The 196-room, 12-story Renaissance Milwaukee West Hotel in Wauwatosa is planning to open in August, amidst significant market uncertainty due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Marriott’s first Renaissance location in Wisconsin has taken over a former office tower at the southwest corner of the Mayfair Mall campus in Wauwatosa. The 2300 N. Mayfair Road site has been under construction since 2018.
Originally, the plan was to open the hotel in July, in time for when the 2020 Democratic National Convention had been scheduled to bring more than 50,000 visitors to Milwaukee. But after the convention was pushed back a month, giving organizers more time to plan around COVID-19, Renaissance Milwaukee decided to also delay its opening timeline.
“(The DNC) was expected to come to the city in July and with the shift of that, we wanted to make sure we’re taking every precaution on the safety measures to open based on the guidelines provided by the city,” said general manager Vik Khokhar. “That had a huge impact on our decision.”
The pandemic has also put a strain on ordering products from certain vendors whose industries have taken a hit.
“If there was no need to open beforehand, we didn’t want to rush through the process of opening when we may not have product in our hand,” Khokhar said.
As the hotel’s opening date approaches, Khokhar and his team are keeping a close eye on the travel and hospitality industries and adjusting operations as needed, whether that means limiting hiring targets or working around a lower occupancy than originally expected in its first few months.
Khokhar said he expects industry demand to gradually increase in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, but it won’t happen right away. Here in Milwaukee, there are several factors that could impact business once the hotel opens, starting with the size and scope of the DNC or whether it actually takes place in person.
“We are entertaining any group and inquiries that continue to come through for August, including the DNC business that’s coming our way,” said Khokhar.
He acknowledged that the final phase of the Renaissance Milwaukee’s opening has not gone as smoothly as expected, but opening a hotel during a pandemic has forced the company to innovate in order to adapt to changes in the hospitality industry.
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