June 09, 2021

US Hoteliers Adapt for Wave of Pent-Up Summer Demand

Booking Trends Show Increased Excitement Around Vacations

As consumer confidence grows, hoteliers in the U.S. are gearing up to provide a more enjoyable, interactive experience for guests this summer.

Phil Baxter, founder of family-owned and run Baxter Hospitality, which has the Sesuit Harbor House and Chapter House in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said in an email interview that while more people are traveling now than in 2020, there are still many people who are not comfortable flying but want to get out exploring again.

"It will certainly be a more relaxed travel season as restrictions and mandates loosen," he said. "Our guests that visited last summer experienced Cape Cod at half capacity. This summer, Cape Cod will be at its typical occupancy."

Baxter anticipates guests will be more active in the evenings, mingling with other guests and gathering around outdoor public spaces. And occupancy is expected to be high.

Reservations Flow In

Baxter said that current booking trends "show the increased excitement around travel this summer with guests planning trips further out."

Last summer, bookings were more short term, with a window of about three weeks. This summer, those bookings are months in advance, he said.

"Due to this demand, our rates have significantly increased not only from 2020, but from 2019, too. Chapter House, our new property opening this summer, has seen success inducing demand, too, through the cross-sell from Sesuit Harbor House and our online travel agencies," he said.

At Hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, California, General Manager James Barela said the hotel's booking pace has been night and day from where it was a year ago.

"Our leisure customers do seem to be planning ahead more, but there is still a fair share of last-minute drive market business for those who are anxious to get out and enjoy the ocean," he said via email.

Nikki Carlson, general manager of the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento, California, said via email that the trends are still favoring a shorter booking window, but the demand is coming.

Her property's team has been able to drive rates with added offerings and amenities.

Coping With Labor Challenges

Carlson said the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel is getting creative with roles, making them more dynamic to fill multiple voids.

With weekends being the peak time for travel, an associate might work in one department on the weekends and another during the week. The hotel still has openings for full-time positions, she added.

Baxter said his team anticipated the labor shortage this year and hired additional managers. The current staff is purposefully management heavy, knowing that everyone on the team will need to wear many hats.

The best way to deal with the labor shortage is build as much efficiency into the daily operations as possible, while still enhancing guest service, he said.

"We've also found great new staff members through our local relationships that we have cultivated over the last couple of years," he added.

Barela said Hotel Casa del Mar offers competitive wages and benefits.

Refreshing Properties, Programs

Baxter said new programs have been introduced at the Sesuit Harbor House for this summer that still cater to social distancing.

One program includes its partnership with local Graze & Co to create the Graze & Co Continental dining experience, where guests can get a breakfast picnic basket and dine on the lawn of Sesuit Harbor House or in their room.

For its younger guests, scavenger hunts, garden games, tea parties and a new goat pen are available.

Scheduled to open this summer, the 21-room Chapter House, Baxter's second property, has undergone a large-scale renovation.

"My wife Silvia and I are so proud of the renovation process behind this historic 21-room inn. It's situated on Old King's Highway, in one of the most historic buildings in the town of Yarmouth, with close proximity to Cape's top destination highlights," he said.

Barela said his property's chef has been inspired by the return of local farmer's markets for the summer season menu.

Hotel Casa del Mar also has an array of newly created experiences that are tailored around catching up on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions that were missed over the past year and a half.

"My favorite is a family reunion package called 'Better Together by the Beach.' The package includes a catered beach picnic, beach bikes, games, an SUV for sightseeing and even a professional photographer to capture special moments of you and your family," he said.

Carlson said the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel launched a new promotion catered toward family travel for this summer. Families can spend two nights in either a balcony suite or one-bedroom suite, relax at a poolside cabana, get at $125 food credit to its rooftop restaurant and two complimentary on-demand movies.

The property also converted its ballroom into a retro arcade, offering complimentary access to games such as pinball and Pac-Man. Coupled with that is a curated candy bar with individually wrapped sweets.

Additionally, she said the hotel partnered with a barre studio to host outdoor workout classes on the pool deck.

Keeping Up With Pool Demand

A spike in demand for backyard pools and supplies driven by the pandemic has caused a shortage of chlorine tablets, and hoteliers are aware of the potential challenges they might face.

"We are fortunate to have stocked up on chlorine tablets early," Baxter said. "Throughout the season, we'll focus on managing the chlorine levels closely to minimize waste. We test the water at least four times a day and react appropriately based on the number of guests who use the pool throughout the day."

Carlson said her property's pool will continue to operate in a similar fashion as it always has; however, the hotel invested in an upgrade in the chlorine and chemical system to ensure there is no product waste.

Copyright 2021 CoStar Realty Information Inc. All rights reserved. From https://www.costar.com. By Dana Miller, Hotel News Now.

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