WFH now means working from hotels

May 31, 2021, 2:00 PM UTC
The main pool at the Playa Largo Resort and Spa in Key Largo, Fla.
Courtesy of Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working from home.

Many employees are taking one last advantage of working remotely this summer before going back into the office. While some firms, like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, have voiced they are eager to get workers to come back to the office as soon as possible, other major corporations such as Google and Facebook don’t expect to widely reopen offices until after Labor Day at least.

Thus, Summer Friday could be taking on a whole new look this year. After more than a year of being cooped up and working from home, many worker bees are looking to accomplish two things at once: continue business as usual but also plan a getaway. And this can be accomplished by booking a longer stay at a hotel or resort with fast Wi-Fi and plenty of space for one’s family or “pandemic pod” of friends.

“Flexibility among workers is definitely one the pandemic’s silver linings, allowing the work-from-home-ridden the opportunity to travel for longer periods of time, and that’s a prominent tendency we’ve observed amongst our guests for the last year,” says Stephanie Tablada, sales and marketing director for the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel in Miami.

Over two-thirds of Americans (67%) are planning to travel this summer (between June 1 and August 31), a 17% increase from those who traveled this spring (March 1 through May 31), according to Tripadvisor. Millennials are the most excited to get back out there with the vast majority (72%) of the generation planning trips, a representative for the travel reviews site tells Fortune, although many still plan to drive to their destination (43%), while 19% plan to fly—up 4% from this spring.

“Americans are no longer settling for staycations and local trips, it appears true vacation getaways are coming back en vogue,” says Val Anthony, market and competitive intelligence lead, at Tripadvisor.

Hotel searches on the platform are up 65% in May, compared to the first week of January, while searches for experiences (attractions and tours) increased by 78%, and restaurant searches are up 53%.

Just an hour south of Miami, the Playa Largo Resort and Spa, part of the Autograph Collection, recently introduced its Ocean Residences, an enclave of private multi-bedroom homes with views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Courtesy of Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Beach destinations, domestic and international, will be extra hot spots—both in temperature and bookings—this summer, Anthony predicts. “Their choice of where to stay reiterates that desire: the most popular accommodation types for 2021 summer trips are all-inclusives and beach resorts,” she explains, underscoring destinations in Mexico and Florida lead the top 10 destinations for Americans this summer.

Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor at The Points Guy, says there’s been a groundswell of interest in Florida, Hawaii, Colorado, and the Carolinas. “Generally, we’re still seeing a strong preference for trips to national and state parks, as well as beaches and other outdoor getaways. And for travelers planning longer stays or working remotely, there seems to be a lot of activity around small cities, particularly those that serve as gateways to outdoor recreation.”

Airlines are doubling down on new routes and frequency to these destinations, and as far back as October 2020, Lieberman says Airbnb saw a trend in longer reservations (two weeks or more) in many of these states. “Ultimately, travelers are continuing to seek out nature, from the nation’s parklands to the coasts, and many now have the flexibility to stay in these destinations for longer.”

Book sooner rather later

Brent Handler, founder and CEO, luxury vacation rentals provider Inspirato, suggests that the surge for travel reservations is already here. “Last fall, we started seeing our members book into summer, which is about three months earlier than usual,” he explains. “That demand has grown as our subscription sales have grown over the past few months, and it’s clear that affluent consumers are definitely ready to vacation.”

Top destinations vary from year-to-year and season-to-season. Handler says current favorites for Inspirato’s subscribers include Los Cabos in Mexico, Vail in Colorado, and Hilton Head in South Carolina. “From a remote work and virtual learning perspective, our domestic properties continue to be the preferred choice for our subscribers, with many choosing to visit destinations that fall into the same time zone as their home base.”

At many vacation rentals, the average length of stay is now one to two weeks. “For many of our subscribers, this summer will mark the first time in more than a year that they’ll be able to gather safely with their loved ones so one of the trends we’re noticing is family reunions,” Handler says, listing the kinds of amenities ideal for these bookings and guests of all ages, such as pools, outdoor living spaces, game rooms, and easy access to golf courses and other outdoor activities.

The new Ocean Residences were designed with the signature Florida Keys architecture.
Courtesy of Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Spots at resorts in the Florida Keys, in particular, are already selling out quickly. The Playa Largo Resort and Spa, part of the Autograph Collection and just an hour south of Miami, recently opened the first of its new Ocean Residences, an enclave of private multi-bedroom homes with views of the Atlantic Ocean.

“We have been surprised by the amount of guest working remotely,” says Monica Hyatt, the director of residences at Playa Largo. “Our clubhouse is appropriately furnished for a group meeting and equipped with high-speed wireless Internet to cater for this type of demand. Additionally, it provides quiet and peaceful enjoyment, and spectacular views while working or studying remotely.”

Hyatt says Playa Largo has especially seen the increase in demand since the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out—at least 20% more than usual compared to recent months—and while there are still vacancies available for the summer, she warns they’re being absorbed at a fast pace.

