A Canberra hotel has started renting out rooms by the day to people struggling to work from home, after its bookings evaporated almost overnight due to the coronavirus travel restrictions.
For $100 per day, workers can seclude themselves at the five-star Hotel Realm in Barton, with "state of the art" WiFi, free parking, as well as access to room service and the mini-bar. For an extra $50, workers can even stay the night.
Doma Group's director of hotels Patrick Lonergan said they were inspired by the stories of family and friends' transitioning to working from home, especially those with children, as workplaces and schools across the Australia go remote due to COVID-19.
"We heard about the challenges they were facing to get a day's work done and have a bit of quiet time and clarity to think and be able to do their job without children underfoot. It just provides a change of scenery and a sense of normality," he said.
Mr Lonergan envisioned it would not be an everyday solution, but rather a welcome break - and a bit of a treat - for workers struggling to concentrate in their new environment.
"We didn't put it together thinking office workers would start working from here five days a week," Mr Lonergan said.
"Someone might chose to come here to work once a week or once a fortnight. It gives you a break, which mental health-wise is really beneficial."
It comes as hotels around the country face mass cancellations, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Lonergan said normally at this time of year, hotels would be about 85 per cent full.
"They're now down to 20 per cent or lower," he said.
The "shape" of their business changed overnight, as international and later domestic travellers disappeared through border closures and directives from governments to stay home and avoid non-essential trips.
The downturn has been worse than the pilots strikes of 1989 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
"This is as bad as it gets. We're in a position where demand has slowed down incredibly, which has put us in a position where we had to reduce our business," Mr Lonergan said.
"We're doing our bit to keep as many people employed as we can."
He hopes offering hotel rooms to office workers will help him keep staff in work over the coming months.
"We're not doing things to make profits in this environment - we're doing things to survive," Mr Lonergan said.
He welcomed the federal government's JobKeeper package, which will subsidise staff wages of $1500 per fortnight for businesses that have suffered at least a 30 per cent downturn due to the virus.
"What's great about is is employees stood down can stay on our books, have their wages subsidised by the government and what that means is when we come out the other side, we can bring these people back in. It keeps us connected to our employees all the way through," Mr Lonergan said.
It's not the only way the business has changed to survive. Ostani Bar is now takeaway only, while the hotel has also started selling "essentials" boxes of household items which have become harder to get through the supermarket such as long-life milk, pasta and rice.
"We're doing an average of 40 to 50 boxes a day. It's been really popular to the point we're capping how many we do a day," Mr Lonergan said.
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