One of the big changes was people needing a place to work away from home. So Hyatt Hotels & Resorts came up with a few breakthrough programs aimed at meeting that demand -- with possible ramifications for the post-pandemic world.
The lodging company claims it was the first to launch a hotel “workcation” package, Work from Hyatt. Introduced last August, it involved a seven-night minimum stay (eventually modified to five), with perks like dedicated work spaces (in addition to the guestroom) and on-property experiences, as well as extras like food and beverage credits, complimentary or discounted laundry, parking or pool cabanas -- all depending on the property.
Originally offered as a trial, the program was expanded worldwide – and extended. Hyatt added The Great Relocate for stays of 29 days or more and the Work from Hyatt: Office for the Day plan.
Asad Ahmed, senior vice president, commercial services, said that as the pandemic kicked in, Hyatt did a lot of listening to see what consumers needed. What the company heard was that working from home while taking care of children had become a challenge for many.
“People did not have an outlet, and wanted an environment that was positive -- like a sunny resort,” said Ahmed. With Work from Hyatt, he said, guests were assured of pleasant surroundings, strong WiFi, well-being options like fitness centers, a pool or a beach and the other amenities – like food and beverage – that a resort might have to offer. There were also customized experiences like educational programs for younger guests.
Work from Hyatt launched at resorts but then moved to urban centers as well, eventually reaching 100 properties in North and South America. Aside from being away from home, customers could also take advantage of the World of Hyatt rewards program, with points counting toward tier status and upgrades.
About 80% of the guests taking advantage of Work from Hyatt were families or couples. Ahmed said he took his own family to a Hyatt resort in Florida. The average stay is eight nights-plus, with many people staying over two weekends. In the early days, people were looking for sun and ski destinations, but that broadened after the product became better known.
Most Work from Hyatt extended stay guests, said Ahmed, gravitated toward warm-weather destinations like Florida, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas and Hawaii. Meanwhile, Office For The Day was designed to address local guests who were looking for a temporary reprieve from their homes to enjoy working at a hotel with premium amenities. It has been extremely popular in urban areas -- primarily on the West Coast -- as well as in Asia.
The Great Relocate began in the Europe/Middle East/Africa region, areas, said Ahmed, where people traditionally take longer trips. It may be expanded into the Americas at some point.
To get the word out about all of these options, said Ahmed, the company has used multiple marketing channels -- public relations, blogs, influencers and direct communications with World of Hyatt loyalty program members. It has also messaged through the B2B space to corporate customers and travel advisors -- anyone who can relay the information to consumers.
The programs are being adapted as the company navigates through the pandemic by using a “test-and-learn” approach. For instance, seeing longer-term stays at Destination Residences (private homes managed by Hyatt), Hyatt saw a need to deliver offers beyond a short weekend escape to ensure a true change of scenery even if a destination was not far from a guest’s home. Having both the Work from Hyatt extended stay package and Office for the Day options, said Ahmed, allows guests to choose their own experience based on whether they’d like to stay local or visit another destination.
Ahmed stressed that all of these programs are “reimagined hotel experiences” that “plug into a feeling of well-being” -- not just going to a hotel room to get away from home.
The takeaway from all these initiatives, said Ahmed, is that travel will look a little -- or a lot -- different coming out of the pandemic. Many employers, he said, will continue to allow employees to work remotely -- at least for a period.
“You won’t necessarily have to plan a vacation the way you did in the past,” said Ahmed. “You can craft a vacation that includes working and schooling, although some of those options will diminish as schools return to in-person learning.“
It’s impossible to predict what pandemic-driven changes will linger once it’s over. However, it seems working remotely to some degree will be here to stay, and those companies -- hotels and others -- that prepare for that trend will be best positioned for the future.