New global survey says luxury guests ‘travel ready’
A survey undertaken by Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) shows that an affluent group of travel ready advocates are driving pent up demand for luxury holidays this year.
The survey, conducted in partnership with Liz Hall Hotel & Travel Consulting, looked at the current sentiment towards travel of over 6,000 members of the luxury brand’s INVITED programme.
The results show a desire to travel this year now that travel restrictions have been slightly relaxed, a willingness to travel internationally by plane and a preference for smaller hotels where their experience can be managed and customised.
The survey results split the recipients into three groups – the Travel Ready, those who have already booked and maybe even travelled taking increased safety precautions in their stride; the Travel Reserved, those who are keen to get away but still cautious about potential risk; and the Travel Reluctant who are unlikely to travel until things have returned to ‘normal’.
With over 46 per cent of recipients expecting that they will be in the same position financially next year, it comes as no surprise that over 30 per cent fall into the Travel Reserved group and are currently planning a holiday in 2021.
In North America, 29 per cent are Travel Ready and are planning a holiday before October this year, with an additional 24 per cent looking at getting away in Q4.
In total, 74 per cent of respondents said that they were willing to fly agreeing almost unanimously (93 per cent) to additional health checks at the airport to ensure the safety of all travellers.
Of North Americans surveyed, 43 per cent are initially planning to travel domestically and 38 per cent were prepared for international travel.
SLH reservations data for bookings originating from North America since August 1 reflects these numbers, with 42 per cent of reservations for US hotels, primarily in New York State and California. International bookings made in August were mainly for Q4 visits, with top destinations being Sweden and Finland.
In terms of selecting accommodation, over 90 per cent of recipients stated that they would feel most comfortable in a small hotel, while private residences were also popular.
SLH’s Exclusive Use reservations option allows guests to turn over 250 SLH hotels, ranging from five to 200 rooms into a fully-serviced private residence. With more than 36 intimate hotels offering fewer than 12 rooms, this becomes a viable option for guests wanting to travel with a small group of family and friends.
As expected, location, flexible booking and cleanliness were the most important considerations.
SLH has recently launched a Stay Small, Stay Safe programme ensuring third party accreditation for all member hotels with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC). Hotels offering discounts and offers were of least importance to SLH guests.
“Our members have always shown great resilience and an enduring appetite for travel so it’s encouraging to see that they are Travel Ready, looking at options both close to home and abroad for 2020. Our small hotels are able to offer so many solutions from their location in low-key destinations and neighbourhoods, to their versatility to become essentially a private residence,” SLH Managing Director Richard Hyde said.
“We have established Stay Small, Stay Safe to ensure that our guests can travel with peace of mind, both for themselves and the destinations they are visiting, and to encourage those who are reserved or reluctant to travel that is it safe when the time is right for them.”
Maldives now open
The Maldives reopened its borders on July 15.
Resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels were allowed to host tourists (please see a rolling list of resort reopenings here).
Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands were to be allowed to reopen on August 1 but a surge in coronavirus cases in capital Male forced the authorities to extend a ban on guesthouse operations until October 15.
With the border reopening, 30-day free on-arrival visa is issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.
There is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, but tourists have to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 72 hours prior to their departure.
Visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms are also tested at their own expense.
The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.
Meanwhile, the government’s best case scenario now puts total tourist arrivals for 2020 just above 800,000.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 8,667.
Twenty-nine deaths have been reported, while 6,049 have made full recoveries.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.
Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks were also shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital were asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands was also ordered.
The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the third phase measures now active.
Photo: The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort