In a post-pandemic world, event bubbles are driving entire floor or wing buyouts at hotels.
Kerry Healy, Chief Commercial Officer, Accor Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea, said: “We are seeing an increase in demand for hotel buyouts with groups needing to isolate together for events, or who wish to enjoy a more exclusive holiday with their extended family or friends in a private environment.”
Such demand already "existed in the past with ultra-wealthy guests, celebrities and royal families" who require top privacy, with resorts the likes of Raffles Maldives Meradhoo and Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua popular among these segments.
Post pandemic, Healy sees the trend picking up among "companies requesting buyouts for their staff for events, or friends pooling their resources together to buy out a particular wing or floor of a property".
Typical 'travel bubble' packages include private areas, food, butler service, activities for the children and more with flexible customisation, depending on needs, source market of the guests and the reason for buyout.
Travel bubbles for event attendees
Companies have long been making buyout requests at resorts, which served as ideal locations for incentives and teambuilding programmes. Today, the need to isolate for events has prompted city hotels to step up on their buyout offering, complete with new safety protocols.
One recent booking was by ONE Esports for its Dota 2 Singapore Major between end March and early April. The entire group was hosted at Fairmont Singapore in a “travel bubble” with guests allowed to move about the hotel with a strict itinerary and in limited areas. The luxury hotel also hosted the Singapore leg of the HSBC Women's World Championship in end April.
Hotels are also channeling resources into managing groups to prevent cross mingling. At Fairmont Singapore for instance, different teams are assigned to manage the group on site and ensure employees do not interact with colleagues from the rest of the hotel.
Attending teams need to be fully vaccinated before interacting with the group. Medical authorities are roped in to handle PCR testing / pre departure testing and serology testing on site with the group. Contact tracing and safety guidelines are organised by the Ministry of Health.
VIP desk for travel agent bookings
Preferred Hotels & Resorts has rolled out the Hotels Buy-Outs campaign, now offered by its 150-plus participating hotels including 22 in Asia Pacific.
The Preferred group has also opened a regional VIP Desk for the specific use of travel agents across markets, updating them with operational information to better respond to customer enquiries.
Travel agents continue to play a key role to play in securing hotel buy-outs and personalising requests for their wealthy clients, said Carolyn Holmes, Preferred's vice president of global sales – Asia Pacific.
“Bookings requiring multiple rooms can be complicated, and so the role of a travel agent is often crucial to the booking process," she said.
Bookings through agents are commissionable at 12% and the Hotels Buy-Outs campaign is valid until the end of the year.