Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Hotels can offer all the luxury needed for a restful stay: someone will make you breakfast, clean your room, pick up the towels, make your bed and provide sufficient entertainment for families. A great option on paper.
As we will have to learn to live with social distancing measures and new ways of doing, this will mean new ways of holidaying. This is why I don't see families rushing back to hotels with the current offering and setup, posing the following challenges:
The lack of space and privacy
Rooms are small, and even family suites end up feeling cramped with 4 humans sharing and 2 suitcases emptied. When staying in a hotel, the room is really just for sleeping. There isn't too much comfort to 'hang out' and just be. Families then have to use public spaces such as the pool and other areas of the hotel to get together comfortably.
With the desire for more privacy and distancing, this is not ideal.
The sad disappearance of the breakfast buffet
Part of the fun as a family staying in a hotel is the opulence of a breakfast buffet offering a multitude of fun options (waffles with pancakes and pastries anyone?). With new health and safety standards, this has to be adapted.
On a recent hotel getaway, when sat at the breakfast table, we were served a large tray with the basics needed (toast, jams and cold cuts). Yet, we had to send the waiter back to the kitchen a good 5 times as we were missing items for the kids. Operationally this makes little sense. From the waste point of view, I wonder if this is better than a buffet, as we were brought items we didn't ask for. Overall, from the guest perspective, it is not a great experience.
Constantly evolving health and safety regulations
Some countries now require to wear masks in closed public spaces. Hand washing needs to happen after touching every door. Social distancing measures need to be clearly visible, often with large stickers on the floor and big plastic panels. All those measures, as necessary as they are, are spoiling the experience and make a safe heaven that can be a luxury hotel, into a soulless automated experience.
As much as I am sure hotels will adapt and find creative and attractive solutions for families, house rentals will be leading the market in the new way of holidaying. This is the perfect opportunity for home rentals to make a great business. They do offer privacy and space craved by families.
But I believe the stays need to be an upgrade from home on the following points:
In nature, on a beautiful countryside estate or by the beach, the house needs to be perfectly located. No one wants to trade suburbia house for the equivalent in a different city. It is about taking a breath of fresh air, with a limited number of people around.
Ideally, this holiday away is an opportunity to stay in an aspirational place. One that can maybe give us ideas to improve our own homes. One that is ultimately comfortable with quality beds, well-equipped kitchen and good pressure shower is the bare minimum. But house rentals can now also become stylish and cool like hip hotels. It's not all about recycling old unwanted flatpack furniture.
Nice touches for the family
Home renters need to go beyond the IKEA highchair and the old baby cot and do better to satisfy both parents and children.
For a family-friendly stay, kids will love to find a set of toys, a playroom and just different stuff they don't have back home. One of the recent houses we rented had a small play corner in an attic. It was a special adventure just to get in. It was stocked with a big box of legos, a few board games, building blocks and few toys. It suited children from 1 up to 7. A small investment from the property but a great satisfaction for the parents (and the kids of course)!
The one downside of staying in a home as a family is 'the daily routine'. When staying in a hotel, the restaurant frees parents from the logistical and cooking burden. Altogether, this is quite a budget, and this is where the opportunity lies.
Could we think of the following options bookable when reserving a house?:
Book a cook. Not necessarily a chef, but someone who can take over the simple task of prepping and cooking family meals. A set of menus could be agreed in advance guaranteeing a few evenings of freedom.
Get the full menu plan and shopping done. How wonderful would it be to arrive to a fully stocked fridge with local delicious produce and everything needed to prepare the dinners you have chosen. Saving precious thinking and preparation time.
These sort of services can be booked with top high-end private properties. They offer hotel-like services. But I believe we can bring these options to every house rental of high quality and make an affordable family stay even better.
It is predicted that from now on, people will travel less, but for longer and will be willing to invest the money to do things properly. They will want space, privacy and fewer crowds. Add on services and customisation in house-rentals should be offered to stand out and attract more high-end and family travellers.