As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge around the world, the tourism industry has been sent into a downward spiral. Airlines have cancelled flights, hotels have shut down their services and governments are closing borders and placing their citizens in lockdown. The tourism industry, which accounts for 10% of the world’s GDP, has fallen far and fast. And while countless hospitality & tourism businesses have been forced to close their doors for good, others have never been more sought after – either because they offer exclusive services or have adapted their offering to cater to a more germ-conscious audience.
Luxury escapes and resort destinations
While over 20% of the world’s population is either quarantined or confinedat home, the world’s most fortunate continue to live their lavish lifestyles. The crisis doesn’t seem to have phased the world’s top 1%. In fact, it seems that they’ll spare no expense when it comes to minimizing their interaction with the virus. Business executives are ditching first class flights for private planes, while jet-setters are redirecting their travel plans to more remote destinations. In China and Southeast Asia, rich executives are chartering “evacuation flights” to reduce the risk of exposure at busy airports as private air travel continues to gain popularity.
Yachts have also become a fashionable option for those looking to self-isolate in style. As it turns out, they offer the perfect solution for families looking to escape the pandemic while still enjoying a lavish vacation that caters to their every need. All while self-isolating in a confined, clean space. Many have even taken their personal doctors or nurses with them in case they become infected.
But since many have fled to their holiday hideaways, resort destinations are getting increasingly concerned – as the rise in population has caused a surge in cases, putting a strain on their small, local hospitals. With New York being a hotspot for the coronavirus crisis, many of its finest escaped to the Hamptons, causing the small county’s population to grow from 60,000 to 100,000over the course of just a few weeks. And in Florida, sunny Palm Beach county now has the highest death rate from COVID-19 in the entire state.
And when they come with private movie theaters, dog parks, rock-climbing walls, private pools, spas, on-call medical staff and even government-grade security, what better place could you find to self-isolate?
Project developers for high-end bunkers have seen a spike in requests, illustrating just how in-demand these hideaways have become. But with prices ranging from $1.5 million to $3 million per unit, they’re not a luxury that everyone can afford.
Some hotels and rental properties have decided to up-the-ante and offer their guests exclusive stays with quarantine packages. Le Bijou, a luxury Swiss hospitality company that offers hotel rooms and serviced apartments is now offering their guests the COVID-19 service– a customizable stay with add-ons such as coronavirus testing, 24/7 medical supervision and doctor visits. The property boasts 42 units with full-service kitchens and amenities like saunas, jacuzzis, fireplaces and gyms, and guarantees a full disinfection after each stay. The property also operates entirely without staff – from check-in to a 24-hour concierge service that offers meal and grocery delivery, in-house massages and personal chefs to each unit. The service doesn’t come without a price tag, though. A 2-week stay at Le Bijou will cost you anywhere between $6,000 and $77,500, depending on whether you opt for the 24/7 nurse service and coronavirus test.
But just when it sounds like germ-free stays are limited to the rich and famous – they’re not. Airbnb has recently seen a surge of listings marketed as ‘coronavirus-free stays’, offering travelers a respite from the global pandemic, with clean (well-sanitized) lodging that’s stocked with plenty of toilet paper, basic amenities and essentials. This illustrates that just about any lodging provider has an opportunity to capitalize on the pandemic by offering services that cater to self-isolation and security.
Hope for the tourism industry
It seems that the pandemic, as with any other crisis, has a way of widening the gap between the haves and have-nots. And while the one-percenters are self-isolating and escaping to luxury hideaways, boosting the profits of the most luxurious and expensive tourism businesses, there is still hope for the rest of the industry.
The key lies in the offering guests an increased sense of security and safety. Hoteliers and tourism operators have a unique opportunity to offer their guests a safer experience - and while this can’t always be done en-masse, it can be done on a budget. Investing in greater automation and increasing hygiene and security measures - from in-room facilities to foodservice and public amenities like spas, pools and gyms - are just a few ways in which hotels can keep guests coming in spite of the global crisis. Think about ways to make your offering more limited, exclusive and secure. As long as customers feel safe and cared for, they will keep coming. For hoteliers, this means being flexible, creative and quick on your feet, by providing your customers with something that your competitors aren’t. And keep thinking outside of the box, because in a time like this, it may the only way to survive.