The lines between business and leisure travel continue to blur at an accelerated pace due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a realignment of consumer travel priorities. In the luxury hotel space, servicing the work-from-hotel trend can be a winning strategy for building and retaining loyalty.
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You just wrapped your fifth Zoom call of the day. You deserve an afternoon break. In fact, after nearly a year of working from home, you may be due for a radical change of scenery. Why not treat yourself to a few ski runs in Park City, a walk around the gardens of Versailles, or a round of golf in Punta Mita? With remote working here to stay, hotels are capitalizing on a desire to book longer stays that combine a hotel’s work-friendly private space and business amenities with in-destination pleasures that get you out of the room safely.
According to research from Skift-McKinsey Research, average trip duration spiked during lockdowns, indicating that people have been looking for other places to stay and work during the pandemic. Hilton Luxury Brands are responding to this growing “workcation” and “staycation” need with unique offerings that range from extended-stay packages at their Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, and LXR Hotels & Resorts brands (all of the experiences mentioned above are bookable) to enterprise-wide programs like WorkSpaces by Hilton, which offers private guest rooms to work for eight hours a day, with the assurance of industry-leading Hilton CleanStay hygiene standards.
SkiftX spoke with Dino Michael, global category head for Hilton Luxury Brands, about how the company is responding to demand for work-from-hotel experiences, extending trust and loyalty to their customers, and translating the workcation trend into a best-in-class luxury experience.
SkiftX: Walk us through the work-from-hotel trend in light of the pandemic. What are you hearing from guests? What are travelers and locals looking for right now?
Dino Michael: The idea of the workcation, blending work and leisure, was certainly in motion before the pandemic, but the current climate has only amplified it and made it more relevant. We’ve all adapted quickly as behaviors have changed more rapidly over the past nine months.
For a large category like Hilton Luxury Brands, which includes Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and LXR, I’m proud that we’ve been so nimble and quick to listen to what our guests are saying, address their pain points and concerns, and offer reassurance and support.
Hilton launched Hilton CleanStay to address how we can clean the rooms to a standard that our guests feel comfortable with – building on the standards we already had, giving that extra layer of reassurance, and making sure there’s a level of comfort across the enterprise. In luxury, where perhaps you do get a bit more of that business-leisure blend, it provides reassurance to stay on longer in a destination.
We launched our WorkSpaces by Hilton> program with equal pace to provide work solutions for those looking for a private and clean work space for the day. We wanted to help people be more effective during times when they really need to work.
We’ll continue to listen, react quickly, adopt quickly, and keep driving that blend of technology and practical advances.
SkiftX: How is Hilton Luxury Group translating the workcation trend into a best-in-class luxury experience?
Michael: If you think about resorts, we’re very fortunate in luxury. Our properties offer lower density of people, more space, fewer rooms, and generally more team members on hand so we can increase service levels and offer a higher degree of personalization. We’re programming in areas of rest, meditation, and space for outdoor and indoor work, and guests can find space to socially distance on our grounds.
It’s also about being flexible, especially in an urban environment, where plans, protocols, and lockdowns can change almost by the minute. Our team members can help guests navigate that experience and make it less stressful for them.
SkiftX: How are you reassuring guests that the right health and safety measures are in place?
Michael: We rolled out Hilton CleanStay very quickly. We launched to market first to really tell our guests that we’re listening, we’re here, and we understand what’s most important to you.
Developed to help guests feel safe, Hilton CleanStay provides the reassurance they need to travel and experience a destination without the worry. Before guests enter a room for the first time, housekeeping goes through a meticulous list of cleaning protocols, and as they leave, they place a Hilton CleanStay seal on the door, which is in place until the guest enters. But it’s not just about the bedrooms being clean, because guests will move throughout the hotel during their stays. We have the same level of cleanliness in our meeting rooms and the ability to partner with meeting planners on the entire event planning experience through Hilton EventReady with CleanStay.
Our Hilton Honors app and Digital Key, two technologies Hilton had in place long before the pandemic, have really proven their value as contactless options for guests during the pandemic. You can go straight to your room without engaging with anybody. Again, that’s an option for anyone who wants to minimize their contact.
Ultimately, it’s about repaying the loyalty of our guests by saying, “You’ve trusted us for all this time. You can continue to trust us.”
SkiftX: Can you share an example of what Hilton’s WorkSpaces experience looks like?
Michael: For anyone looking to make it through a presentation without an interruption or if you simply need a quiet place to focus, WorkSpaces by Hilton is an excellent option. Available at special day rates at Hilton hotels across the US, UK, and Canada (excluding Quebec), these guestrooms provide a quiet retreat while at the same time being supported by Hilton’s industry-leading CleanStay program.
For example, with a WorkSpaces by Hilton room at the Waldorf Astoria Park City, guests can take their next conference call sitting by a gas fireplace and overlooking the majestic Wasatch mountain range. After a long day at the office, they can recharge with a run on the slopes, a dip in the hot tub, or a relaxing massage.
Another great example is being offered at Conrad New York Downtown with their “Work + Well” day use room. As part of their WorkSpaces by Hilton reservation, guests receive a Clean Market Zen box and discounts for in-store treatments at Clean Market in nearby Brookfield Place, room service delivery for both breakfast and lunch, and On the Rocks Cocktail delivery at 4pm.
SkiftX: Can you describe some of the other unique workcation packages offered by Hilton Luxury Group?
At Conrad Punta de Mita, which we just opened this year, we’ve got a “Work From Paradise” package, which is fantastic: four-night minimum, daily resort credits, discounts on massage, and a strong WiFi signal for Zoom and WebEx meetings. You can bring your family and they can enjoy themselves as you’re working, and then you can take the weekend to explore the region with them.
At Waldorf Astoria in Los Cabos Pedregal, you can buy an extended package, and it’s almost like we’re adding a little vacation at the end of your work stay as a treat. We’re saying, “Look, book three weeks and the last week is on us.” You can work a long day, or a long week, and still find time to enjoy yourself.
In terms of packages, each hotel is coming up with what works for them, but the ultimate message is this: Stay with us and you can work, the facilities are top-notch, and you’ve got the connection and equipment you need. And then there’s no reason to feel guilty about switching off. You may be sitting in front of a screen for multiple hours, but you can easily find an hour to breathe or do something rejuvenating on the grounds.
SkiftX: Do you think the workcation trend will continue to gain steam well past the pandemic?
Michael: I think it absolutely will – people want to find ways to work and travel and do them both safely. I like to look at our development pipeline as a good indicator of confidence in long-term travel trends and I can say that our pipeline is as strong as it’s ever been. In the next 18 months, we’re adding a minimum of 13 hotels to our portfolio. Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach is coming to Southern California in January, and we’re opening a new Waldorf Astoria in Cancun later in the year. We’ve also announced a Waldorf Astoria in Tokyo, a Conrad in Morocco, and an LXR in Kyoto, Japan. In addition, we’ve got a big multi-brand project coming to Las Vegas, so it’s a very exciting time.
Everywhere I go, the appetite for travel continues to get even stronger. There’s so much pent-up demand. We’re seeing China bounce back, especially with domestic travel, which is a great sign of how other countries will respond as recovery efforts continue.
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