New York City hotels reopen to new customers

Nearly five months after shutting their doors, some of the Big Apple’s fanciest hotels are starting to take reservations again, buoyed by signs of pent-up demand from cooped-up New Yorkers.

Gone are the tourists and business travelers, and in their place are bored suburbanites looking to celebrate a birthday or spice up a staycation — as well as newlyweds who have decided not to let the coronavirus postpone their nuptials any longer, hoteliers say.

“We have a steady stream of elopements,” said Peter Lawrence, owner of the swanky Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, told The Post.

Business from frustrated brides and grooms has been so brisk that the 70-room property promotes an elopement package complete with “a special cake,” champagne and a room with waterfront views.

The Wythe is also seeing bookings from people seeking to celebrate a birthday in style or visit a family member’s new baby. Some just want a change of scenery, he said.

“We are seeing a lot of locals, mostly city residents, who desperately need a break from wherever they have been hunkering down,” Lawrence said.

When the pandemic hit in March, hundreds of city hotels closed. Only about 90 out of 650 remained open at the height of the pandemic, mainly to host emergency workers, according to the city’s tourism bureau, NYC & Company.

But that is starting to change as people emerge from their coronavirus cocoons in search of a little fun.

“We are seeing a lot of locals, mostly city residents, who desperately need a break from wherever they have been hunkering down,” Lawrence said.

It’s why NYC & Company recently launched a campaign aimed at New York-area residents who have been feeling trapped at home.

“A lot of New Yorkers are not taking European vacations or going to Disney World, and we want them to know that staying in NYC is not a consolation prize,” spokesman Chris Heywood said of the All In NYC: Staycation campaign.

The Lotte New York Palace hotel on Madison Avenue.Getty Images

Even the five-star Lotte New York Palace hotel on Madison Avenue, which can charge as much as $25,000 for a night, has reopened.

The Palace, across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is allowing guests who stay weekly to book the same room for each visit and leave their belongings there.

“If you are a frequent traveler with us, no one else will be able to stay in your room when you’re not using it,” said David Shenman, director of the hotel’s sales and marketing.

Guests looking for a little pampering can enjoy the hotel’s spa services in the comfort and safety of their own rooms.

“Allow us to transform your room into your very own spa oasis,” the hotel’s Web site says.

While a night at the Palace can still cost $500-plus with fees and taxes, other hotels are slashing prices to attract customers at a time when some of the city’s biggest attractions remain closed, including Broadway plays, museums and many restaurants.

“New York is bargain right now,” Geoffrey Mills, regional vice president of the Hudson Hotel, on West 58th Street near the Time Warner Center.

The Hudson, which hosted essential workers during the deadliest days of the pandemic, is now offering room rates from $99 to $140 compared with the starting room rate of $190 a year ago.

The deal has been attracting a lot of last-minute bookings by people from Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut, Mills said.

Overall, the average daily hotel room rate in New York City fell to $127 in July, when occupancy rates were at 37 percent, compared with $261 a year ago, when 90 percent of the rooms were booked, according to NYC & Company.

The Langham hotel on Fifth Avenue, which can also cost $500-plus a night, is offering free parking and a $50 hotel credit for standard rooms, or a $100 credit for suite bookings, to attract business.

“Our front-desk associates have noted a frequency of guests telling them they are at the hotel to celebrate a wedding night or anniversary,” said Louise O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Langham.

Hoteliers say they are also seeing a smattering of corporate guests seeking reservations.

The Langham, for example, recently hosted two corporate board meetings. The Palace is seeing bookings from people “who have to check on their businesses,” Shenman said.

The Wythe, meanwhile, is starting to see an uptick in booking from TV and film production crews who are gearing up to restart filming at the nearby Steiner Studios in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard.

“It’s been a big part of our business historically,” owner Lawrence told The Post. “And they are starting to come back to life.”