When ‘WFH’ stands for work-from-hotel: Workcations are on the rise – and the tourism industry is taking notice

A workspace at the Sheraton Center in Toronto.Sheraton

Six weeks. Five countries. This summer, Erin Bury and her husband packed up their six-month-old baby 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 for the wedding we thought why not extend?”

It’s not just the fact that their baby isn’t crawling yet that has made this summer timely. Bury, founder and CEO of online estate planning platform Willful, said she wanted to test her own “work from anywhere” policy, a trend that blurs the lines between business travel and pleasure travel. Despite a return to the office this summer for many companies, nearly half of Canadian employers are extending remote work to attract and retain talent, according to data from recruiting firm Robert Half.

“Our journey would never, ever have been possible in previous jobs, or if COVID hadn’t happened,” Bury 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 did occasionally and people working from home home weren’t as productive. I wasn’t a home worker myself.

Not only has Bury arrived – Willful now sublets its Toronto office space – but her company has introduced new policies, such as greater scheduling flexibility built around mandatory but abbreviated “base hours” to ensure the overlap between time zones, to allow employees to collaborate while working from wherever they want. “We have someone working in Colombia at the moment, from Ireland, from Paris, etc.,” she says.

But it’s not just employers who travel to meet the needs of traveling employees. For many of these workers, telecommuting does not mean “working from home”; it means “to work in the hotel”. And in the rush to become their new home – and their new office – new and traditional hotel brands are moving in to meet their needs.

“Hotel rooms were really designed for a world where we lived at home and worked in the office and just spent the night in the hotel room,” says Will Lucas, founder and CEO of Mint House Hotel Group. . “But that’s not really what a lot of us do anymore. The traditional hotel room becomes less and less pleasant the longer you stay there. You’re going to want a kitchen, you’re going to want groceries, you’re going to want a dedicated workspace, because instead of just sleeping and showering there, you’re going to need a place to actually work.

Mint House at 70 Pine in New York.Handout

Miami Mint House.mint house

More than a quarter of employed Canadians – and 38% of Gen Z workers and 35% of Millennials – planned to take a mixed business and leisure trip, known as a “bleisure” in the travel industry, this year according to the booking engine. Kayak.

But there isn’t just one way to work. For nearly seven in 10 workers, such a trip typically lasts between one and four weeks, while around 10% of trips are shorter than that as people add a few extra days to a conference destination or add a few extra days working to extend a long weekend. And more than 20% are taking advantage of remote work policies to travel for a month or more, according to a US survey by Passport Photo Online.

Either way, the work trend means more nights away from home and increased demands on where to stay. Renting vacation homes once seemed like a natural choice. But with the average cost of a night in a studio or one bedroom apartment in Toronto on Airbnb now just $33 less (before cleaning and service fees) than a hotel, like the revealed a recent analysis by hotel data companies STR and AirDNA. , and social media reaction to associated fees and house rules, there is an opening for brands that can offer the best of both worlds.

The good, the big and the best hotel loyalty programs

“We take the best bits of a traditional hotel and the best bits of an upscale Airbnb and put them together,” Lucas says of Mint House, which has 23 fully-serviced apartment-style properties in 14 US cities. “It’s the consistency, reliability, trust and security you’d get at a branded hotel, but combined with the comforts, amenities and privacy you get at an Airbnb. We call it Residential Hospitality .

Mint House was launched in 2017 and its management includes veterans of Four Seasons and Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which was acquired by Marriott in 2016. of the pandemic,” says Lucas.

With an inventory that includes both entire hotels and dedicated floors in residential buildings, the company is focused on technology to fill the gap. “We’re powering Mint House with a fully mobile and digital customer experience,” he says. “Digital check-in, keyless entry through your phone. … We have a program called Stock Your Stay, so through text or the app you can order groceries and they’ll be in the fridge when you walk through the door. We offer live exercise classes through a partnership with Fitness Mirror at many venues Mint House at 70 Pine, the group’s 132-suite New York property, was the highest-rated hotel in the United States on TripAdvisor in 2021.

But it’s not just newcomers trying to capture this growing segment. Marriott has seen a 15% increase in suite length of stay among its brands’ bleisure travelers across Canada and is testing 13 new room prototypes at its Bethesda Design Lab, an experimental hotel adjacent to Marriott’s international headquarters. company. The hotel group has increased the inventory of its vacation rental offering, Marriott Homes and Villas, from 2,000 homes to more than 76,000 since its launch in 2019.

The lobby of the Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal.Brandon Barré Photography/Document

Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels of Canada, says his Bonvoy program, one of the largest hotel loyalty programs in the world, is a key differentiator for bleisure customers because it offers ways to offset the cost of extended travel and the ability to connect with unique local experiences outside of working hours is built into the app and booking process. Ninety percent of home and villa bookings come from Bonvoy members, exceeding member bookings at Marriott hotel properties, Cleary says. “We are the only one in this space where you can both earn and use Bonvoy points to book. It is proving very popular for this mix of work and play.

With workspaces, consistency and convenience addressed, the Selina resort brand is focused on improving the last missing piece: community. While cost and time zone differences were cited as the top challenges associated with workcations in Passport Photo Online’s survey, nearly one in five say loneliness is a detractor of this type of travel.

At Selina’s 150 properties around the world, accommodations range from dorm-style rooms to luxury suites, aimed at Gen Zs and Millennials who have moved beyond the hostel scene. Selina co-founder and CEO Rafael Museri sees facilitating customer relationships as his brand’s biggest opportunity, even going so far as to make new customer friendships a key performance indicator for the company. “Over 50% of our customers say they have made a friend with us,” says Museri.

Selina’s Tulum property.Selina

Although the company has invested heavily in workspaces and WiFi delivery at its global resorts, Museri believes wellness and music programs – from full moon ceremonies and surf lessons to the Costa Rica at a three-day music festival in Morocco next month – are the company’s secret sauce. .

Selina is also experimenting with subscription models and a points-based credit card to make resort travel smoother and more cost-effective, whether traveling solo or with those new friends. “Travelling to one hotel for three days and then another for three days, if I have to stay in hotels and work…it’s not easy to do,” Museri says. “We want to put the whole experience in one bucket.”

Keep up to date with Sightseer’s weekly newsletter. Register today.

Comments are closed.