hyatt in lake tahoe
Hyatt is angling to monetize a major lifestyle shift by targeting the remote-work population — from individuals looking for a change of scenery to families doing remote schooling. — Hyatt

Last spring, Francis Meynard, the chief financial officer of a commercial real estate firm, was all set to attend the i.CON trade convention in Huntington Beach, California. Then the world changed.

The industry conference was canceled, one of the countless events scrubbed from calendars when the pandemic hit, just as Meynard’s daily 80-minute round-trip commute to his Sausalito, California-based office came to a halt.

Months later, Meynard and his wife opted to make the trip anyway, booking a stay at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach via the hotel’s new Work from Hyatt package, figuring, “we should just go down there, because the air is fresher” than by their San Rafael home amid the California wildfires.

Meynard now says the couple is planning more hotel stays, eyeing places like Lake Tahoe and Monterey, as the pandemic-imposed pivot from office-centric to remote work awakened him to the possibilities of a more flexible lifestyle, planting the idea: What if I could work from anywhere?

“You just have a different view of what you want to do and how you want to work, where you want to work. It’s very positive for me. I decide more or less where I want to be, and I’m even more efficient because of that,” he said. For one, “I don’t have the commute. You’re able to work and play a little bit, and not feel guilty about playing. It’s something I’m going to continue to do.”

With the expansion of its Work from Hyatt program, the hotel chain is now betting that Meynard is not alone.

As the pandemic-fueled rise of remote work and virtual schooling untethers Americans from on-site offices and the towns and cities they call home, Hyatt is “leaning into the work-from-anywhere trend … so families, couples and individuals can enjoy a seamless, much-deserved change of scenery,” Asad Ahmed, senior vice president of commercial services, Americas, told CO—.

Work from Hyatt first launched on August 25, but when guest bookings revealed an appetite for working and learning remotely in a resort lifestyle setting, the company expanded the program in September from 25 hotels to nearly 90 in North America and the Caribbean. It’s a nod to what Hyatt has dubbed the “impulse travel trend,” fueled by the work-from-home movement, with an estimated 42% of U.S. employees working remotely today, according to Stanford estimates.

Hyatt’s work-from-anywhere package also aims to recoup business hurt by the steep hotel occupancy level declines from COVID-19 that have battered the travel and leisure sector at large.

For the period ended October 10, U.S. hotel revenue per available room (how much revenue a hotel makes per room) fell 47.4% from the year-ago period, as occupancy levels sank 29.2%, according to the latest data from STR.

In its most recent quarter ended June 30, Hyatt logged a $236 million net loss, compared to a $86 million profit during the same quarter last year, while revenue per available room dropped 89.4% from 2019.

“COVID-19 has had a major impact on global travel this year,” Ahmed said. “But we are confident in a long-term recovery. Creative packages and offers like Work from Hyatt are giving people a way to travel again when they’re ready, helping drive demand and business to Hyatt hotels once again.”

Creative packages and offers like Work from Hyatt are giving people a way to travel again when they’re ready, helping drive demand and business to Hyatt hotels once again.

Asad Ahmed, senior vice president of commercial services, Americas, Hyatt

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Courting ‘digital nomads’

Hyatt is not the only hospitality brand looking to capture the imagination — and bookings — of today’s wanderlust-struck workers to revive business. Affordable luxury hotel chain citizenM, for one, recently launched its Global Passport program, inviting travelers to “move in with us.”

When consumers sought Airbnb for “quarantine lodging” as the pandemic took hold, the home rental site’s CEO Brian Chesky shifted gears to target the remote-work crowd, banking on the premise that officeless workers will continue to seek out a kind of housing tourism, be it a cabin in the woods or a houseboat. Meanwhile, the remote-work life has sent some families with kids “roadschooling,” boosting the RV business and sites like RVshare and Outdoorsy.

These hospitality brands are all courting “digital nomads,” Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told CO—.

Hyatt got an inkling that travelers were craving longer-term stays when bookings at its Destination Residences private home properties soared upwards of 75% over the summer. That’s when “we saw guests were looking for more than just weekend escapes,” Ahmed said.

With Work from Hyatt, the hotel chain’s answer to serving remote employees is designed to “encourage work-life and school-life balance with the comforts of a premium resort experience,” Ahmed said.

“Millions of professionals are still working from home and many kids are learning remotely. People are looking for more space, better weather and a respite from household chores. The seven-day minimum stay for the Work from Hyatt package allows guests to settle into a new virtual work or school environment and enjoy a change of scenery.

“Right now, we’re seeing guests book stays from seven days to nearly four weeks,” he said.

At $139 per night, Hyatt is dangling perks like rooms with workspaces; suites for families “to spread out”; discounted laundry services; and private rooms for virtual business meetings.

Work from Hyatt also offers family-geared fare including educational experiences for kids at its Carmel Valley Ranch hotel to “fun and inventive” food experiences, from picnic basket dinners on the lawn to in-suite barbeques, he said. And resorts like its Lise of Palms in South Carolina offer the option to book either a traditional home room or a vacation rental ranging from two to six bedrooms.

 hyatt's carmel valley ranch property
According to Ahmed, Work from Hyatt is the hotel chain’s answer to serving remote employees, offering a resort experience while also promoting a balance between work and life. — Hyatt

Remote work meets impulse travel

Families with children represent nearly 20% of Work from Hyatt bookings; couples account for about 50%; and the remaining 30% is a mix of individual bookings, World of Hyatt rewards members and corporate clients.

By targeting the remote-work crowd, Hyatt is angling to monetize a major lifestyle shift. Over the past 15 years, remote work has been on the rise, as employers looked to attract and retain global talent and reduce real estate costs, Lister said. But the pandemic kicked the trend into overdrive. An estimated 9% of U.S. office employees worked from home full time pre-COVID, she said. “Post-COVID, that number soared to 77% based on the survey we did in May.”

Forecasts indicate the remote-work trend is not a trend at all, but a lasting socio-economic shift, as employers increasingly reap the benefits of remote work culture, such as lower overhead costs and de-stressed employees that are more productive.

“What held remote work back for 40 years was that managers didn’t trust employees to work untethered,” she said. Since the pandemic, they see, “Yes, this can work, and study after study shows a big increase in the productivity of workers from 15% to 55% depending on the industry.”

As Lister sees it, Hyatt Work from Home and programs like it are an outgrowth of the co-working trend, with hospitality brands positioning their spaces as a kind of WeWork with overnight stays and maybe even ocean views, too.

Hyatt has found that employees’ newfound work flexibility has sparked an appetite for impulse travel that’s showing up in booking patterns. “Pre-pandemic, people would typically plan vacations months in advance, but are now taking weeklong trips with a few weeks’ notice,” Ahmed said. “Further, nearly all Work from Hyatt bookings at this time are slated for 2020, indicating people want to feel the joyful anticipation of future travel in the near term,” he said. “We are moving forward with a keen sense of experimentation that will advance our offerings, business and care.”

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Published October 26, 2020