hotel chains promoted their stepped-up sanitation standards and partnerships with cleaning product brands like Lysol and Mr. Clean.

The first step was moving toward something a bit more optimistic.

“We knew that once the industry and our company had established the fact that we were adhering to strict cleanliness standards, that could become a little bit of an assumption that the consumer would make,” said Jeff Doane, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Accor North and Central America. “With that established, we were able to be much more promotional about the experience you’d be able to have at the hotels.” Accor recently started a campaign with tongue-in-cheek depictions of people snorkeling in the bathtub and lounging in a pool float on the living room carpet.

“What we found in the search results and feedback we were getting from guest experiences is people just wanted to get out of the house,” Mr. Doane said.

Hotel brands have also had to adjust to the uneven patchwork of plans and protocols imposed by state and local governments, along with the suspension or even reversal of opening-up plans.

“Not everything is accelerating or coming back as fast,” Mr. Davies said, which is why Benchmark used what he called a “hyper-regional” approach.

The focus on regional and short-haul markets is changing how hotels communicate with travelers and giving a much bigger role to social media channels. “The messages are getting a little bit more specific,” said Bjorn Hanson, a hotel industry consultant. “This is a property-by-property environment — each really has to have its own unique messaging.”

Credit…Caitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

Given that many pools, spas, gyms and restaurants remain closed or are operating in only a limited capacity, hotels are promoting nearby parks, scenery and vistas along with simple activities that are easy to do while maintaining social distance. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has held drive-in movie nights, playing family-friendly cartoons and comedies in its parking lot, while Kimpton hotels in Winston Salem, N.C., and Los Angeles created pop-up “bodegas” with premade snacks and bottled cocktails for guests while their restaurants were shuttered.

“The promotion message is easy, but delivering the experience is a challenge,” Mr. Hanson said.

Figuring out where people daydream about going is another key part of the equation. Hotels are using data points like Google search results and the addresses of the people doing the searching to see what — and where — they are viewing.

“We’re in a situation where most of our traditional data signals don’t really help us in the current environment,” said Julia Vander Ploeg, global head of digital at Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “We’ve had to get very creative and layer on different data points to understand how to promote this gradual rebuild of leisure travel.”

Kathleen Reidenbach, chief commercial officer at Kimpton Hotels & Resorts, said Kimpton started by asking guests, “‘Where are you looking to travel?’” When people responded to surveys or queries posted on social media that they wanted to visit pools and beaches, she said, the brand worked with individual properties to play up their aquatic offerings. “As you go to our website, there is a lot of content about beach destinations, and now we’ve pivoted a lot of imagery over to the pool. It’s really impacted our content strategy,” she said.

Executives say they also are relying more heavily on their own internal data analytics, including what pages people look at or what images make them click to learn more, as well as surveys and social media feedback. “Social is playing a unique role right now,” Ms. Vander Ploeg said. “I believe people are using that for signals of how we feel about travel.”

To that end, hotels also need to be sensitive to the perspective of people who might want to book a vacation someday — but not just yet.

Mr. Doane, of Accor, said the company has tried to strike a balance between sounding eager to receive guests while conveying that it is not rushing headlong into reopening. “There are some people who feel cooped up and want to go out and do something, and others just aren’t ready to do that yet.”

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How the Coronavirus Pandemic Ravaged Medical Tourism

Over the past several years, hospitals began to play innkeeper to open the door to more elective surgery, which is the lifeblood of their revenue.

They developed hotels near their operating rooms where patients, who often came from overseas for specialized treatments, could recover comfortably. Expanding into the hospitality business also allowed health care providers to avoid the high costs of being hosts themselves.

But as with so much else, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated medical tourism. To allow doctors to focus on emergencies, hospitals have canceled hip replacements and tummy tucks, while flight bans have grounded many foreign visitors.

Compounding the decline, multiday protests in May and June against police brutality, set off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have also given travelers pause, depriving hospitals of some of their best-paying customers, according to those who work in the industry.

“Unfortunately, the future looks bleak,” said Trey Hulsey, a co-founder of Hayakoum, a three-year-old service that handles travel arrangements for patients from the Middle East bound for hospitals in Boston, Houston and Philadelphia. “It’s just been one blow after another.”

