Monday night's the last game of March Madness, but Indy’s hospitality industry hopes this NCAA financial boost is just a start. The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown is the last hotel hosting teams. It now looks to the future of how the 2021 tourism and convention season will define this year’s business outlook.
For some hotels like the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, March Madness marks the first time in a year the hotel has been open an entire week.
Ashley Bertram is a single mom and a guest room attendant. After a year of uncertainty, she was grateful to be able to return to the job.
“I thought it was great,” said Bertram. “Back in my same position and being able to, once again, work for the money that I need to provide for my family.”
Bertram’s worked at the Marriott for two years. She said enhanced hotel and NCAA safety protocols make her feel safe. The hotel limits the points of contact with guests and she rarely even enters a room.
The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates more than 95 percent of the state’s hotel workers were furloughed or laid-off within 48 hours last March.
The city’s hospitality industry has seen a resurgence because of the Men’s Division I basketball championships. Hotels brought back employees to host the teams, NCAA personnel, and fans.
Michael Moros, Indianapolis Marriott Downtown general manager, said future events are an important signal for the community.
“We need Indy 500 to happen,” said Moros. “I think the city needs it to happen. Our local fans need it to happen. I'm not sure we'll have a lot of corporate travelers that will come in, but I do believe that; that'll be an opening sign for Indianapolis.”
Moros said he has nearly 370 employees. He brought back a few dozen to work the March Madness but still has dozens more on furlough.
The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association doesn’t expect demand for hotels to fully recover until 2024.