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As COVID-19 first spread, life as we knew it, including travel, ground to a halt. In April, global weekly flight frequency fell nearly 70% compared to the previous year, while the TSA screened about 100,000 people daily—a fraction of the 2 million passengers screened per day in April 2019. Now, seven months later, it’s becoming increasingly clear that travel hasn’t stopped; it’s simply adapted. While many still balk at the idea of a quick Caribbean getaway or a weekend jaunt to Paris, others—their schedules freed by the new reality of remote work and learning—are willing to pay for extended-stay hotels, from a two-week vacation in Mexico to a full six-month relocation in Scottsdale.
According to Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of luxury travel advisory EMBARK Beyond, remote work and education aren’t the only factors behind this nomadic boom. Logistics and travel restrictions also play a role. Before PCR tests were part of our common vocabulary, a short international trip was often as simple as jumping on a plane. Now, going somewhere like Ireland—where Americans are allowed if they quarantine for 14 days upon arrival—might be worthwhile only if you’re staying longer than a month. Stay less than a month, and you’ll spend more time isolated in your room than exploring the country you came to visit.
“Travel has become more of a headache,” said Ezon. “What you’re basically doing is thinking about it as an investment—let’s do things longer so the headache is less.”
As a result, hotels and travel agencies alike—facing an increasing demand for long-term stays—are shifting their usual accommodation model and adding packages geared specifically toward long-term guests. For example, the picturesque Inns of Aurora in New York’s Finger Lakes region has seen a 112% increase in the average length of stay since reopening in May, while Vakkaru Maldives’ number of extended-stay guests have jumped 30% since reopening in August. Meanwhile, Ezon and his team noticed such a sharp jump in the length of their clients’ trips that they launched EMBARK Longer, which provides resort accommodations for extended periods. Stays through the program average six to seven weeks, but have reached up to six months. Ezon’s team arranges discounted rates at exclusive, luxury properties, and for stays over a month, EMBARK can help clients avoid the pitfall of hotel taxes by negotiating the booking as a mini lease.
Making this extended-stay model successful requires determining what travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time might need. At EMBARK Longer, that means including unlimited laundry, daily breakfast, parking, and a dedicated point person, such as a butler or concierge. Work-focused perks have also risen in popularity. After receiving individual bookings for 160-plus nights, the W Aspen, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, and The Sky Residences at W Aspen created a Work Play Stay package that provides guests with necessities like a laptop desk and bluetooth keyboard
“It’s a vacation living hybrid,” said Ezon. “Almost all of [our clients] want to set up mobile offices. You’re working through things you wouldn’t on a normal vacation. It’s an integral part of the value of what we’re doing.”
Lindsey Epperly Sulek, CEO and founder of luxury travel agency Epperly Travel, agrees that travelers on extended-stay vacations are looking to blend the excitement of a vacation with the comforts and convenience of home.
“The products in greatest demand right now are options that allow travelers to settle in and feel like a home away from home,” she said. “Travelers don't necessarily want to dress up and go to a fine dining restaurant every night. They might want to cook. This is a large part of how we help our travelers: helping them determine what comfort means while they're on an extended-stay getaway. Suites or condo-style properties are at a premium. Villas are booking more than we've ever seen before.”
For this reason, many of the most popular extended-stay hotels tend to be in destinations that already have plenty of tourism infrastructure. Ezon cites St. Barths, Scottsdale, and Miami as three of the most popular locations.
While this shift in travel came about by necessity, having more freedom to come and go as we please might have a positive effect on the way we travel in the long run. By spending more time in a particular destination—and actually living there—we get to experience a different, more engaging side of travel.
“So many of us used to operate on this scarcity mentality when it came to time,” said Epperly Sulek. “It was always running out. I think the pandemic has heralded less of a rat race culture. This is changing the way we travel entirely. Clients don't want to only see the highlights on a whirlwind tour, they want to immerse themselves a bit more thoughtfully into the culture. The American perception of vacation was previously, ‘How much can I cram into how little time?’ Now, they're asking themselves, ‘What would it be like if I took my time?’”
For travelers keen on taking their time, here, a few of the most luxurious extended-stay hotels around the world.
GrandSolmar Land’s End Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico
Sitting at the scenic edge of Baja California Sur, where the Sea of Cortez meets the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, GrandSolmar Land's End Resort & Spa epitomizes the ever-flourishing Los Cabos luxury scene. An all-suite resort with month-long stays starting at $14,760, GrandSolmar offers suites equipped with high-speed internet, separate living areas, and kitchens, ideal for long-term guests looking to work remotely in Cabo. When booking a chic, Spanish-style suite at GrandSolmar, be sure to opt for an oceanfront room, because back-to-back work calls are somehow more palatable when you can feel the breeze coming off the Pacific.
Dorado Beach a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Puerto Rico
For a Caribbean getaway with no passport required, look no further than Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property in Puerto Rico. The sprawling property currently offers 20% off bookings that are five nights or longer. The suites and residences are perfectly outfitted for long-term guests, each with a private outdoor space and a personal embajador to assist you.
Vakkaru Maldives is one of the best places in the world to get up close and personal with manta rays and other marine life. Now, thanks to the Work Well package, it’s possible to live in paradise (at least temporarily). Available to guests who book a stay at Vakkaru Maldives for 21 days or longer, each Work Well residency includes a complimentary upgrade to a bigger villa equipped with a study, printer, and office supplies. Other amenities include daily afternoon snacks, a personal assistant to help with day-to-day tasks, and a bespoke fitness and wellness program.
W South Beach, Miami
The W South Beach, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, will return in November after a $30 million refresh offering extended-stay packages for those booking more than 30 days. The package includes spaces equipped for remote work and learning, grocery delivery, discounted private jet and yacht charters, a dedicated 24/7 W Insider concierge, daily pet walks, and discounted dry cleaning. Students also get access to exclusive on-call tutors, TAs, and personal trainers for private physical education classes. Rates start at $26,000 for a minimum of one month and start at $20,000 for a minimum of six months or more.
Dromoland Castle, Ireland
Set on 450 acres of gardens designed in the image of Versailles’ gardens, Dromoland Castle, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, was once home to the high kings of Ireland. Now, you can book the historic Grania O’Brien suite—featuring its own kitchen, fireplace, and private terrace—for a month. The €29,000 rate includes daily access to the hotel’s golf academy, unlimited laundry, daily breakfast, 24/7 IT support for those setting up a home office, and a personal host to attend to your every need.
ESPACIO, The Jewel of Waikiki, Hawaii
Now that Hawaii is open for tourism again, you may never want to leave. Use that as an excuse to book a stay at ESPACIO in Waikiki, where a reservation of 30 nights or more (rates from $3,700/night) will get you two complimentary 50-minute spa treatments, a bottle of Opus One and Louis Roederer Cristal, daily in-suite breakfast, a lavish dinner for four prepared by the house chef, complimentary use of a luxury SUV or sedan rental, and a $50 wine card to be redeemed at the hotel’s tasting station. ESPACIO has only nine suites in the hotel—each over-the-top suite takes up an entire floor.