Luxury Travel is Open for Business

For the travel and entertainment industries, the last few months have been, in some ways, more devastating, since being dependent on the traveling consumer’s dollars.  Unfortunately, these industries long-term survival remains uncertain and will rely on how successful they are in coaxing a jittery traveling clientele to loosen their wallets.  

Even for hospitality employees, nervousness for their own health and safety has been a challenge for hotel owners and management to reinvent and reinvest their business protocols to provide both employees and clients’ peace of mind.  With high net worth clients, hospitality properties will need to elevate their white glove amenities to ensure a healthy, secure, and private environment for the future guests. 

Data researchers from the MMYG Global Travel Safety Barometer who track travel industry trends compiled a report using measurement tools to gauge how safe U.S. business and leisure travelers believe it is, to travel and participate in related activities even as.COVID-19 continues to fundamentally change all aspects of society.  The report confirms there is a slow, yet growing uptick in travelers’ confidence in both domestic and international travel.  This confidence will continue to rise as those entities vigorously promote meticulous cleaning procedures and unsurpassed standards.   C-Level management’s commitment to the new normal of hygiene and sanitation, along with conveying messages to the quarantine fatigued public eager to return to touring the globe. 

Massive brand hotels and small boutique properties will need to leave no doubt of guaranteeing guests that stays will be more enjoyable, more relaxing, and most of all clean and safe.

In general, all elite luxury properties will follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in regards to types of tools to use, disinfectants, frequency of cleaning and placing disinfecting wipes in rooms especially high-touch items like door handles, light switches, TV remotes and thermostats.   Soft items will be disinfected and steam cleaned including carpets, furniture, mattresses, curtains, pillows, quilts and fabrics ( or, in some cases,  stationery sets, throw pillows, binders with property information may soon disappear).

Prior to a new guest entering the room, housekeeping will place a seal on the door to assure the room was fully sanitized.   Mini-bars may also be phased out.    Many brands have or will be introducing new technology that allows  for contactless app services through guests’ smartphone to handle check-in (by-passing the front desk),  communicating with hotel staff using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or WeChat, serve as a digital key, order contactless room service, turning on the TV, adjust the room temperature and dim the lights.   Public areas will change with regards to operations and designs – how elevators are shared, conference facilities and the end of breakfast buffets spreads. 

Some other examples of changes taking place in the luxury hotel space:

Hyatt Hotels Corporation is not only incorporating plexiglass dividers at the check-in desk and social distancing signage, but will focus on providing alternatives to alternative outdoor experiences regarding fitness (partnering with local fitness studios to create and stream workouts from the guests’ rooms, balconies, or outdoor gym spaces), dining (i.e., individual buffet meals served at the table) and even streaming weddings.  

Marriott’s has created a Global Cleaniless Council advises on sanitation best practices and behaviors that reduce risk.

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Italy’s Lake Como will open this summer with only 30 rooms instead of 90 and rooms will be on alternating floors.  Guests will receive a face mask with an Italian touch, designed by a local Como artist.

Kempinski  Hotels  consisting of 76 five-star hotels in over  30 countries has introduced their thorough “White Glove Service” promising to ensure guests well-being, safety and comforts to building confidence in making a future travel promise and returning again.   The Service consists of employees wearing white gloves while performing public duties, public sanitizing stations, masks required by both guests and employees, enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures in guest rooms, public areas and back of the house areas, distancing practices throughout their property (including the restaurants/bars, spa and pool areas), luggage cleaning prior to being delivered to the room, bottle of sanitizers left in the guest’s car at departure, “Do Not Enter My Room” will be offered as an option at check-in so no employees will enter your room unless you request  the service (room service, luggage assistance and other services will take place at your door), and room amenities will include face masks and hand sanitizer.

Smaller Inns and boutique resorts are not only making the changes necessary to meet post-COVID-19 guidelines, but also offering amenities to attract families whose children may not be attending camp this summer boast very kid-friendly amenities such as The Point, in Saranac Lake NY or Vermejo –Ted Turner Reserves in Raton, New Mexico.

The private, exclusive experience offered by vacation rentals, independent owners, VRBOs and Airbnb is really attractive to higher net worth travelers who desire less interaction and prefer renting a large property for a group of family members  for their private use for one to two weeks.   These properties will also need to comply with Federal, State, and Local regulations.

Airbnb, Inc. in supporting their hosts’ communities has partnered with Diversey, a leading cleaning and hygiene technology company, in developing protocols  through a program named Airbnb Enhanced Clean recently unveiled to hosts in twelve countries:  Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.   According to Airbnb, the program consisting of educational materials and tools are the first overarching standardized guidelines for cleaning and sanitization in the home-sharing industry and will be available to more hosts around the world in the near future. 

Similar to hotel properties, cleaning standards were issued via guidelines through the CDC in the U.S. and Europe, and the advisory role of Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the US.   Hosts are also required to comply with guidance from their local governments and public health authorities.

As a client, when researching for an Airbnb, hosts who have met the program’s standards will be acknowledged  on their listing page as a rating tool for guests in displaying their commitment to an enhanced cleaning and sanitization routine.  As of now, if hosts are unable to commit to the cleaning protocol, they can choose to opt in to a new feature called booking buffer, to create a longer vacancy period between stays to allow for appropriate cleaning.

In addition and in accordance with local governments and health experts, Airbnb will offer safety and cleaning initiatives for in-person interactions that will include requiring all hosts and guests to wear face coverings, limiting group size and maintaining social distancing. 

Over the next 12-18 months, it will be interesting to witness the hospitality industry’s adjustments and decisions to recapture the tourist market while balancing the impact of the virus until a vaccine is produced.  There are many lessons to be learned from luxury hotels even for our small leather manufacturing company as to adapting and re-building during a crisis, especially in communicating and working our Covid-19 safety plan with our own clients.  
Stay tuned and stay safe.      -AJ

Share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter!

Thanks to the following sites for content sources:

MMGY Global Perspectives on Travel

Departures – Hotels reopening cleaning standards

Departures – Luxury Family Summer Camp Destinations

Hat Tip to the following photographers:

Igorovsyannykov – Enjoying a Sunset with a Blue Cocktail

Pixaline – Luxury Hotel Ca’Sagredo, Venice Italy

Michelle Maria – Hilton Timeshare, South Beach, Florida

Photo Mix – Continental Breakfast

Kyler Boone – Villa in Santorini, Greece

Judy Grayson – Villa in Mercia, Spain

Sasha • Stories –San José del Cabo Beach
Serge Kutuzov – The Ritz Carlton Hotel
Tk tan – Marina Bay Sands Hotel


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