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Why Some Travelers Are Holing up at Hotels Instead of Going Home

Travel restrictions and fear of the coronavirus have led some people to extend their vacations.

With COVID-19 related travel bans, lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders, many hotels around the world have shut down and some are even being converted into hospitals. Others are still open, and though occupancy rates have plummeted, some even have a few guests. While the prospect of being unable to return home would be a nightmare for many, for others, self-quarantining at a luxury resort in the Maldives would be a dream come true.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Places like the Hamptons, the Catskills, and Cape Cod—which have been inundated with affluent New Yorkers and Bostonians fleeing to their second homes—are asking seasonal residents to stay home instead of taking scarce resources away from year-round residents and putting unnecessary pressure on ill-equipped rural hospitals.

While many New Yorkers who have the option to leave are fleeing the city, Josh Pelekai, who was visiting New York, decided to stay put, currently sheltering in place with his spouse at the Moxy Chelsea. “We are travelers from Hawaii who elected to remain in New York City for the rolling nationwide outbreak,” he said, explaining, “Access to food and supplies are much greater here, with dozens of options in walking distance from our hotel. For months, since COVID-19 first made headlines, our stores back home have faced shortages of essential supplies.”

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Places like the Hamptons, the Catskills, and Cape Cod—inundated with affluent New Yorkers and Bostonians fleeing to their second homes—are asking seasonal residents to stay home instead of taking scarce resources away from year-round residents.

When Pelekai and his spouse finally go home, they will likely have to submit to a quarantine. With the state’s first coronavirus cases linked to travelers, many were calling for some kind of travel ban to protect Hawaiians. Hawaii instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for both incoming travelers and returning residents on March 26 and the state’s Governor, David Ige, has expanded it to inter-island travel for the entire month of April. Only essential workers, emergency responders, and flight crews are exempt. There’s also a statewide stay-at-home order in place until April 30.

Hawaii is far from the only resort destination tightening its borders, essentially forcing travelers to leave immediately or shelter in place indefinitely. On March 19, the President of the Dominican Republic closed the country to incoming travelers and effectively sealed its borders as flights departing the island became scarce. There’s currently a nationwide curfew from 5 p.m. until 6 a.m. in place. One of the leading resorts on the island, Eden Roc Cap Cana, is currently hosting a number of long-term clients who are either stuck in the country or feel unsafe going home.

One such guest, Rob Dimico, explained, “We were vacationing at the hotel in mid-March, as the COVID-19 story unfolded around the world, and we decided to extend our stay to return home to Switzerland once things were back to a level of normality.” Dimico, a repeat guest who has stayed at the Eden Roc Cap Cana with his wife and two kids under the age of 10 several times a year since 2018, said. “We made the decision as it was less stressful for the family than to travel back amid all the travel complications, screenings, restrictions and safety concerns. Also, for the everyday ability of having a beautiful outdoor life while at the same time being able to avoid the risk of contagion by being in a completely isolated place.”

Soneva, which has two resorts in the Maldives and one in Thailand, currently has guests staying at all three properties. In fact, Soneva Fushi currently has a 25% occupancy rate—quite incredible considering the fact that most hotels have occupancy rates in the single digits. Many of the guests are Russians coming from other resorts in the Maldives that shut down. Instead of going home, they decided to stay in the virus-free paradise.

Other travelers are taking advantage of luxury home rental agencies and hotels with standalone villas or cottages. Ocean House in Rhode Island has closed its main hotel building, but opened its collection of cottages early in order to provide options for guests who want amenities like laundry, full kitchens, and private yards. Of the seven cottages, which range in size from two to seven bedrooms, one is currently occupied.

The Plum Guide, which rents over 1,000 vacation homes in cities like London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin, and Tel Aviv, helped a family from Lima who got stuck in New York City when Peru closed its borders last month. The guests, who prefer to remain anonymous, were a young couple spending a month in New York City while the husband took MBA courses at Columbia. The wife’s parents had planned a trip to New York and Boston for the Boston Seafood Expo, which they attend every year, and decided to go even though the event was canceled.

“During my parents’ stay in Boston, Peru closed its borders, which meant they could not go back. They came back to NYC and we wanted to stay together,” the wife explained. “Plum Guide was really helpful and made it possible by finding a unit in the same building in one day.” Though they returned to Peru on March 26, they were grateful to the Plum Guide’s team for giving them peace of mind and a place to call home during their temporary seclusion.

Whether helping guests who have been stranded or offering up rooms to medical personnel, hotels and luxury apartment rental agencies are showing what true hospitality means during this crisis. If you have a stay at your favorite hotel planned, consider postponing it instead of canceling. It’s an important way to support the hotels and their staff during this period of need.

AndrewDoyle April 15, 2020

I am currently holed up at the Conrad Manila....all of the reasons in this story are relevant to me.....If I go to either of the 2 countries I am eligible to go to (Singapore, Australia) I will be 'locked' up in a hotel for 14 days without any service.