Booking An Entire Hotel
While potentially an expensive option, although relative depending on the hotel itself, buyouts of entire hotels or resorts are becoming a trend - offering both the amenities and services of a hotel with the privacy and control of a vacation rental. In this arrangement, one group pays for having full access to and free reign over an entire hotel or resort.
This option eliminates any questions or risks about who would be on property and can feel like having a home away from home experience. Buyouts may have been a more bespoke option pre-covid but now it is more popular because people can travel, pursue togetherness or have a reunion with friends, family or an intergenerational group and feel safer. This trend highlights that the desire to engage remains strong within communities - gathering at parties and events - as many marquee or even day-to-day traditions or celebrations were cancelled. The simplicity of just having a bigger, safer get-together with close ones can feel like a tremendous luxury. Even when it comes to travel, families and friends are excited to reunite but travelers are making safety a priority during their vacations more than ever before.
Hotels seem onboard
Hotels and accomodations are certainly getting to the spirit - allowing guests to do anything they want and curating to their tastes and interests. Managers can give guests more comfort by providing detailed presentations on hotel floor plans, logistics and key details. The hotel staff can work with groups to ensure specific requests were met - e.g. allowing various “pods" of guests to sit together. They can also offer unique classes and experiences from hotel staff - e.g. cooking - and create something tailored and special depending on the location. When a group takes over a whole property, all of the hotel's resources can be focused on the group - making the curated options better and more extensive.
Adopting this buyout model has certainly helped alleviate some of the year’s financial losses and keep hotel staff employed. Adding a more extended-stay, residential feel has allowed properties to not sit entirely empty and usable in a variety of different ways. This residential feel extends to areas like the kitchen - e.g. turning commercial kitchens into ones friendly to an average home cook - or turning business centers into home offices with desks and printers. Of course arranging for outside services - like catered or prepared meals - is just as easy as if the group is staying in a traditional hotel.
Groups can be discerning and choose locations based layouts (e.g. outdoor common spaces) and true separation from other guests (e.g. full small property or larger property with physical segmentation from other guests). In this framework, single large groups can be easier to attend to in personalized ways vs. multiple smaller groups - one point of contact means staff can often handle requests remotely, reduce frequent in-person interactions and streamline coordination group activities like dining and activities.
Buyouts on a "Budget"
What if you love to travel, you have a group to travel with, and you want to prioritize safety (for yourself and others) above all else - there are savvy ways to make buyouts more attainable vs. a previously luxury-focused option.
Travel companies and providers know they have to adapt to offer lodging, tours and experiences to private groups of families or friend pods. The key is trying to keep the experience as close to affordability on a per room or per guest basis - people can then get comfortable with the trip being in the range of a typical vacation and can get excited about it. The trade-off comes as you decide how many people you are comfortable having on your trip to spread costs but ensure safety.
Beyond renting a private home or accomodation - consider:
Taking your private group on tour
After this challenging year, group tour operators can adapt to the demand for social distancing and isolation by reconfiguring tours for small private groups - e.g. typical households, traveling pods etc. Flexible cancellation policies are critical.
Buying out the great outdoors
Getting a full campground to yourself offers privacy, social distancing and engagement with the outdoors. As COVID bubbles go, camping is potentially the only way some groups can get away and be observant of the regulations in place - potentially adding experiencing like a local chef-cooked meal, guided hiking excursions and yoga classes etc.
Seeking short-term experiences - Beyond costs, buyouts can be a big time commitment. Operators in the day-trip and attractions arenas are becoming more creative with options to allow travelers to have short-term yet high quality experiences - e.g. tours, fitness classes, activities, tours etc.
Foreign exchange discounts - Booking internationally where the dollar is strong is one way to get more value out of any trip, in this case turning a luxury like a buyout into something attainable. Furthermore, local expenses including dining delivers more purchasing power for the dollar.
Chartering boat of your own - Chartering your own small ship is a reach for most budgets, but fares in some areas are low during the travel slump