By Steve Pike
While every segment of the hospitality industry has been – and continues to be – affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, luxury properties are equipped with strong advantages to bounce back quicker than other segments.
At least that’s the opinion of Mauro Pinho, director of sales and marketing at the Forbes Five-Star Acqualina Resort & Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, FL.
“Loyalty of returning guests, for instance, and confidence these guests have in the sanitation and health protocols luxury properties will implement to protect them and their families will be paramount to the recovery,” said Pinho. “After our re-opening on June 15, we received great feedback from returning guests praising our efforts and protocols, mentioning that they feel very safe at Acqualina.
“I also think that after so long on lockdowns – following a very stressful period in everyone’s lives – guests will be looking for full services when choosing their next hotel. We all desire to be pampered with amazing cuisine, relaxing spa treatments, heavenly beds and world-class amenities right now, and where else would you find it? Luxury hospitality, of course.”
Acqualina Resort is a Mediterranean villa-style property on 4.5 beachfront acres north of Miami Beach, which features 98 guest rooms and suites and 188 residences with views of the Atlantic Ocean, dining options, such as Il Mulino New York, three oceanfront pools and Acqualina Spa by ESPA.
Pinho said Acqualina has enhanced its safety procedures through the use of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved electrostatic disinfectant tools using a combination of detoxification chemicals and electrostatic molecules that effectively sanitize all interior and exterior spaces and surfaces.
A few things guests see:
- A non-contact temperature check for all guests, residents and team members;
- Guests are required to wear a face covering when traversing throughout the property;
- Personal protective equipment and enhanced training are provided to all team members;
- Hand-sanitizer dispensers — touchless wherever possible — are placed throughout the resort;
- Six-foot distancing measures between individuals, groups and staff are required at all times;
- Social distancing mats located throughout the property;
- The resort complies with all occupancy limits mandated by local and/or state authorities.
“We are always updating our protocols as required and/or mandated by local or federal governments,” said Pinho. “For example, our restaurants are only serving outdoors, respecting social distancing, and no more than four guests per table. This is a different protocol than a few weeks ago when indoor dining was still permitted.”
Updates and adjustments also are being made behind the scenes, particularly on the marketing side, to attract guests who might be wary of traveling.
“Hotels must learn to effectively communicate to their client base,” said Pinho. “Clients are now interested in understanding our safety processes and cancellation policies, which are different features than what we were accustomed to market.
“At Acqualina, we were agile in concentrating our marketing efforts to showcase what makes our property unique, in addition to all the processes we were implementing. I believe the success of our re-opening is very much tied to the continuous engagement with our guests and the clarity of our message.”
That message and engagement might be even more important than normal to the lucrative Florida drive market, as many people are hesitant to fly during the pandemic.
“Florida has always been a strong market, especially in the summer months, so we already had a blueprint on how to communicate with our local guests,” said Pinho. “This year, we initiated our ‘Staycation’ campaign sooner, and broadened the scope of our message to guests from other states, such as Georgia and Alabama.
“The hospitality industry is a very resilient industry, and through ups and downs, this community has re-emerged stronger and more united. I believe that in the short term, luxury properties will need to learn how to market to their local markets and deeply understand their clients in order to provide a value proposition that resonates with them. They will also need to offer unprecedented flexibility and go above and beyond expectations in order to solidify their brands domestically.
“In the long term, I believe the housekeeping department will receive more attention than it has before, as effective communication of what hotels are doing to provide a safe environment is (and will continue to be) a very important marketing initiative. I also believe that the multi-generational and multi-family segment will prefer smaller properties, where they can be away from crowds and large gatherings,” he concluded.