Wednesday morning marked a landmark launch in downtown Tacoma with the opening of the new Marriott Tacoma Downtown hotel next to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.
“We’re officially open,” said Ben Osgood, general manager of the hotel. “We’ve signed all the documents and the doors are open.”
Osgood spoke to The News Tribune not long after the official 9 a.m. opening.
There was no pomp and circumstance with a large crowd of officials to mark the start, given that Pierce County is now awash in its third surge of COVID-19 cases in the pandemic.
“It’s a little quiet, to say the least,” Osgood said. “But …. we are receiving reservations as we speak.”
For tourism officials, that’s good news.
“This is a big day for Pierce County, and we’re excited to officially welcome Marriott Tacoma Downtown into the Tacoma hotel community,” said Dean Burke, president and CEO of Travel Tacoma – Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports, via email Wednesday.
Adapting to change
The hotel, with 22 floors and 304 guest rooms, has been a goal for the city since the convention center’s completion in 2004.
The site’s groundbreaking on Aug. 8, 2017, was arranged with the help of a feng shui expert, focused on every celebratory detail down to the date itself to instill good luck on the project.
Fast forward to 2020: Attention to detail now is focused on providing safe service in a pandemic.
Opening plans called for what Osgood describes as a “big pivot” following Gov. Jay Inslee’s new orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Really, the biggest change that we had to pivot on just in the last three, four days is we are unfortunately unable to open our restaurant,” Osgood said.
Staff had trained for weeks planning for a thriving indoor dining scene.
Instead, guests now can experience a revamped room service with quick turnaround time.
“Our interim dining program … it’s not the traditional room service that you would expect where you get to your room and, an hour and a half after you order, your food shows up on the big metal plate (with) all the fancy dinnerware,” Osgood said.
“This is more on demand, a la carte experience that will be delivered to your room or available for grab and go in the lobby within 15 minutes of your order. So it’s hot and fresh. It competes with your fast casual restaurants. Everything’s in compostable packaging. It’s a really good program, and it keeps it actually very affordable for the guest.”
Other amenities for now are either scaled down or temporarily off-limits, such as the pool, spa and fitness center.
Cleaning, air filtration
Cleaning, another big issue top of mind with guests trying to avoid COVID-19, follows a pandemic protocol.
“Basically, anything that can’t be sanitized in the guest room is removed.,” Osgood said, “and available by request only. We’re going pretty much paperless. So QR codes, compendiums on the TV.”
On-screen “compendiums” are best described as a digital concierge, offering information about the hotel, the area, menus, etc.
Osgood said there’s also “an electrostatic sprayer in our public areas, and then sanitizing every 30 minutes in high-touch areas so that there’s really no chance that we can have contamination. Plus, you have hand sanitizers pretty much everywhere.”
Daily room cleanings for stay-over service have been adjusted to limit staff and customer contact. Room cleaning service for now is available upon request, but guests have to be out of the room for 15 minutes before staff will enter.
For extended stays, room cleanings are automatic after five days or upon request.
The hotel also uses coronavirus-killing disinfectants and has doubled down on air filtration.
“All air filters are changed every month in every guest room. And we have what are called heat pump units. So they’re a lot quieter; they’re more energy efficient. All the heat pump units get changed out every month,” Osgood said.
Additionally, “every HVAC unit in the building has quarterly changes on the air filtration. And they’ve all been changed out from the original designs. We put in some more robust air filtration filters.”
On Day 1, there already were a handful of guest bookings.
“I think that people in this market have known about this project, and especially our Elite tier members, they want to stay here, they want to be a part of it. And so we’re starting to see kind of last-minute pickup as it goes …. which is really encouraging,” Osgood said.
Once the pandemic’s hold on the area recedes, the hotel will offer “valet service, a full concierge, a full Bell Captain desk, our Great Room will do three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said. “We will have signature cocktails in the evening.”
For now, the site’s M Club for Elite tier members of Marriott’s Bonvoy program will be open on a limited basis for now with grab-and-go meals.
When the club is fully open, Osgood said, it is “really an elevated experience for an Elite tier member … where they get to come in and have a morning breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres with cocktails.”
“Having such a beautiful property adjacent to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center puts Tacoma into contention to host much larger meetings and events than ever before, which benefits the entire county,” Burke of Travel Tacoma said Wednesday.
“We’re leaning forward with optimism about the pending COVID vaccines, and looking forward to a time when we can again work with our hotel partners like the Marriott Tacoma Downtown to safely host those bigger events in downtown Tacoma,“ Burke said.
He added: “In the meantime, we can’t wait to watch the hotel’s first guests start arriving.”
Osgood, who also runs the Four Points by Sheraton near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, promises the new Tacoma Marriott is going to be “amazing,” once fully operational without a rampant COVID surge.
“I look forward to that day,” he added.
More information is at the hotel’s online website.
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