Why work from home when you can do so from a resort? That’s what many managers of hotels, large and small, are hoping would-be travelers are thinking about these days as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stall the travel industry worldwide. Over the past few months, many top hotel chains have started offering remote working packages, spurring another new pandemic trend: the “workcation.”
“The hotels and destinations that are offering ‘work from hotel’ packages are trying to attract all types of travelers. But I think these opportunities will definitely appeal to people traveling on their own or to families who have children who are attending school remotely,” says Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy.
Hotels have responded to the pent-up demand to travel and work elsewhere by introducing packages designed for anyone who’s looking to change up their quarantine routine. Most properties with a “work from hotel” package are offering special rates and discounts for longer stays, as well as additional benefits, such as dedicated workspaces, free breakfast, no resort fees, and more. Before booking a longer stay, customers should be sure to research and compare different properties to find the best one that suits their needs.
“These ‘work from hotel’ programs have already shown us that people are very interested in these experiences and that travelers are now booking trips much closer in to the time of travel,” Kelly says. “It stands to reason that workplaces all over the country will continue to allow workers to be flexible, location-wise. But many get tired of seeing the same four walls day in and day out, which puts hotels in a great position to offer the comforts of home and the conveniences of an office in a beautiful setting.”
Last month, Marriott International launched its new Work Anywhere With Marriott Bonvoy program, laying out three “work from hotel” packages available at more than 2,000 of the hotelier’s locations worldwide. According to an internal study, 42% of more than 400 business professionals—both members and nonmembers of Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program—in the U.S. said they would consider working from a hotel guest room for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, not having a boundary between one’s work and personal life; not having a dedicated workspace at home; experiencing claustrophobia in small apartments; the inability to focus any longer while working from home; insufficient home Wi-Fi; or just the sheer desire to break up the day-to-day monotony.
For locals looking for some extra space during the workday, à la WeWork but without any other people around, the entry-level Day Pass includes a quiet guest room with high-speed Wi-Fi and check-in as early as 6:00 a.m. local time and as late as 6:00 p.m. Additionally, guests will be able to access business facilities such as printing, fax, and scanning equipment. And Marriott Bonvoy members will receive complimentary snacks, gift shop discounts, and lounge access where available for those with Platinum, Titanium, or Ambassador Elite status—and they will earn points on eligible hotel charges.
The next tier is the Stay Pass, which includes everything in the Day Pass plus an overnight stay. The Play Pass resembles something closer to a work trip, with access to more hotel amenities, such as the guest pool and activities for families with kids should they be joining during the stay.
Nestled on a private beach with pristine views, the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa in Mexico—which is open to Americans via air travel on nonstop flights from select U.S. airports—reopened to 50% capacity this summer, following a $20 million property-wide renovation that was completed just in time for 2020. The project’s newest introductions include an upgraded infinity pool (Puerto Vallarta’s largest) and a double-decker, open-air eatery with plenty of socially distanced seating options.
“More and more guests are likely to stay on property instead of venturing to the surrounding areas,” says Cristina Hernandez, marketing and communications manager for the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. “They’re finding that they have everything they need here and feel safe at the resort. They’re also booking longer stays, and the rates are better if they do, up to a 40% off discount.”
The expansive beachfront resort, equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi throughout, offers plenty of safe spaces to put in eight hours, including the resort’s Bali Beds, a private outdoor cabana space to work from with a beachfront or poolside view. The resort hosts a Kids Club for keeping younger family members entertained, and in lieu of the traditional afternoon coffee break, the hotel offers a guacamole and chips break for a 3 p.m. fix, not only for snacking but distanced socializing.
“Every morning, you can find children and moms having online school on the resort’s open air terrace by the deli,” Marriott’s Hernandez says. “It’s a convenient place to attend school and grab some breakfast or a snack, all while you have a great view of the ocean and mountains. I found some children go to the pool on their lunch break. I have talked to them, and they say it’s a very nice way to do homeschool.”
Some countries are now offering new visas for travelers willing to make the move from their home state and work remotely. These countries are mostly in the Caribbean and parts of Europe; the list includes Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain. For example, Aruba launched its One Happy Workation program, where approved visitors with a valid U.S. passport can participate for up to 90 days and can work from anywhere on the island. Additionally, golden visas are a higher-end option for working abroad. “For example, I recently invested in real estate in Portugal so that I can get EU residency and the ability to get Portuguese citizenship after five years,” Kelly notes.
