Hotel groups reveal the secrets behind a good daycation offer
Hotels have had to be inventive to combat the pandemic
Without international tourists flocking into hotels this year, hotel groups have had to be imaginative when it comes to bringing in local business.
Many hotels have introduced new staycation deals to attract residents, offering sizeable discounts on stays and lots of added extras.
But an extra move has been to introduce daycations, where people can use a room for a day and have access to a resort or hotel's facilities.
We spoke to leading hospitality professionals around the region on what makes a daycation or staycation so appealing and if they are here to stay after the pandemic.
Daycations offer a hotel experience as usual, just without staying the night. Forgoing the plush bed for the night comes with a hefty saving for guests, with five-star, expansive properties such as Sofitel The Palm offering daycations from AED150.
Within that relatively low price, it’s crucial, says the resort’s general manager Christophe Schnyder, that the offer retains all the usual luxuries of a traditional hotel stay. He said: “[It has to be] a good deal first and foremost, it has to make sense to the customers, a deal where they feel they get value for their money. When people come for a daycation, they tend to stay for the whole day, so it is essential to have a nice and large pool, and of course superior F&B offers. That’s probably the most important aspect.”
Time Hotels CEO Mohamed Awadalla agreed that any worthy daycation should offer access to all areas of a hotel, with discounts being a cherry on top to attract guests. He said: “A daycation offer should include access to all recreational facilities including the pool and gym, some hotels may even consider providing discounted rates for use of spa facilities and treatments.
"Early check-in and check-out are also important, while the rate could also include access to a room for the day. Special discounts on F&B and free access for kids will also pique the interest of potential guests.”
Fairmont Ajman general manager Kosta Kourotsidis shares the view that food and beverage is one of the most important aspects of a daycation deal. Where many of the Middle East’s residents are used to palatial properties, summer sun and long beaches, discounts on stellar food and drink have become increasingly alluring. He explained: “Our day-use offer gives also a 20 percent discount on food and beverage consumption, which I believe is an additional key element of a great daycation offer – after a long day under the sun, people will eventually want to experience your food and beverage on offer.”
Daycations aren’t always one-size fits all however, and hotels must be mindful of whether they want to attract couples, singletons, families or all of the above, says The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel GM Samir Arora. He added: “For our offer to stand out, we have created different packages that provide guests with options based on their interests and budgets. As an example, for our daycation offers, we have options for a beach daycation with hotel credits, or a detox daycation plan.”
With the pandemic leading to countless professionals taking pay reductions, daycations have become an affordable way to experience a break without spending too much. Rixos Hotels VP of marketing and communications Ali Ozbay, like many others, believes it is the offer of a holiday-like experience for a lower price that is bringing in guests. Ozbay said: “Daycations offer a mini escape for families, friends and couples, providing that feel-good factor you might get from a weekend break, but at a more attractive price and without the hassle of packing and planning a whole trip.“
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) at Dubai Festival City area director of sales & marketing Michael Borges offers a different outlook on the daycation market. Where other hoteliers set their sights on discounts and uncompromising luxury, Borges stresses it is equally important to get great media coverage on your offers. He stressed that if a hotel fails to offer something that stands out, they would be lost in a sea of identical offers.
Borges said: “Hotels need to target the “white space” and offer concepts that are proprietary and unique to their property or location, aligned with what the target audience needs. It’s a simple exercise but many hotels still get it wrong. What works for one property does not necessarily work for another and hospitality professionals need to seek the “unusual”, that unique idea that will organically generate curiosity and media coverage.”
Borges words clearly ring true, IHG recently caught the attention of the media for its unorthodox ‘playcation’ deal with Toys ‘R’ Us – offering guests toys delivered to their room. The group’s head of operations MEA David Todd had this to say: “I believe it is important to think about the audience and design the offers keeping their needs in mind. This is exactly what our team at InterContinental Dubai Festival City did when they came up with a ‘playcation’ package for the guests. Designed in partnership with Toys 'R' Us, by booking this package, guests and their children can settle into a fully appointed suite with a playhouse and family games that provide a change of scene and gives families a few fun activities to do together in a safe environment. This offering has been a huge success with a significant uptake from our domestic guests.”
Of course, with the pandemic making everyone more attuned to health and safety, hygiene measures are crucial to reassuring guests a daycation offer is worth going for. Hospitality groups across the region have gone to great lengths to completely overhaul their hygiene practices, these efforts must be noticed even if a guest is not staying the night. Marriott International area VP for luxury brands in the UAE Sandeep Walia explained: “Firstly, and most importantly, providing a safe and comfortable environment for guests. We want them to notice our commitment to their health and safety as soon as they enter any of our hotels. Multiple amenities and exceptional service will also be key for a good daycation experience, for example our UAE beach hotels, such as Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort or The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, lend themselves naturally to social distancing and provide space.”
Walia went on to say that privacy has become a key consideration to many guests, leading to booking surges in private villa properties. He said: “Privacy is also an increasing need for consumers, which our unique properties like The Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach and Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai can offer.”
Borges added that even now that international travel is inching towards normality, daycations will stick around as another way for hotels to bump up occupancy. He said: Hotels have learned to better utilise their creative minds to generated more and new staycation ideas so in my opinion these are here to stay. Furthermore it will support occupancy growth in low and off peak periods.”
Even if daycations may not provide as much revenue as traditional hotel stays, hoteliers concede that travellers will be tentative to take long breaks, making daycations and staycations the norm for the foreseeable future. Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa complex GM Pam Wilby said: "Domestic tourism and local travel will account for the majority of hotel bookings this summer, given that many residents will be staying in the UAE. Whilst Dubai has restarted and is welcoming inbound travel from countries, we are yet to receive bookings from our key feeder markets like the UK which haven’t opened for outbound travel to the UAE. As such, staycations and daycations will be even more important as they will ensure steady occupancies and revenue during the week and at the weekends."
For some hotels, such as Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, the focus in recent months has been 100 percent on domestic tourism. Making daycations a "key stream of revenue" according to commercial director Paula Tannous.
A perfect storm of increased caution, travel restrictions and less spending power among residents has accelerated the popularity of the daycation. Right now, domestic tourism remains at the forefront for most of region, with only a handful – including Dubai – opting to return to international tourism at the time of writing. The Ascott Limited regional GM for MEA, Turkey and India Vincent Miccolis said: “We have no doubt that the hospitality industry will recover with international travel resuming strongly thereafter. However, staycations have offered a strong guest base even in the pre-pandemic period, and we forecast that this need for domestic travel and local holidays will remain at the forefront for the foreseeable future.”
So according to some of the region’s top hospitality professionals, daycations and staycations are here to stay, even once your favourite international destination welcomes you back. We'll leave it to David Todd at IHG to summarise it... “More people are now looking for ‘vacation-like’ experiences within the country of their residence. Staycations [and daycations] are a perfect concept to cater to this need, hence have gained popularity this summer.”