Checking in, gratefully

New York hotels need your business. Choose ones that are good at giving back.

In New York City, restaurants are serving indoors once again, museums are slowly raising their shutters and the New York Public Library is in a staged reopening – surely a bellwether of better times to come.

And while many of the city’s celebrated, big-name luxury hotels remain closed, because tourists have not yet returned in sufficient numbers, others are cautiously starting to open their doors. With the holidays just around the corner, this is traditionally the busiest time of year for the hospitality industry and establishments are desperately hoping to salvage what they can from the wreck of 2020.

If you’re facing the holidays at home, unable or unwilling to travel far afield this year, why not consider a city break?  Goodness knows, the city needs you. And in return, with all due caution exercised, it will give you something that it never could before — space. Space to walk, space to breathe, even space when standing on line — since you will be socially distanced, naturally.

Gratitude is a two-way street and your custom will be appreciated as never before. Even before the pandemic, many hotels were giving back, thinking about the wider community along with their guests. Now comes your opportunity to give your valuable business to a hotel, or hotel group, with a sense of civic responsibility. What goes around comes around, after all.

You might start with Marriott. This is currently the largest hotel group in the world, the operator of luxury brands including Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Luxury Collection. Working with humanitarian relief agencies like the American Red Cross, Children’s Miracle Network and World Central Kitchen, as well as sustainable foundations worldwide, this behemoth has certainly embraced giving back, and bucks spent at Marriott establishments can filter down to benefit all manner of good causes. Rates at its luxury Manhattan properties, like the JW Marriott Essex House on Central Park South, or Le Meridien, are something of a steal right now, while at the budget end, Marriott’s too-cool-for school Moxy brand (with four Manhattan hotels and counting) has rooms going in its Chelsea locale — entered Narnia-like through a flower shop — for little more than $100. Rude not to, as the saying goes.

Marriott guests can also contribute to the group’s affiliated charities directly, by donating their Bonvoy loyalty program points, a truly generous thing to do in the season of giving back.

Saving money while doing good is always an appealing proposition. “The future of the world and the future of hospitality are one and the same,” says the prescient Barry Sternlicht, co-founder of Starwood Capital Group and one of the most gifted, forward-thinking hoteliers on the domestic and international stage. I wrote about his terrific property, 1 Hotel South Beach, these pages last year, but 1 Hotels have properties right here in New York also.

1 Hotel Central Park and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge are currently open, and both extend excellent Covid protocols, such as sanitizing guest luggage using UV technology on arrival, and keeping rooms unoccupied for a minimum of 24 hours between guests.

What’s more, 1 Hotels’ commitment to environmentally responsible hospitality is utterly in earnest and goes far beyond virtue signalling. In other words, these guys are determined to make a difference, as evidenced by their partnerships with associations like the National Defenses Resource Council (NRDC,) Oceanic Global and E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), the last an organization founded on the principal that what is good for the environment is good for the economy. Add to this their work with City Meals on Wheels (serving the homebound elderly in New York), the New York Restoration Project — creating and maintaining beautiful public spaces in New York City — and the Central Park Conservancy, and you’ll surely agree that staying at a 1 Hotel has benefits. Having regard for the planet and doing good locally, while simultaneously having fun and enjoying the perks of a stylish city hotel are now entirely compatible.

Although currently closed, one further property to tell you about is the exceptional 11 Howard, a luxury hotel in SoHo, whose guiding principal is “Conscious Hospitality.” No empty slogan, this caption describes how every aspect of the hotel — from concept to design to how it conducts its daily business — has been sensitively thought out, going beyond the usual considerations of turning a profit. Partnering with concerns such as Thrive Market and Lauren Bush’s FEED initiative, and engaging with  Conscious Commerce to ensuring that goods offered in the hotel are “consciously” conceived, this good ethical practice spreads out to the wider community. And in more pragmatic terms, for all reservations made directly with the hotel, a portion of the rate is donated to charity.

Of course, all of this would count not a jot if the saintly hotel in question were not an oasis of comfort, with good accommodations, a great restaurant and bar and attentive service, but happily 11 Howard has all of the above. Simpatico staff — check.  Exceptional Danish minimalist design — check. Wonderful restaurant (that would be Le Coucou,) and cool, clubby bar (that would be The Blond) — check. The hotel is an object lesson in good taste and good living. And it should go straight into your contacts for places to stay or recommend to visitors to New York, when it reopens — with luck — in the spring.

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