This story was first published on Departures.com in April 2021.
Even with the prospects of brighter days ahead, hotels are continuing to offer exciting adaptations in response to the pandemic. This is important not only to keep pace with an ever-changing landscape for travel restrictions and recommendations, but also with consumer preferences. People want more space and privacy, and luxury properties are taking the lead by transforming existing areas into entirely new, private experiences.
Bring the Cocktail (or Sushi) Bar To The Room
An excellent case in point is the Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale. The property overhauled a guest room into a speakeasy, 901, offering private bookings for up to six people with hourly rates per person. Guests receive a password they can use at the front desk of the hotel, receiving a blank key card to access the space in return. “With the pandemic, we’re seeing a growing demand for private dining and the format of 901 caters to those wanting a more intimate atmosphere without having to sacrifice on the experience,” says hotel GM Eyal Goldberger.
It’s a smart workaround for guests who are beginning to venture back out, but still prefer extra space, and at the same time, it’s created an aura of exclusivity and uniqueness. “The response has been better than anything we could’ve expected,” Goldberger says. “[As of mid-March] we’re almost fully booked through May and expect reservations to keep on coming as we have more pop-up activations planned on our calendar.”
The speakeasy has been featuring a bartender-in-residence program, hosting pop-ups from bars which closed during the past year as a result of the pandemic. First up in March was D.C.’s famed bar The Gibson, while future collaborations including Austin’s Midnight Cowboy in April, and Red Phone Booth, from Nashville and Atlanta, in May.
The Hotel Lincoln in Chicago also transformed a guest suite into a private experience. Instead of hourly craft cocktail sessions though, they homed in on sushi. The best sushi experiences tend to be cozy, omakase affairs where you’re at the whims of the chef as she deploys her sensational ingredients and techniques. What better way to capitalize on that than a 17-course omakase feast at Sushi Suite 202, with a six-seat sushi bar taking the place of the suite’s bedroom.
Meanwhile, when you’re craving a private meal but want to leave the room behind, the Mandarin Oriental Canouan, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, decided to take advantage of its beautiful locale, and it’s penchant for putting together one-of-a-kind memories, by offering what they call a Castaway Restaurant. It’s like a private picnic on steroids with the special M.O. touch, as they set up outdoor meals at iconic locations. Options include at the signature 13th hole of the property’s Jim Fazio-designed golf course, optionally including a private golf lesson along with the meal, or at the James Bay private island. Upon arriving, expect a toes in the sand meal with different themes, such as a Sea Urchin & Champagne breakfast, or an evening barbecue.
In Italy, the iconic Hotel Hassler Roma found a way to offer Michelin-worthy fare in a private way, and actually did so before the hotel even reopened to overnight stays after its initial pandemic closure. The Michelin-starred Imàgo restaurant began bringing its cuisine to guests on the private terrace of the Villa Medici Penthouse Suite. Guests enjoyed world class dining with an incredible view of the Rome skyline for a truly inimitable dining experience. Meanwhile, the all-day Hassler Bistrot has moved from its position adjacent to the hotel’s lobby to the 6th floor, offering a popular open air alternative.
Private Entertainment Awaits
At the Montage Kapalua Bay the property found a way to offer an authentic taste of Polynesian culture, though in a setting far removed from the large crowds with which it’s often associated. They now offer an In-Residence Luau, telling guests a story through in-room dancing and music, replete with multiple acts and costume changes. A festive feast of poke, kulua pork, locally-caught fish and prawns, and more, fills your belly while you’re entertained with the immersive and intimate experience.
The InterContinental New York Times Square is also now offering a magical evening of in-room entertainment—literally, that is. The hotel is offering a private magic show taking place in its two-story penthouse suite. The experience is exclusively for guests staying in the suite, who’ll experience a show from mentalist Jason Suran and his psychological illusions and tricks.
From Overnight to 9-5
Other properties have found a way to make use of their existing spaces by offering a novel twist on work life. Remote working is still in full swing, but that doesn’t mean you have to work from home; not when you could work from hotel instead. The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, for instance, has reconfigured several of its guest rooms into work from hotel spaces. It’s part of the WorkSpaces by Hilton program, with suites available for rent during daytime hours. Log a full 8am to 5pm shift, perhaps ordering room service for lunch along the way, in a spacious, luxury setting.
Across the pond, The Marylebone in London takes a similar approach, and was the first property in The Doyle Collection to debut a DC Workspace. A selection of first floor rooms have been transformed into different stylish workspaces, including the Classic Space for up to two people and the Deluxe Space for up to three, bookable on a monthly membership basis. The spaces include ergonomic furniture, high-speed secure wifi, computer workstations and printing facilities, and a refreshment station. Workers will also receive a discount at the hotel’s 108 Brasserie and other amenities, and have access to its gym, pool, and larger conference and meeting rooms.
Back stateside, The Sawyer, a Kimpton hotel in Sacramento, unveiled what it calls a WFHotel option. In this case you can leave the indoor office behind entirely and head to a private poolside cabana. Rent out the cabana for a full work day, and you’ll receive a catered lunch, bottled water, fast wifi, and free parking, with an option to extend your daytime retreat into an overnight stay at a reduced rate. The hotel even offers themed cabana packages, bringing Sacramento food and culture to your private space, with add-ons such as a DIY charcuterie board.
Last but not least, one of the positives taken from the trials of the past year is the way community members and businesses have rallied to support one another. Tucson’s Hotel McCoy found a way to do just that, and rather than offering guests private workspaces, they’ve offered local entrepreneurs rent-free business space. The funky retro hotel has transitioned select rooms into mini storefronts, free of charge. The first tenant at the hotel is Barrio Books, a bilingual bookstore featuring new and used books by Latinx authors, which further dedicates a percentage of its shelf space to BIPOC and local authors as well.