That the hospitality industry has taken a particularly hard hit during the coronavirus crisis goes much deeper than just the numbers. Hotels are where a city comes together, and where the world crosses paths; the reality that many are now sitting nearly empty only serves to emphasize just how socially isolated we have been for the last five months.
But most health experts have agreed that hotels, if not yet their indoor restaurants, are amongst the safest places to be, provided safety guidelines are being maintained. And the opening of new ones, certainly, is an incredibly hopeful sign, at a time when we really do need as many hopeful signs as possible. Intriguingly, it’s in the city of El Paso, Texas, of all places, where the future of hotel safety is soon to be unveiled.
Indeed, the Hotel Paso Del Norte (part of the Autograph Collection) will open there this autumn with a state of the art air filtration system that sounds for everything like it is designed to kill any sign of virus in its path, via “bipolar ionization.” Using HVAC-mounted ionizers, it employs proactive air purification technologies to conjure millions of positive and negative ions; or, to put it in easily understandable numerical terms, it eliminates 99%(!) of all infectious matter within 10 minutes.
How do they know it’s effective? The system, developed by Stamford, CT’s Plasma Air, was tested in simulated hospital ICUs and hotels used to house medical personnel in isolation during the pandemic. And it worked.
It’s the central element in the Paso Del Norte’s “A Commitment to Clean Plan,” which also includes sanitizing stations throughout hotel, temperature checks for staff prior to each shift, plexiglass barriers at the front, bell and concierge desks, and all restaurant host podiums, mobile check-in via the Marriott Bonvoy app, and thorough cleaning of all guest rooms, with a 24-hour window between guests for each room. Even use of the rooftop pool is by reservation, to avoid overcrowding.
“Being in the renovation process when this crisis occurred,” offers General Manager Carlos Sarmiento, “gave us the unique opportunity to implement additional safety features before opening our doors. When we undertook this project, we were prepared to restore the 108-year-old property’s architectural elements, create stunning event spaces and amenities, and curate a distinct culinary destination—but COVID-19 gave us the need to also enhance air quality in all areas of the hotel.”
Those 108 years date the Paso Del Norte back to 1912, and it shows—with grand Art Deco columns, gilded and coffered ceilings, and dramatically arched windows, which offer majestic mountain views. Elsewhere, warm woods, contemporary and classical chandeliers, and elegant but vibrant color schemes make for an overall interior design that strikes that oh-so-careful balance of the modern and the historical.
Still, Sarmiento very much emphasizes the safety aspects of a stay at the Paso Del Norte.