Hotels try to attract 'work from home' families

©Orlando Sentinel

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Some Central Florida resorts are morphing the pandemic-bolstered “work from home” trend into a business promotion: Work from hotels.

More elbow room, strong and reliable WiFi and redefined “working vacations” are among the inspirations for relocating home offices, at least temporarily, executives say. Children attending virtual school can also be a factor.

“You see people with their laptops out at the pool, in the lobby, in a coffee shop … so you know it’s probably been happening for a while now,” said Jim Vespa, resort president of Margaritaville Resort Orlando. “But now we’re kind of putting some marketing dollars behind it.”

Margaritaville’s current “Work From Your Home Away From Home Package” includes breakfast for two people each day and a $50 resort credit for customers who book by Aug. 31 and travel by the end of 2020.

Lately, Vespa said, visitors to Margaritaville Resort, which has rentable cottages with up to eight bedrooms, have been primarily Floridians and car travelers from neighboring states. Air travel has been down dramatically this summer.

“I think, for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be a drive market. … That lends itself perfectly to what we’re talking about, because there’s a lot of people within the drive area,” he said. “People look at the weather, they look at their schedule, and they decide at the last minute to go.”

The work-from-hotel option can work for vacationers, staycationers and people considering a permanent relocation, said Nick Falcone, managing principal for Encore Resort at Reunion.

“We’re seeing a lot of that, where people want to kind of lay their base in a new place,” Falcone said.

His resort’s current deal includes welcome drinks, free kids’ meals with purchase of an adult meal, a $50 nightly resort credit and breakfast for two each day. Encore features spaces with up to 13 bedrooms. The rentals could give flexibility to companies now thinking smaller, Falcone said.

“There are many, many companies that are trying to reduce costs and have it where they’re not locked into 10-year leases,” he said.

“We have different levels that you can take advantage of, for those that want to come in the house as is,” Falcone said. “There are already many common-area spaces that really lend itself well. No one wants to be sitting on a bed, necessarily, doing their work.”

For families on vacation, the adults can get their work done in relative isolation during the day then explore the resort after hours, he said. Children who are attending school via the internet can hit the pool after the virtual bell rings.

“We’ve actually talked to a bunch of guests that were saying that … it’s almost been too much — cooped up over the last five, six months and they need a vacation,” Falcone said. “But they couldn’t stop school, they couldn’t stop work.”

At Orlando-based Club Wyndham, a “Back to School, Back to Your Bucket List” vacation package targets kids with a backpack of school-going essentials plus their parents, who get noise-canceling headphones and a bottle of wine.

“I think nobody can have enough noise-cancelling headphones these days,” said Lori Gustafson, senior vice president of global brands at Club Wyndham.

The vacation club introduced the package at its Bonnett Creek Resort in Central Florida, along with locations in destinations such as Park City, Utah; Branson, Missouri; and Williamsburg, Virginia. There’s a savings of up to 30 percent, Wyndham said. The package must be secured by Oct. 31 for bookings through Dec. 18.

Some people need separation of space for a working vacation or classroom, Gustafson said.

“You will be able to sit up on an expansive kitchen island. Or we set up an office or a desk in a separate room. It’s basically the best of both worlds,” she said. “That’s really our whole thinking and rationale for launching this program.”

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©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS
Margaritaville’s current 'Work From Your Home Away From Home Package' includes breakfast for two people each day and a $50 resort credit for customers who book by Aug. 31 and travel by the end of 2020. - Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS
The lagoon swimming pool at the Margaritaville Resort Orlando is open for business. - Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS