Six weeks. Five countries. This summer, Erin Berry and her husband packed their six-month-old and took a trip that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. “We had friends getting married in Tuscany and instead of just going to the wedding, we thought why not extend?”
It wasn’t the fact that their baby wasn’t crawling yet that made this summer a good fit. Puri, founder and CEO of online planning platform Willful, says she wanted to test her “work from anywhere” policy, a trend that blurs the lines between business and pleasure travel. Despite returning to the office this summer for many companies, nearly half of Canadian employers are expanding remote work to attract and retain talent, according to data from recruitment firm Robert Half.
“Our flight would not have been possible at all in previous jobs, or if COVID had not happened,” Puri says. “In my previous role, I ran a marketing agency for six years, and even though we had work-from-home policies, there was a perception that it was something you do occasionally and that people working from home weren’t productive. I personally wasn’t working from home.”
Not only has Bury — Willful has now subletted her office space in Toronto — but her company has introduced new policies, such as greater schedule flexibility built on mandatory but abbreviated “base hours” to ensure overlap across time zones, to enable employees to collaborate while Work from anywhere they want. “We have someone working from Colombia now, from Ireland, from Paris, you name it,” she says.
But it’s not just employers who are turning to meet the needs of traveling employees. For many of these workers, WFH does not mean “work from home”; It means “work from the hotel”. And in the rush to become their new home – and office – hotel brands new and old are moving to meet their needs.
“Hotel rooms are really built for a world where we live at home, work in the office and stay overnight in a hotel room,” says Will Lucas, founder and CEO of Mint House Hotels. “But that’s not what many of us do anymore. A traditional hotel room becomes less desirable the longer you stay there. You’re going to want a kitchen, you want groceries, and you’re going to need a dedicated workspace, because instead of just sleeping and showering there, you’re going to need somewhere to actually work” .
More than a quarter of working Canadians — 38 percent of Generation Z workers and 35 percent of millennials — planned to take a mixed business and leisure trip, referred to as “leisure” in the travel industry, this year according to booking engine Kayak.
But there is no one way to work. For nearly seven in 10 workers, this trip typically takes between one and four weeks, while nearly 10 percent of trips are shorter than that, with people taking a few extra days at a conference destination or adding two business days to an extended vacation. Long weekend. And more than 20 percent take advantage of remote work policies to travel for a month or more, according to a US survey by Passport Photo Online.
Either way, the trend of work means more nights away from home and increased requirements for where you live. Vacation home rentals seemed naturally appropriate. But with the average Toronto night in a studio or one-bedroom Airbnb now costing just $33 (before cleaning and service fees) than a hotel, a recent analysis by hospitality data companies STR and AirDNA found, the backlash on media Socializing about associated fees and house rules, there is an opportunity for brands that can offer the best of both worlds.
Good, great and special loyalty rewards programs in hotels
“We take the best elements of a traditional hotel and the best elements of Airbnb upscale and put them together,” Lucas says of the Mint House, which includes 23 fully serviced apartment-style properties in 14 US cities. “It’s the consistency, reliability, trust and security you’ll get in a branded hotel but combined with the comfort, convenience, and privacy you get in an Airbnb. We call it residential hospitality.”
Mint House launched in 2017 and its leadership includes veterans of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Starwood, which was acquired by Marriott in 2016. “The trend we saw coming has been accelerated by 10 years due to the pandemic,” says Lucas.
With inventory that includes entire hotels and custom floors within apartment buildings, the company is focusing on technology to bridge the gap. “We power Mint House with a fully mobile and digital guest experience,” he says. “Digital check-in, keyless entry through your phone. … We have a program called Stock Your Stay, so through SMS or the app you can order groceries and it’ll be in the fridge when you walk in the door. We offer live exercise classes through a partnership with Fitness Mirror in many rooms.” The Mint House at 70 Pine, the 132-suite hotel in New York, was the highest-rated hotel in the United States on TripAdvisor for 2021.
But it’s not just beginners trying to capture this growing segment. Marriott has seen a 15 percent increase in the length of room stays at the suite level among leisure travelers across its brands across Canada, and is trialling 13 new room prototypes at Bethesda Design Lab, a pilot hotel adjacent to the company’s international headquarters. The hotel group has expanded its inventory of Marriott home and villa rental offerings, from 2,000 homes to more than 76,000 since its launch in 2019.
Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels in Canada, says Bonvoy, one of the world’s largest hotel loyalty programs, makes a big difference for leisure guests because it offers ways to offset the cost of a long trip, and the ability to connect with unique local experiences during off-hours hours built into the app and reservation process. 90 percent of bookings for homes and villas are from Bonvoy members, surpassing members’ bookings at Marriott hotels, Cleary says. “We are the only ones in this place where you can earn and use Bonvoy Points to book. This proves to be very popular for this mix of work and play.”
With a take on workspaces, consistency, and comfort, the Selena Resorts brand focuses on improving the last missing piece: community. While differences in cost and time zone were cited as major challenges associated with work assignments in the Passport Photo Online survey, nearly one in five people say loneliness detracts from this type of travel.
At 150 Selena properties around the world, accommodations range from dorm-style rooms to luxury suites, targeting millennials and millennials who have moved beyond the inn scene. Raphael Mosseri, co-founder and CEO of Selena, sees facilitating connections between guests as the biggest opportunity for his brand, even making new guest friendships a key indicator of the company’s performance. “More than 50 percent of our customers say they’ve made a friendship with us,” Mosseri says.
While the company has invested heavily in workplaces and WiFi across its world-class resorts, Museri believes its wellness and music programs — from full moon celebrations and surf lessons in Costa Rica to a three-day music festival in Morocco next month — are the company’s secret sauce. .
Selena is also experimenting with sign-up and points credit card forms to make moving between resorts smoother and more cost-effective—whether for solo travel or with these new friends. “Traveling to a hotel for three days and then to another hotel for three days, if I’m going to stay in hotels and work…it’s not easy,” Mosseri says. “We want to bundle the entire experience into one bucket.”
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