How a new Arizona hotel is preparing to open in a post-coronavirus travel landscape

How a new Arizona hotel is preparing to open in a post-coronavirus travel landscape

At a time when Arizona's hospitality industry is furloughing its workforce and temporarily closing resorts, a new boutique hotel in Tucson is holding virtual job fairs.

In fact, Tucson native Vishal Patel and his business partner Sunny Patel are optimistic that they could open their 112-room property, The Tuxon, just as people are ready to return to travel this summer with features guests will be looking for in a post-COVID-19 world.

Pronounced "Tuck-son," the hotel's name is a play on the silent c in Tucson. The goal is to blend the emerging arts and culture scene downtown with the surrounding desert beauty and nearby loop of popular hiking and bicycling trails. Its creators hope it will become a "destination for adventure seekers drawn to desert trails and mountain landscapes."

"Most of my friends didn't know how to pronounce Tucson, they would call it 'tuck-sahn,'" said Vishal Patel, co-creator of The Tuxon.

Emphasis on authentic experiences

A guest room in the Tuxon Hotel in Tucson.

The decor and programming will reflect the city's crossroads of American, Mexican and Native American culture while celebrating "the hotel's unique connection to its desert surroundings just steps away."

The hotel, which is a renovation of a property dating to the 1960s, will become part of Marriott's Design Hotels, a collection of independent boutique hotels worldwide that aim to offer authentic local experiences. It will be the first Design Hotels property in Arizona and the hope is that it will help drive growth on the west side of downtown Tucson. Room prices will vary by season.

"We call ourselves the largest community of neighborhood transformers," said Markus Schreyer, Senior Vice President, the Americas & Global Business Innovation at Design Hotels.

Schreyer said the plans for The Tuxon fit with the brand's vision for independent hoteliers offering local experiences. More than 400 hotels apply each year to be part of the elite brand and typically 5% of those fit its vision for demonstrating “a passion for cultural authenticity and genuine hospitality that is enhanced by thought-provoking design and architecture.”

"Because they are creating a new kind of experience, the whole area gets transformed in a way," he said.

Reacting to coronavirus concerns

Guest bathrooms at the Tuxon Hotel have detailed tile work and rain showers.

Statewide, Arizona has seen a significant drop in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent numbers showed that the statewide occupancy rate for hotels in Arizona during March was just 47.9%.

But The Tuxon's timing might have a silver lining.

While many hotels are rethinking and retrofitting their designs to accommodate concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Tuxon is making those adjustments before opening.

Hotels, vacation rentals announce new cleaning protocols: Here's what they look like

"We've spent a lot of time thinking through from a safety standpoint first and foremost for our employees, our team, which includes our various partners, and then certainly our guests," Sunny Patel said.

In addition to implementing new state, local and Marriott-recommended guidelines, the co-creators believe guests may be reassured by the midcentury modern design of the hotel.

Marriott's disinfection plans: Spraying guest rooms, sanitizing keys to stop COVID-19

The property has a V-shaped, open-air design with a central pool. Guests can park near their rooms and not have to reach them via a lobby. The hotel already planned to offer amenities such as remote check-in by phone. Now, it's adjusting the placement of furniture in public areas to offer distancing.

Still, despite an unknown road ahead, the business partners view this as a long-term investment in the city.

"We’re fully expecting it to be tough sailing early on as travel still is in the process of bottoming. But I think we have an amazing product and there's nothing like it in Tucson and I think that between how our property is set up and how we are positioned, I think we expect to do very well over time," Vishal Patel said.

'Airlines are way behind': Hilton CEO says hotels more likely to recover faster from coronavirus

You can connect with Arizona Republic Consumer Travel Reporter Melissa Yeager at You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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