Skift Take

Who needs an elaborate cleaning partnership? If you're willing to pay for it, you can ensure social distancing throughout your summer vacation by booking a room (and every other room at the hotel).

Hoteliers around the world are offering a luxurious way to reduce coronavirus anxiety during a vacation this summer, but it comes at a hefty price.

The biggest hotel brands partnered with cleaning companies and health institutions to create heightened cleaning standards and social distancing guidelines to woo travelers back after coronavirus shutdowns. The measures aim to give guests confidence to book a stay, knowing the property abides by new health standards borne from the pandemic.

But some hotels from Asia to Long Island, New York, are going one step further by offering guests the opportunity to be the only guests at a property — peak social distancing for the ultimate peace of mind.

“For guests, buyouts tick every box that matters most to everyone right now. First, there’s the safety factor,” said South Harbor Inn co-owner Alex Azcona. “Service is another reason. People want to be taken care of and comfortable. And there is privacy, which is today’s greatest luxury.”

Azcona and Dan Devito opened the four-bedroom South Harbor Inn on Long Island’s North Fork last year and previously fielded full buyout requests before coronavirus. But the owners decided to exclusively position the property for full buyouts through July 30 as part of their new safety protocol and response to the pandemic.

Individual room rates range between $429 to $449 per night during the week and $479 to $499 on weekends during the summer. In a buyout arrangement, the South Harbor Inn would take a 20 percent discount off what the full rate charge would be for all four rooms. The discount increases to 35 percent off published rates if a guest wants to rent the entire inn for a full season.

“For operators, the unique nature of buyout scenarios, which include a longer-term booking window and a more definition projection of future business levels, affords us greater control over our inventory and operation,” Devito said.

A Wealthy Retreat

The South Harbor Inn’s buyout option may be the best bargain of the sector.

Luxury hotels around the world are reopening their doors with an exclusive, full-buyout strategy. But the price tag on seclusion can be steep.

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas launched several private island and resort buyout packages this week, including the Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort off the coast of Mozambique as well as Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates.

Buyout packages on Medjumbe Island, which includes 12 villas and can accommodate 24 guests, start at just over $19,000 per night and require a three-night minimum stay.

Sir Bani Yas Island by Anantara buyout packages range from $89,000 per night for the entire island, or buyouts for each of the three resorts on the island range from $40,000 per night for the 64-room-and-villa Desert Islands Resort down to a $3,500 per night camping option for 20 guests.

The club lounge at the Cape Arundel Inn.

Maine’s Cape Arundel Inn is charging $9,500 per week. The buyout package includes the 7-bedroom main house, weekly housekeeping, access to a lounge with billiards and a bar, heated pool, and bicycles to explore surrounding Kennebunkport. A private chef is also available for an additional $3,500 — excluding food costs — to prepare meals.

“It’s a seven-bedroom house on the edge of the world overlooking Walker’s Point [the Bush family summer compound],” Kennebunkport Resort Collection Managing Director Justin Grimes said. “It’s a pretty rare chance to live in one of the grande dame’s of Maine.”

Ultra-Luxe Safety

Hefty buyout prices are about more than private chefs and luxury, however. Guests are ultimately looking for seclusion and safe ways to still travel in the age of a global pandemic.

“If a group decides to buyout Shou Sugi Ban House for an extended period, we would work closely with them to negotiate what they need and arrange the experiences they are interested in,” said Shou Sugi Ban House CEO Amy Cherry-Abitbol. “The idea is that our property would provide a private, gated sanctuary for a group to spend however they please.”

While still open for nightly stays, the 13-studio property near the Hamptons is also offering a complete buyout option to guests this year as an extended stay option to reduce guest turnover and provide a more comfortable environment to both guests and staff, Cherry-Abitbol added. The Shou Sugi Ban House is implementing heightened health and cleaning standards on top of the buyout option, including added attention to cleaning high-touch areas as well as upgrading air filters.

In Maine, Grimes said inquiries for the Cape Arundel Inn have come from people who want to be remote and continue to social distance. But they also still miss interacting with friends and family and want to find a way to do so responsibly. Buyout inquiries have varied from two-week to month-long stays, with many potential guests preferring longer reservations.

“The good thing is, even under quarantine, you could be really self-sufficient and use the campus as your playground,” Grimes said. “We’re seeing a lot of people replace those big trips with something equally as grand but in a different way. A week or two in Europe translates to a month in Kennebunkport.”

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Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, maine

Photo credit: Hotels like the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort (pictured) are offering buyout packages of the entire property to appeal to guests looking to abide by extreme social distancing. Kennebunkport Resort Collection

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