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Erin Pepler is writing a book about motherhood. Ironically, she needed to get away from her family to get it done.
She and her husband have been juggling working from home with raising two kids, ages 7 and 9, since the pandemic changed their lives in March.
But with the deadline for her first book looming this month, she checked into the Hilton Garden Inn in Oakville, Ont., for a four-night stay.
“I had to get away,” Pepler says. “At no point did I think I’d be finishing this book during a global pandemic with my kids who had been home for over 100 days.”
Parents across the country can likely relate. And now, as the hospitality industry explores new ways to bring in desperately needed revenue, hotels are hoping to ease this family fatigue.
Domestic and global tourism suffered devastating blows after COVID-19 caused travel to slow to a trickle. The opportunity to welcome guests who need a break from the monotony of home is being seen as a balm.
Michelle Dias, public relations manager for Intercontinental Hotel Group, says that about 20 of the chain’s hotels in Canada remain closed, while the others are experiencing historically low occupancy rates (currently around 30 per cent).
To entice guests back to spaces that have been empty for weeks, the company launched the “Work from Hotel” package. Rolled out at the Intercontinental Toronto, Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville and Intercontinental Montreal properties, it flips the focus from overnight stays to day use.
Customers pay a day rate (starting at $99 at the Intercontinental Montreal) for use of a spacious and recently renovated room that has been cleaned according to the property’s enhanced protocols. The fee covers an eight-hour period that falls within a normal working day. And while restaurants and dining spaces remain off limits, room service, delivered by a masked and gloved employee, is available.
The offer is proving to be popular. “The Intercontinental Yorkville is averaging two bookings for the offer per day,” Dias says.
The simple shift in space made a world of difference to her productivity, Pepler says. In the eight weeks prior to her stay, she had added less than 1,500 words to her manuscript. On her four-night getaway she wrote 18,000.
It helped that she felt the hotel was taking her health seriously. The Hilton Garden Inn staff told her there were only about 15 other guests, and when she got to her room it had been cleaned and sealed.
“It was like when you break into a new box of crackers or something like that,” she says. “It was like, ‘Oh! This is something fresh!‘”
Hotels across North America are hoping for similarly rave reviews as they roll out new initiatives. The Reeds at Shelter Haven in New Jersey, for example, is already seeing an uptick in interest from local clientele.
“We’re finding that even our loyal guests who have mainly utilized the property as a leisure destination in the past are now requesting this package to either finish up tasks before the weekend or enjoy a change of scenery during the work week after being cooped up in their homes for months,” says Ron Gorodesky, president at Refined Hospitality, the hotel’s management company.
The plan is to continue the program indefinitely. “It’s becoming clear that the hospitality industry is shifting for the long term and work-from-home policies will be prevalent for the foreseeable future.”
Resort hotels are also banking on the fact that families – especially those where both parents need to work or are single-parent households – will be on the hunt for spaces that help with the kids.
The Rosewood Miramar Beach in California now offers a “Remote Office” package that fully equips your suite with tools you may need (such as a monitor, wireless mouse, keyboard and printer), while also providing entertainment options (including two pools, bocce balls, beach service and babysitters) to keep kids safe and busy while you work.
“We do anticipate that most of the interest will come from professionals looking to take vacations with their families, both for the short- and long-term, as it allows them to work during the day while their children play,” says Philipp Posch, senior vice-president hospitality of Caruso, the ownership group of Rosewood Miramar Beach.
For Pepler, the ability to leave the kids at home while she focused on her work was the draw.
If she brought them along, “I would be distracted for sure,” she says. “This is quality time they have with their dad.”