Credit…Angel Valentin for The New York Times

Yet hospitals, whose costs have mounted as the pandemic dragged on, may have little choice but to revive the sector, according to some developers, who are forging ahead despite the uncertainty.

In Miami, for instance, plans are in motion for Legacy Hotel and Residences, a mixed-use tower from the developer Royal Palm Companies that is taking the hospital-hotel concept in a different direction.

Instead of situating its 256-room hotel and 100,000-square-foot hospital side by side, as might be the case on some campuses, Legacy sandwiches the two entities into a single 680-foot high-rise the shape of a stapler.

Also included in the nearly $500 million project, which is set to break ground this fall as part of the Miami Worldcenter mega-development, are condos, a full-floor fitness center and spa, shops, bars and restaurants.

Someone who goes to the tower looking to, say, replace a damaged knee would undergo surgery in the Center for Health and Performance, a 10-level facility at the tower’s base. Then, after being wheeled down halls and into a private elevator, the patient would begin a stay of a week or so in a hotel room above.

Sixteen suites with nurse service will be available for those needing greater attention, though patients with fewer needs will stay in typical hotel rooms, said Daniel Kodsi, the chief executive of Royal Palm, a co-developer of Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a condo tower down the street.

The pandemic has not halted sales of Legacy’s 274 condos, whose studios start at $300,000, but it has delayed the selection of an operator for Legacy’s $60 million hospital, which Royal Palm prefers to call a “medical center” because it will lack an emergency room and offer only outpatient procedures.

Developers say the distinction is crucial. Some hotel guests are bound to feel uneasy about sharing space with people who have spent time in a hospital — a concern amplified by the spread of the coronavirus — even if the discharged patients pose little risk of infectious disease.

“You’re in a luxury hotel,” Mr. Kodsi said. “You don’t want to be around people who are dying.”


Credit…Angel Valentin for The New York Times

Still, as the pandemic intensified, Legacy made changes to allay fears. A medical-grade air-filtration system, previously planned just for the hospital, will now be used for the entire tower.

Plus, robotic cleaning devices that use ultraviolet light, once envisioned solely for operating rooms, will be deployed to disinfect gathering areas in the hotel and condo sections, Royal Palm said. And doors throughout the tower are being reconfigured to allow phones or voice commands to open them remotely, so no patient or guest has to touch knobs or handles.

Because the Legacy will offer such a germ-reduced environment, as well as services like medical checkups that can be reached by an elevator ride, the multifunction tower could also be a good candidate for a quarantine destination, should a pandemic hit again, said Stephen Watson, Royal Palm’s chief strategic officer for medical development.

“We are bringing the health care to hospitality, and the hospitality to health care,” Mr. Watson said.

Not all medical tourists arrive from abroad. Deprived of specialized care by the closing of rural hospitals, they come from within the United States, too. And a Hyatt opening next month in Chicago’s hospital-packed medical district is expected to serve some of them.

Offering 210 rooms, for both short- and long-term stays, the new hotel is part of a $90 million conversion of a column-lined 1914 former hospital that is also to feature a medical museum. The project is being overseen by a team led by Murphy Development Group, which developed a similarly patient-focused property, a 276-room Holiday Inn at the Cleveland Clinic, in 2016.

The plunge in elective surgery this spring has hollowed out the Cleveland property, said John T. Murphy, the firm’s chief executive: About the only guests who have been around in recent months are visiting health care workers.

But even without long lines of plastic-surgery seekers, hotels can be vital partners for hospitals, providing extra beds during a public-health crisis, even if there was not always a need for surplus cots this time around. “Hotels make a ton of sense from a logistical perspective,” Mr. Murphy said.


Credit…Angel Valentin for The New York Times

From a financial perspective, hotels have been a smart bet, as elective surgery accounts for more than a third of all spending at some major hospitals, according to David G. Vequist IV, the founder of Center for Medical Tourism Research, a group based in San Antonio that was founded in 2008.

And as hospitals experienced a drop in demand in recent years because of high deductibles and other factors, offsetting the difference with deep-pocketed medical tourists was considered a priority, Dr. Vequist said.

Institutions with global recognition have been the most likely to embrace the trend, like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., though even Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., has seen the value in controlling the lodging experience for its patients. It has invested in an outpost of Home2Suites, a Hilton brand, across from its campus.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.