“We are experiencing a demand in longer stays, not just the regular weekend trend,” Hyatt explains. “We are incentivizing these transient guests with a weekly discount. Our houses have ample floor plans suitable for eight to 12 guests; we have furnished the houses to promote a comfortable stay to large parties.”

Ideal for a family vacation, a couples getaway, or a long weekend escape, the three-storied residences range from 3,600 to 3,800 square feet. Set between a nature preserve, the homes are detailed with high-touch features and amenities ideal for small groups, such open living plans, a grand foyer, outdoor summer kitchens, master suites with a soaking tub, a laundry room, and private parking.

Sol by the Sea offers open-air dining with live music—a nice treat after months without it for many guests.
Courtesy of Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Every stay includes a picnic basket of breakfast pastries and fruit delivered every morning, with additional options to pre-stock the fridge or invite a private chef to handle dinners. In addition, guests can book a private catamaran while enjoying the sunset on the bay.

“Many of our guests take advantage of our unique dining experiences, including our private chef experience in which our chef will cook and serve in the privacy of your kitchen in your home or on the clubhouse terrace overlooking our breathtaking ocean views,” Hyatt explains.

Bookings at the Ocean Residences also comes with access to a private oceanfront clubhouse. Here guests are invited to use the pool and eventually, the private dock and boat launch. Guests of the Ocean Residences have unrestricted access to all of Playa Largo’s amenities including the private beach, the luxurious Ocean Spa for skin care and massage treatments, and several restaurants such as the open-air Sol by the Sea and the poolside Sand Bar.

Pay at stay

To accommodate travelers booking stays for business and pleasure, hotels and vacation rentals need to be have certain amenities readily and steadily available, says Ralph Colunga, SAP Concur thought leader on travel and expense technology solutions. The base line starts with having high-speed and long-range Wi-Fi so travelers don’t experience outages or meeting interruptions. “A good working space—whether a kitchen table or desk—is also preferable to establish a remote office,” he adds. “Those traveling with family might also need separate, confined spaces with neutral backgrounds to join video calls.”

Guests of the Ocean Residences have unrestricted access to all of Playa Largo’s signature amenities including the resort’s private beach and the Ocean Spa.
Courtesy of Playa Largo Resort and Spa

Flexible payment options, like “pay-at-stay” and free cancellations are amongst some of the top budget priorities right now, Tripadvisor’s Anthony says: “Travelers understand that we live in uncertain times and therefore, seek out protection and risk prevention while planning their next stay.”

For those traveling with kids, travelers should research which kinds of child care is available where they are going. “Above all, you want to make sure you can be productive so you can get to the vacation part of your trip faster,” says Lieberman.

At Sheraton hotels, two of the most popular offers are for travelers booking longer stays: Extend Your Weekend provides a savings when staying on Thursday or Sunday night, and the Long-Term Stay promotion offers a larger savings for stays of five nights or more.

“We do anticipate seeing more extended families getting together for informal reunions this summer,” says Andrea Meeker, dual director of revenue management for the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel and New Orleans Marriott.

Since the beginning of the year, Meeker says the Sheraton New Orleans has seen a steady increase in reservations. “I think there’s been a greater shift in ‘bleisure‘ travel as more people are able to blend working remote while traveling with their families or on vacation,” she explains. “We offer a family package that includes the second guest room for 50% off. This offers more space for families or another room to have a quiet space to work. Additionally, we modified several guest rooms into office space so our guests can have a quiet place to work remote. The office space includes a desk, upgraded Wi-Fi, mini-refrigerator, and access to a printer.”

At the Kimpton Surfcomber in Miami’s South Beach district, Tablada says the staff is gearing up for what she describes as the best summer ever. “The vaccine rollout has definitely instilled some much needed confidence in travel,” Tablada says. “In the Miami Beach market, summer tends to be an uncertain period for us with often low occupancies. We feel confident that this year will be busier due to the much talked about pent up travel demand; people are tired of being home.”

During the first quarter of 2021, Tablada says the average stay length was longer and party sizes were smaller. By May, the hotel noticed that while the length of stay is holding strong and sometimes shortening, the party sizes have increased somewhat. Many of these parties are families, pandemic pods of friends, and bachelorette groups.

This trend prompted the hotel to develop its own “WFH Work From Hotel” package, which includes unlimited morning kick-start coffee from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the lobby, up to 20 pages of complimentary black and white printing, complimentary Wi-Fi, a mini office kit at check-in (a notepad, pens, and a stapler), discounted valet parking rates, a 15% discount on food and beverages, and double the usual IHG reward points.

“Remote work has certainly allowed our subscribers to work from paradise over the past year, but as we really begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I think most of our clientele is in search of a proper vacation—whether to reunite with family and friends, or simply to decompress after an incredibly challenging year,” Handler says.

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