Industry Update
Opinion Article19 October 2020

Weekend Plans, Anyone?

By Noelle Homsy, An Associate Director, leading the hospitality industry at Grant Thornton UAE

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Disclaimer: This article might not contain the best news for the airline industry. But it may also shed some light on the endless possibilities that the hospitality sector can tap into.

I started writing this piece, my first ever on LinkedIn, back in February. Governments had just begun banning citizens and residents of highly infected cities from entering what they believed was a "safer" country. At the time, I was planning to write about the benefits staycations had to offer over traveling abroad, especially given the possibility of getting stranded on foreign territories as the list of banned countries grew by the day.

Before I could gather my thoughts to finish this piece, all hell broke loose. Strict curfews were suddenly imposed. Travelling was completely banned. Friends and family were severely impacted in ways no one anticipated. It felt a little out of place to continue writing about staycations when people around me were struggling to keep their jobs, yearning to reunite with their families, and for some, literally fighting for their lives. Today, I decided to revisit my piece and give it another shot. Here I am, getting on my laptop to get started, only to find myself completely pivoting from my original plot.

Staycations are on the Rise

A few years ago, the word "staycation" often came with a red squiggly line underneath it, indicating a spelling error. Right-clicking for suggestions mostly resulted in the word "satisfaction" as a possible replacement. Now that the term "staycation" has been added to the dictionary, it might be time to add it to your weekend plans too!

Staycations require less travel time than long trips do. They are airport-free which means they are relatively hassle-free. They are also often less expensive while still boosting your local economy. Here's another bonus: in contrast with traveling overseas, staycations allow you to easily take your pets with you. No wonder "backyard getaways" have made it to top hospitality trend lists in recent years!

Staycationers' needs

When it comes to choosing where to go on a domestic getaway, a few decision factors should be considered.

1 - The Destination

While it is easy to disconnect when you wake up in a new country, this is not the case when your getaway is a one-hour drive from home. The uniqueness of the destination and its surroundings becomes key in creating an ambiance that would transport you to another world. Think high mountains with views of the clouds underneath, noise-free and never-ending orange sand dunes, or even rich lush green deep forests with migrating birds.

2 - The Design of the Property

It is highly unlikely that travellers would be delighted to leave their apartments only to find themselves checking in to another room with 4 concrete walls.

Guests want to stay in an unconventional accommodation unit that feels different from home. This could be a tent, a pod, a treehouse, or one of the ever so popular glass bubbles. This does not mean that comfort and luxury would be compromised. A foaming jacuzzi on your wooden deck, a private BBQ set up outside your tent, or your own chilled plunge pool would do the job just fine!

3 - The Experiences and Activities Offered

Guests today are more demanding than ever before. And no, I'm not talking about marble floors or gold-plated ceilings, but rather about rich experiences that activate their senses and awaken their souls. Guests want to breathe in the outdoors, learn a new skill, connect with the locals, go on a path to self-discovery, and come back home with a baggage of learnings and memories. The more authentic and real these experiences are, the deeper the mark they leave in people's memories.

Fortunately, responsible tourism has been gaining momentum lately, and guests are more conscious of the decisions they make when they go on vacation. Very soon, sustainable and ethical practices will become a pre-requisite to any holiday destination.

What does this mean for hotel developers?

The right way to create a concept for a hotel or resort is to start with the target guest mix, i.e. who are the guest personas that will frequent your property? The logical follow-up question would be: what are their needs? And what would make them tick?

With the increase in staycations' popularity, "staycationers" (spellcheck alert!) take up a big part of this guest mix. It, therefore, becomes imperative to plan with their expectations in mind - expectations that are very different from the average leisure tourist you are used to.

It could be the uniqueness of the location, the property itself, the immersive experiences offered at a staycation destination, or a combination of all of those factors that drive guests' decisions. This opens room for a new set of questions: Why do people go on vacation? What is the psychology of leisure travel and tourism? And how can we address those points when creating and promoting a destination?

Noelle Homsy

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