Summer may be over, but hoteliers and other industry players are seeing leisure travel trends extending well into fall this year, buoyed in part by a pandemic-era shift toward remote work and schooling.
"Autumn travel is usually much lower for leisure," said Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner at New York-based Embark Beyond. "Kids are back in school. Adults are gearing up for the third and fourth quarters ahead of the holidays.
"But all that is turned upside down now," he said. "There are no school vacation days you need to abide by. There's no office. There's no business travel. And that presents opportunity."
For Embark Beyond, opportunity has emerged in the form of significantly longer stays. According to Ezon, clients who are no longer tethered to a physical office or classroom are increasingly willing to book sabbatical-style trips, ranging anywhere from one to six months.
To meet this new demand, Embark Beyond has launched its Embark Longer collection, highlighting an array of hotels and resorts with villa-style accommodations and amenities like unlimited laundry, complimentary WiFi and a full office setup.
Some of Embark's most popular longer-term stay properties have included the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Miami, Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Grace Bay Club in Turks and Caicos.
Embark Longer stays are structured as "mini-leases," allowing guests to avoid having to pay resort fees.
"The biggest concerns for these longer-stay clients are around accessibility," said Ezon. "Having easy access in and out of a destination, whether it's airlift or border control, is especially important. And they also want to know that there are everyday resources like supermarkets nearby. They want to live like a local."
In addition to Embark Longer, the agency has also debuted its Embark World Academy, a home-schooling solution offering virtual academic experiences for school-age children as well as access to teachers available to meet clients in-home or join them on their travels.
"There's typically been a certain phase in life when you'd be able to fit some type of sabbatical in, and it was usually not a fit with kids," added Ezon. "But now it can be."
Kacie Darden, owner of Atlanta-based Blue Pineapple Travel, is among those who have opted to take the extended stay plunge with kids in tow. In August, she decided to pack up her 6-year-old twins and head to Aruba for an eight-week stretch.
Aruba -- one of several Caribbean islands offering special promotions and programs designed to encourage U.S. visitors to stay and work remotely for longer periods of time -- was an ideal home base from which to conduct Zoom calls, according to Darden.
"We'd have a routine during the week, but every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we were able to really explore and act like we were on vacation," said Darden, who stayed at several different properties during her trip, including Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club.
Darden's clientele has proven similarly willing to book longer stays, with one of her clients spending a month in Mexico this fall and several others currently planning to take extended trips at some point over the next three months.
"Normally, we would never have working-age clients traveling for a full month," said Darden. "But now people can escape with their laptops and log in from wherever they want to."
Those with newfound flexibility aren't necessarily all committing to a month or more of travel, however. For some, tacking on a few extra days is sufficient.
The White Elephant Nantucket in Massachusetts, for example, reports that it has seen a 40% increase in stays lasting seven nights or more this year, versus a typical stay length of three to four nights. The property has also seen a 36% year-over-year increase in overall leisure bookings this fall.
The White Elephant has recently launched its Zoom From Here package, comprising accommodations overlooking Nantucket Harbor, a dining credit, complimentary WiFi and more. Zoom From Here rates start at $2,095 per week.
An oceanview room at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Likewise, the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, Calif., has seen a slight uptick in length of stay, though, according to Marco Perry, vice president and regional managing director at the property, most people working remote from the hotel book just a day or two.
"The work-from-hotel segment is one that's existed since we reopened our doors a few months ago," said Perry. "And what we've seen is that they come in, and they just want to get away from home for a bit so they can work without interruption."
Building off this trend, the Portofino recently debuted a Work From Hotel promotion in mid-September, featuring complimentary coffee, tea or fruit juice, a $50 water activity credit, parking, a waived resort fee and WiFi access.
The property simultaneously unveiled a Seaside Students offer, catering to children schooling remotely with grab-and-go breakfast, water activities, bike rentals and treats available at the front desk for students earning a perfect score on three or more tests.
"We've seen families come in and take two rooms, using one room as an office and the other room as the school room," said Perry. "I think some level of work and school flexibility is here to stay for a while -- probably through 2021. And with people not needing to wait until school vacations to travel, why not take your vacation during an off-peak time or shoulder season?"