The Points Guy points to Hyatt’s Work From Hyatt program as a popular remote working package. Hyatt has expanded it to encompass more than 60 resorts across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Resort fees are waived when you book a Work From Hyatt package, and you’ll still receive the benefits you normally would, while also earning points and elite status, if applicable.
Additional U.S. hotels with alluring workcation packages include La Posada de Santa Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort in Santa Fe; Mission Point on Mackinac Island, Mich.; the Roundtree in Amagansett, N.Y.; Grande Lakes in Orlando; and the Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Austin. These destinations offer people an escape from cities and enclosed spaces.
“Remote work was on the rise before COVID, and I’m confident it will only continue to grow once the pandemic ends,” says Matthew Kepnes, a New York Times bestselling author and founder of the online travel site Nomadic Matt. “People have realized they can be just as effective from home, saving them a commute and giving them a little more flexibility and freedom. On top of that, businesses are realizing they can have effective employees without the overhead of office space, potentially saving them millions of dollars. While there are many pitfalls in working remotely when it comes to work/life balance, I think we will definitely see more and more people flock to remote positions.”
A primary benefit (or motivator) for working remotely right now is personal health and safety. “You can skip the commute and avoid being stuck in an office with people, which is potentially lifesaving,” Kepnes says. “It’s become incredibly popular in European cities, where their response to COVID is a little more comprehensive than ours here in the U.S. However, we are also seeing it here in larger U.S cities as well. Most people who can work from home are doing so.”
Among the top perks that hotels and resorts must offer to make this situation not just possible but alluring: free Wi-Fi. Specifically, there must be free Wi-Fi in the room, not just in the lobby. Kepnes advises reading reviews before you book to ensure the Wi-Fi speeds are tolerable. Lots of places offer free Internet, however, their Internet speeds might make working online—especially if you have video calls—impossible.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta’s workcation package, for example, includes a stay for two with an upgraded ocean-view room; daily breakfast; unlimited Wi-Fi and local calls; two days’ use of a private Bali Bed; use of a private conference room for one hour per week; office assistance services for printing and IT; 20% off food and beverages; one tequila tasting for two adults; unlimited use of paddleboards and kayaks; daily happy hour at the beachside restaurant and bar; a discount on in-house car rentals; unlimited coffee or iced coffee; and one complimentary guacamole and chips break per stay. A representative for the hotel says guests can save up to 40% with a minimum 10-night reservation through December 2020.
While those with families who work from home might have to deal with added distractions, the extra time spent with loved ones is also a huge perk in working from a remote location. More family time, more flexibility, and greater safety make remote work a no-brainer for many people. Kepnes posits that even after COVID, we will see a lot of people push for more expansive remote work schedules.
Most hotels have desks in the room you can work at, though they are usually not terribly comfortable if you have to get in a few hours of work. Kepnes suggests packing your own cushion if you struggle with lower back pain. Additionally, bring everything you need to work comfortably and efficiently—whether that be a wireless mouse, a laptop riser, or noise-canceling headphones.
There are multiple opportunities to both earn and use loyalty program points (or frequent-flier miles) to stay at some of these “work from hotel” properties. Hyatt, for example, allows guests to book a Work From Hyatt package stay with their World of Hyatt points, which would significantly offset out-of-pocket costs, especially if you plan to stay for an extended time. “However, it depends on the individual property,” Kelly warns. “Some are offering their own unique packages, and you may have to book with cash in order to take advantage of the discounted stay, free breakfast, or other perks they may be offering. It’s best to check with your chosen property before confirming a reservation.”
Additionally, programs such as Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards Club, and Hilton Honors are offering points-based promotions right now. Marriott, for example, is currently offering 2,500 bonus points per stay, plus a 5,000-point bonus on the third stay. Similarly, IHG Rewards Club is currently offering double points between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15, 2020. And Hilton’s Double Rewards promotion earns you both double points and elite night credits on stays throughout the end of the year.
“Travel hacking” is another strategy to earn free flights and free hotel stays, Kepnes says, explaining that most travel credit cards allow you to shift points between affiliated companies, opening up a wider range of possibilities. “While hotel points are pretty specific, points from popular credit cards from Chase or American Express transfer to all kinds of partners,” Kepnes says. “Moreover, if you have points from a specific airline, you can likely transfer them to any of the airline’s partners if they are part of an airline alliance such as Oneworld, SkyTeam, or Star Alliance.”