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Far Away, So Close

Urban resorts are having a post-COVID moment

As travel moves towards what is called “the new normal” and business and leisure travelers alike assess how and where and why they will travel, statistics are showing that staycations, drive-to locations and urban resorts are high on determined travelers’ wish-lists this summer and into fall.

The Travel Intentions Pulse Survey taken by MMGY Travel Intelligence in May showed that 36 percent of travelers were looking at a domestic leisure trip within the next six months. Over half (57 percent) said that even as the pandemic subsides they would most likely book travel to US destinations and 43 percent said they would travel to destinations closer to home. A third of surveyed travelers said they would drive up to 300 miles or more each way to get to a vacation destination.

“Texans are a staycation people anyway,” says Laura Krohn, director of spa and wellness at the Loma de Vida Spa at La Cantera Resort and Spa in Texas Hill Country a short 27-minute drive from downtown San Antonio.

Krohn is busy readying the spa for Texans and out-of-towners who are taking advantage of the Resort’s open-for-business status as well as its state-of-the-art standards for COVID-19 protection.

“At the spa our staff are using face shields and masks. Poolside and gyms allow only 50 percent capacity to keep social distancing. We do temperature checks and have a thorough cleaning and touchless check-in protocol.  People have been overjoyed to come back to the resort and they feel safe with our high standards of cleanliness.”

Those standards include sanitization stations throughout the resort, electro-misting systems for sanitization in guestrooms, hospital-grade MERV 15 HVAC filters for air handling systems and many contact-free services.

Although the resort is doing all of that, Krohn says that the location in Texas’ enchanting Hill Country, Chef Andrew Weissman’s James Beard Award-winning cuisine in the Signature restaurant and the resort’s airy, luxe suites are the main reason travelers are coming back.

“The beautiful nature of the Texas Hill Country just comes inside here,” she says. “It’s a very calm and tranquil environment. People are craving that right now.”

Business travelers who want bleisure time can also take advantage of the resort’s extensive meeting offerings including 115,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space (plenty of room for social distancing in Texas) along with a 6,500-square-foot foyer and terrace with panoramic views off its San Antonio Grand Ballroom. There are also eight separate meeting rooms and three executive ballrooms.

West Coast/East Coast 

Also close in but far away from the daily grind of a big city is The Four Seasons Westlake Village, an 11-acre urban retreat located between Malibu and Santa Barbara, CA, that has reopened after a major redesign of its guestrooms, restaurants and public spaces.

When Business Traveler senior editor Lark Gould visited, she described the resort as “inspired by the tranquil elements of Southern California’s coast and the classic drama of old-Hollywood glam.” The resort is just outside of Los Angeles and cheek-by-jowl to Santa Barbara’s rustic-luxe wineries and restaurants (known as some of Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda’s favorite social haunts).

The resort is a good choice for bleisure as well having more than 15 meeting spaces and banquet rooms. It’s also home to the California Health and Wellness Institute, an all-day immersion into finding your center and being the best you can be physically, mentally and spiritually.

To safeguard its guests’ health, Four Seasons has created a “Lead With Care” initiative which includes a dedicated Hygiene Officer at each property, electrostatic spraying and ozone technology for air purification and/or UV technology for HVAC systems, blacklight inspections of rooms for maximum clean, social distancing and reduced capacity in restaurants and bars as well as touchless menus and other enhancements.

Across the US in New Jersey, a quick 47 miles from New York City, Crystal Springs Golf Resort and Spa re-opened in June, including restaurants, spa, a mountaintop lake, tropical pool complex and underwater aquarium (the resort’s gym remains closed at present).

Crystal Springs is known for its teambuilding activities as well as its corporate retreat facilities, which are open and ready for business, with safeguards for health and wellness intact. The resort cites New Jersey’s Governor Murphy’s executive order that allows up to 50 people to gather indoors with outdoor gatherings of up to 100 permitted. The governor anticipates those limits easing through the coming months.

Crystal Springs is maximizing its massive acreage to allow for varied and memorable meetings and team events as well as implementing major cleaning and safety protocols in the resort itself. Some of those include increased room sanitization, 6 feet of distance between guests in separate parties and more touchless interactions.

Breathe Free 

Other urban resorts opening include most of major 5-star resorts in Phoenix, AZ, a city that has long been home to a plethora of urban resorts. Taking advantage of Arizona’s sunny days and allergen-free, dry air, the region provides a refuge especially for people recovering from respiratory illness, a perfect climate to take a deep breath after a heavy COVID-19 season.

“Our collection of stunning resorts have worked tirelessly to prepare for our summer staycation season,” Visit Phoenix director of media relations Doug McKenzie told [ital] Business Traveler. [end ital] “From rooms to pools to spas, resorts are showing their hospitality that is true to form and comfortable for all visitors.”

Some of those now open resorts include Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows, Talking Stick Resort, Royal Palms Resort and Spa, the legendary Phoenician, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, and the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort and Spa.

One of Arizona’s first ever resorts, Castle Hot Springs reopens this September. Once a healing spring for Apache warriors, Castle Hot Springs also welcomed an injured John F. Kennedy when he came home after being wounded during World War II.

Today, the resort is the home of its own extensive organic garden which helped feed locals during the high days of the pandemic. The resort is about an hour-and-a-half from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport but feels a million miles away.

You can’t get sweeter social distance than at this magical land of 200-year old Saguaro cactus and the lithium-infused healing waters of the hot springs themselves. Spa treatments are held in mountain desert tent locations around the property, miles, rather than feet, away from other travelers. The only sound you’ll hear will be your own gently calming heart.

Finally, Mirbeau Resorts, which includes urban resorts such as Mirbeau Inn and Spa Plymouth, 50 minutes from Boston, and Mirbeau Inn and Spa Skaneateles, located 20 minutes from Syracuse, as well as Mirbeau Inn and Spa Rhinebeck, two hours from New York City, are part of an initiative of Mirbeau properties to donate a spa treatment for a local healthcare professional for every $500.00 in Mirbeau Gift Card sales.

The organization also donated over 320 spa treatments to healthcare organizations in New York, one of the hardest hit areas of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mirbeau wanted to say thank you to the healthcare professionals who have worked around the clock to keep our loved ones healthy and safe,” says Michael Dal Pos, CEO of Mirbeau Hospitality Services.

At the end of the day, those are the folks who have kept us well enough to travel again – however far away we choose to roam.