INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — It's a sight that's very familiar — but nonetheless exciting — to Jason Baer, direct of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.
As someone who's worked in the hotel industry for more than a decade, walking around the property and interacting with guests is something Baer doesn't for granted. At least, not anymore.
What You Need To Know
- Tourism represents the Greater Palm Springs area's number one industry
- Spring season is typically busy in the Coachella Valley with events like Coachella, Stagecoach, and the BNP Open
- The Hyatt Regency in Indian Wells was forced to close for 137 days due to COVID-19 before finally reopening
- With many having been cooped up indoors, hotels like the Regency are now ready to provide a safe oasis for travelers
“People in hospitality just want to see others have fun," he said. "It’s like when you’re hosting guests, you want them to enjoy their time, and seeing that come to life, it’s been amazing.”
A smile seems to be permanently plastered under his mask — a sign that after 137 days, the hotel has been able to reopen and welcome guests once again.
In mid-March — during what is typically the region's busiest season — the hotel and the industry as a whole was forced to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When you think about a hotel, we never close," said Baer. "We’re open 24/7, so for our hotel to have to cease operations, that really is different from what we’re used to."
The halt created a huge economic impact in the Coachella Valley. According to a Tourism Economics study, early estimates indicated a potential lost visitor revenue of nearly $3.5 billion and more than 50,000 jobs.
These numbers have motivated the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitor's Bureau to help businesses rebound.
“We really shifted and created a pledge called Safer Together, Greater Together,” explained Scott White, the organization's CEO. "We've tried to help them understand what the guidance is from the state and the county, and understand the safety protocols."
The goal is to encourage tourists, especially from surrounding areas like L.A. County, that it is safe to come back to the desert oasis.
“Outside there’s so much interest in our destination," said White. "That has really been a positive silver lining that has kept us very hopeful that the future does look bright.”
And it's not just a bright forecast for hotels, but for other points of interest in the region like the Living Desert, which has seen an increase in visitors over the last month.
“We get very emotional because we work hard to promote the destination, and seeing people coming here, you can’t put a price on that," White said.
While things look a little different across all attractions in the region, Baer said adapting has been worth it to welcome guests back in.
“I can’t imagine anything more important right now than getting people back to the resort," he said.
And so the Hyatt is doing what it can: promoting social distancing guidelines, creating enticing packages like "Work from Hyatt," implementing contactless options, and opening up its latest outdoor attraction with a brand new waterpark and lazy river — all to encourage guests to travel back once again.
“Coming out and having an opportunity to be away from people and breathe in fresh air just changes your perspective and gets guests to feeling more normal," Baer said.
For this hotel and the many other tourism business in the Coachella Valley, reopening was one thing, but now the focus has shifted to how they will move forward and rebound.