Somehow it’s June (March, and the start of lockdown, feels both like yesterday and a decade ago) and yet this year, like most of 2020, summer holidays are at risk of being cancelled. The thought of leaving your postcode may still seem like an ill-advised pipe dream (the government still warns against any non-essential travel), but hotels all around the world are preparing to welcome guests to a post-Covid reality over the coming months. Inevitably, things are going to look different for a while, with new buzz phrases like “air bridges” and “travel bubbles” suddenly a part of everyone’s holiday-booking vernacular.
The 14-day mandatory quarantine is probably going to put a lot of people off leaving the UK for now. But if you are dreaming of a summer holiday – whether it’s Aperol spritzes on the Amalfi Coast, saganaki at sunset in Greece or beers on a breezy French beach – this is what it might look like in 2020 terms.
From limiting the number of people checking in, implementing social-distancing measures at mealtimes and the temporary death of the breakfast buffet (RIP), there will be some noticeable differences in how hotels are run this summer. The private hotel experience – where guests will basically feel like they have the place to themselves – is set to become a popular option.
At the family-owned Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como, only 30 of its 90 rooms will be open to guests. The third-generation current CEO Valentina de Santis says: “It will certainly be quieter but richer than ever terms of what it has to offer, as all our facilities will be available for the enjoyment of very few lucky guests. This is our answer to the need for safe travel for those discerning travellers that are still seeking exclusivity while being totally carefree.” Those guests will be armed with a pocket-size hand sanitiser on arrival and, because this is Italy, a stylish face mask designed by a local silk artist. The hotel’s Villa Sola Cabiati can also be hired out, with a team of staff to arrange everything for you, from yoga sessions to boat trips from the marina.
The Greek Villas, a holiday-home rental company, is offering guests an experience that will essentially transform its houses into private hotels. This means caterers, cleaners, day trips, spa treatments and even a concierge. The company has also shrewdly teamed up with Lloyd’s of London to create an insurance package that means you can book without concerns about sudden changes in government regulations. And it can arrange a private jet if getting on a scheduled flight isn’t looking all that tempting. Vasilis Pandis, co-founder and managing director of the Greek Villas, says: “We have seen an increase in bookings… with many being long-term rentals as travellers seek to relocate and escape cities. With this private-hotel experience, guests can enjoy the privacy of their own villa with the luxuries of a five-star hotel.”
Tom Barber, the founder of Original Travel, has always aimed to offer travellers a degree of privacy, with things like fast-track security, out-of-hours museum access and private guided tours, but now he’s taking it up a notch. “We are doing more to create ‘bubbles’ of protection around our clients when they can start travelling again, including a new collection of road trips departing from the UK on the Eurotunnel, designed to avoid busy airports and crowded planes, and make the most of Original Travel’s favourite small, boutique hotels,” he says. “We are supplementing our existing rail-only itineraries to include private rail carriages, such as the new private suites onboard the Belmond… and we’re adding to our selection of stand-alone properties, be they nomadic glampsites, pop-up private camps or separate cottages within hotel grounds.”
At Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, outbuildings offer a solution for long stays and are a great option for reuniting families wanting to spend a little longer together after so much time apart – its cassette and villas are spread across 40 acres. It may not have been something you previously looked for in a hotel, but the more anxious in your party will be relieved to hear that there’s a doctor on-site 24/7 and a clinic with an oxygen supply.
For Julian Cabanillas, the GM of the Marbella Club, this isn’t a new situation. “Hotels have been adapting to new health and safety protocols continuously over past decades,” he says. “It will be more challenging to be able to provide the warm and familiar service we are famous for while adapting to new social norms. It will be a change of pace, but we feel that creating safe havens, full of small yet significantly thoughtful details, will ensure our guests continue to feel at home with us.” For those seeking seclusion, the club’s 17 villas all have private entrances and there’s a contactless check-in service in place for minimal interaction. The hotel is set to reopen on 2 July and Spain currently has no quarantine measures for incoming tourists.
Of course, some hotels were already set up for social distancing, long before this pandemic hit. In Mexico, Kevin Wendle’s Hotel Esencia on the Riviera Maya sits on 50 acres, with no neighbours, three outdoor restaurants and its own beach. Since the celebrity-favoured retreat is already big on its privacy offering, according to Wendle, “most of our tables and suites already exceed current social-distancing recommendations.” The private villa, originally built for an Italian duchess, is available for exclusive use for the first time ever this summer. The hotel also has a new section with 12 suites, including seven right on the sand, that can be booked by one family or group of friends. “We are even able to set up a private restaurant, with private chef and private waiters, exclusively for any group of more than 15 people travelling together,” he adds.
For Wilderness Safaris, whose properties all enjoy the heavenly solitude of remote Africa and only ever have a handful of guests at a time, the camps already exist in isolation – and if you’re dreaming of long-haul, the African bush is probably a good place to start. This is one instance where socially distanced dinners are a good thing, since the company plans to serve meals in different areas of its camps and concessions, meaning you get the added bonus of an unforgettable experience as well as keeping to two metres apart from your fellow guests.
If you’ve enjoyed having little Perspex boxes around you at the supermarket self-checkout, you’ll love the Lake Vanern cabins in West Sweden. The Ben Fogle-approved glass structures have only trees for neighbours and guests must sign up to a three-night stay, (preferably leaving their phones behind) in order to fully make the most of the peaceful setting. It's a good place to ease back in to normal life for anyone feeling not quite ready to face the real world and the rest of humanity yet.
The tiny islands of the Maldives are also a useful backdrop for minimising human interaction this summer. At Gili Lankanfushi, the 45 villas all have open-air living areas, roof terraces and private decks leading to the lagoon – and we can think of far worse places to cocoon ourselves in that its 1,700sq m Private Reserve, with its four bedrooms, private cinema, spa and gym, and slide for grown-ups.
Or you can stake out an Indonesian island for a month, since Nihi Sumba is taking bids for a 30-day buyout where guests will have two and a half kilometres of private beach, 500 acres and an island the size of Jamaica to themselves. The CEO and partner of Nihi Sumba, James McBride, says: “For those taking the month-long buyout, we will be introducing more of an opportunity to educate themselves on Sumba, the tribal culture and way of life, which travellers normally don’t have time to do… this will tap into the new-generation hospitality travellers will be seeking post Covid – one that is soulful, more human and more honest.”
So even though things are going to look a little different for a while, there’s no need to retire your passport for good – all hope is not lost.
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