Day passes helping hotels plug pandemic holes in revenue

A ResortPass marketing image shows guests experiencing a poolside "daycation."
A ResortPass marketing image shows guests experiencing a poolside "daycation." Photo Credit: Courtesy of ResortPass

As hotels and resorts continue to look for ways to lure leisure and local travelers amid the pandemic, day passes have gained new relevance.

Of course, the day pass concept long predates the Covid crisis. It traditionally offered people who weren't staying at a resort -- locals, cruisers, travelers on a layover -- daytime access to a hotel's amenities, such as its pool, fitness areas or beach club. 

But with the U.S. hospitality sector now largely reliant on domestic leisure business, some properties are ramping up their focus on day passes and are leveraging their ability to draw daytrippers and staycationers and create a new source of revenue.

They're also exploring new ways to market their day pass offerings to the public.

ResortPass, an online booking portal specializing in hotel and resort "daycation" experiences, said it has seen a notable uptick in demand throughout the pandemic as well as an increase in the number of hotel partners opting to list day passes and packages on the platform.

Romina Rozensztajn, global vice president of sales and account management at ResortPass, reports that the group's bookings have tripled this year over 2019.

Among ResortPass's most recent corporate partnerships is a tie-up with Omni Hotels & Resorts, with the luxury hospitality group rolling out day pass offerings across a variety of their properties.

Chanaka Gamaethige, senior director of revenue strategy at Omni Hotels & Resorts, said that the partnership "gives us an opportunity to optimize our cabanas and poolside amenities," with poolside food and beverage outlet revenues, in particular, expected to grow.

At the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown in Texas, for example, ResortPass users can book day access to the hotel's rooftop pool, with WiFi and parking included, for around $35 per adult. At the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort in South Carolina, a $50 per-person pass includes access to multiple pools and hot tubs, the resort's private beach, the fitness center and other recreational amenities.

According to Rozensztajn, the day pass fee is just the tip of the iceberg, with a ResortPass guest typically spending quite a bit more on incidentals during their visit.

"Typically, when a traveler comes to stay in a new city, they may stay at the hotel, but they're usually out exploring that city and trying different restaurants," said Rozensztajn. "Our users are different. They're coming to the properties to explore the properties themselves, so they want to explore the restaurant, the gift shop and all the amenities that hotel has to offer. Hotels see a [big jump] in food and beverage spend from our users."

Work passes and weddings

Day passes aren't limited to pool, beach or cabana access, however. In line with the recent pandemic-era proliferation of "work from hotel" packages, with guestrooms being repurposed into home-office alternatives, some ResortPass hotel partners are also offering a work pass product.

At the Arlo NoMad in Manhattan, for instance, a $119 work pass includes access to a private guestroom from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and high-speed WiFi.

According to Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations, day passes are sometimes a necessity for destination weddings at all-inclusive resorts: Guests who aren't staying at the wedding property are potentially required to purchase daytime access in order to attend the big event. 

For those situations, Doncsecz reports that she typically receives a commission on day passes if they're rolled into wedding costs.

Suzy Schreiner, owner of Azure Blue Vacations, said that she rarely books day passes for clients, unless they're coming off a cruise or need to fill time before a late flight, and that she generally doesn't receive a commission on them.

But Schreiner added that she has had past success booking commissionable day passes through Resort for a Day.

Resort for a Day, which is part of World Travel Holdings, focuses on day passes for cruise passengers seeking one-day Caribbean resort excursions while in port. The platform currently has more than 6,000 travel advisors registered under its affiliate program.

Two and a half years ago, the company also debuted, a day pass platform focused on noncruise travelers in the Caribbean.

Although Resort for a Day has recently experienced a pandemic-related lull in business, with some Caribbean properties also pulling back on day passes in order to better control capacity, Lynn Walters, product manager for Resort for a Day, reports that demand is back on the upswing.

"It's certainly not back to 100% right now, but we are now seeing a significant increase in requests for much further out," said Walters. "Traditionally, a day pass excursion would be booked within a 14- to 21-day booking window, but with so many cruises canceled and so many clients now forced to book their cruise further out to 2022, we're seeing corresponding demand for day passes for 2022." 

Correction: Resort for a Day has more than 6,000 travel advisors registered under its affiliate program. We previously reported a lower number.


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