Travel has become a lot more complicated. Now, the calculations include whether you want to fly and what safety measures are in place at the hotel. by Paul Sullivan 3/12/2021
Like millions of people who have been able to work from home this past year, Gigi Gomez was desperate for a change of scenery.
She had been working full-time from her apartment in Miami Beach while taking business school classes. Ms. Gomez, 38, said she had also been taking care of her 80-year-old grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
But she found that determining how and where to vacation involved significantly different calculations from those she would have had to make in the past.
For one, what would a resort need to offer so that she felt comfortable going there? A reduction in the room rate was a given — few resorts are anywhere near full, even if they are allowed to operate at full capacity. But what protections would the hotel provide?
If she were to fly somewhere, how long a flight was she willing to take? Would she need to be tested for the coronavirus before she left or on arrival? And what about the risk that she might catch the virus en route and have to quarantine for her entire vacation?
Ms. Gomez also wanted to go somewhere that felt safer than her neighborhood in South Beach, where restaurants and bars were packed with people not wearing masks.
In other words, travel is no longer just about where you want to go and how much it will cost. Even as vaccines are being rolled out, travel remains a fraught issue. And while the questions are clear, the answers are not.
Ms. Gomez said she had looked at a half dozen or more locations. She considered Sedona, Ariz., and Jackson, Wyo. “Then you see Instagram and everyone is in Sedona, so we thought we probably shouldn’t go there,” she said. She and her boyfriend also ruled out long flights.
In the end, they settled on a resort in the Bahamas, a 45-minute flight from Miami, choosing the SLS Hotel at Baha Mar, which reopened on March 4 after being closed for a year. Their room was 30 percent cheaper than when Ms. Gomez had gone for a girls’ weekend in January 2020. She liked that the Bahamas needed a negative coronavirus test to enter and that the hotel screened guests again upon arrival.
But the hotel also made an offer that clinched the trip for them: If they tested positive for the virus, either they could stay free of charge at the hotel while they quarantined or SLS would fly them back to Miami on a private jet.
“This is an additional layer of protection for the guests who are wondering, ‘Do I have to sit in my room for 14 days and pay my room rate?’” said Chadi Farhat, chief operating officer of SLS Hotels and Residences. “No, if you tested negative before you got on the plane and you’re positive when you arrive, you can stay free.”
Jeff Galak, an associate professor of marketing at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, studies the psychology of inducements. Consider what hotels like SLS are doing in terms of products, he said. If a company is trying to sell us something and we know it’s trying to sell us something, we’re less likely to be interested. But, he said, if that company is able to place its product in something we’re watching or find an influencer who is genuinely interested in that product, we’re more likely to pay attention to the product.
Mr. Galak said people sometimes based decisions on where to travel and even whether to travel on what their peers were doing. “If like-minded individuals are doing this, then I’ll think it’s probably less risky than I thought before,” he said.
Stephen Malbon, the owner of the golf apparel company Malbon, hadn’t traveled with his family in more than a year or taken any business trips, and he wanted to get away.
Last month, they went to Casa de Campo, a 7,000-acre resort and residential community in the Dominican Republic. The resort, which has 90 holes of golf, a private beach, a marina and 22 restaurants, has reduced capacity and provided on-site coronavirus testing while instituting stringent rules on mask-wearing and cleaning.