The hotel industry was one of the sectors that were hit extremely hard by the crisis brought on by the Covid-19 epidemic. Luckily however, instead of being buried in hopelessness, many saw the opportunity offered by the extreme situation: including Budapest-based Hotel Rum whose team decided to utilize their gorgeous spaces as home office facilities, amongst others.
Situated in Királyi Pál utca, Hotel Rum was already considered novel and progressive when it opened back in 2016. With the hotel, the owners wanted to manifest and pass on the experiences they had in their favorite foreign hotels. This kind of intimacy and personal character, as well as the New Work, London and Paris-based inspirations made Hotel Rum a truly unique accommodation option – and of course Salt, the fine dining restaurant on the ground floor of the building, together with their rooftop bar and restaurant, Toprum.
Everything was going really well until March 2020: with its panorama overlooking the historical downtown, Toprum enjoyed unbroken popularity amongst both tourists and locals, and the hotel offered accommodation mainly to American, British and Western European guests – thus their clientele was formed exactly from the countries the founders turned to for inspiration. Then came the virus.
“Just like every other hotel, we too were shocked and appalled by the first wave of the epidemic, we had to close our hotel overnight. We remained close until June 17, when the state lifted the restrictions on the borders and tourists could once again enter the country. We were amongst the very first to open. Luckily we work with a small staff, and almost everyone could keep their jobs“ – explains Roxána Kiss, the general manager of the hotel. “During the quarantine, the team was constantly thinking about ways to reopen our hotel. We assumed that there would be less tourists, and that the hotels would have to fight for them. Finally the summer period went quite well, we had a lot of guests, Germans and Austrians in particular, and we even saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And then the government’s decision to close the borders left us flabbergasted once again, and the hotel emptied out within one or two weeks. Then the team sat down together once again to figure out how to continue and to whom we could offer our services in this situation.”
“We started to think about ways we could utilize the hotel in this situation” – adds Dalma Kormos, the head of marketing at the hotel.
“For this building to just stand here in the downtown all empty is a total waste, and we didn’t want to leave it that way. We wanted to do something that the locals can enjoy, too.”
A program differing from traditional hotel functions already took place during the summer: in collaboration with Budapest-based Lumas Gallery, Hotel Rum hosted an exhibition in its rooms and spaces under the title Travel Spektiv. With the traveling-themed artworks, they once again wanted to alleviate the pain of not being able to travel.
“In the course of ideation we primarily started out from our thoughts and experiences: we are lucky because we can go to work, but we think many who are forced to work from home miss the kind of work experience when one actually gets dressed and goes to work” – Roxi continues. Working from a hotel room can be an alternative to those who don’t feel safe in co-working offices due to the epidemic, too. The experience of the time spent in the hotel was also an important element of their decision, once again rooted in personal inspiration. “Let’s not forget that we haven’t been traveling for some time now, and we miss arriving at a hotel where we are welcomed and we feel a little like a tourist. We don’t think we can substitute for that, but at least people now get to experience a small slice of it in our hotel.”
The Rum Office package pertains to weekdays and can be used on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The rooms cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis are equipped with coffee and tea, but the guests – that is, workers – can also order room service. In addition, they also get 10% discount to Toprum restaurant and bar on the top of the building. Interrupting our daily workflow with a lunch consumed at a spot with a panorama over Budapest is truly refreshing, but the restaurant is also perfectly suitable for business meetings – thus you can also sneak some community experience into the home office setup. Moreover, the monthly package also includes two nights, so if you have too much work to do, you can have a rest and charge up in the hotel.
In addition to the home office package and the exhibition mentioned earlier, Hotel Rum also offers other creative solutions for the situation going hand in hand with the epidemic. Their “One-night stand” package including a dinner at Salt and a night spent at Hotel Rum has been on for a while, and is popular not only amongst people traveling to the capital from the countryside, but those living in the city and even in the neighboring streets, too. “I speak from experience when I say that returning to reality after a several hours long Salt dinner can be challenging. So it is very practical that you only have to go up a few stairs and you also get to attend a brunch at the weekends” – Dalma claims. In addition to the Hungarian audience, Hotel Rum has not given up on foreigners either. Their business package is available all throughout the year for those travelling to Hungary for business purposes – people who enter the country for this reason face a lot less restrictions.
Thus, the challenging situation did not dishearten the team of Hotel Rum at all, quite on the contrary: as Roxi puts it, with some humor, they are even a bit afraid of what it will be like when this bizarre period ends and they will have to get back to normal. As if nothing else, their creativity can at least run wild in these months. Of course until then, they welcome all guests with open doors and measures ensuring their safety, and they also plan to organize exciting programs for the rest of the year, too.