In late spring, with no end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dane Steele Green, CEO of Steele Luxury Travel, knew that the small, independent, luxury hotels he and his clients love were under threat.
With borders closed or closing and airlines drastically reducing capacity, the lucrative summer influx of American travelers were not going to show up at these properties. Green was particularly worried about hotels in Europe and Mexico, especially the boutique properties without the support of a large brand behind them. Green knew that many would not survive for long without some kind of cash infusion.
So in July he launched an offshoot of his travel agency and called it Steele Hotels. He created an online booking site to offer discounted three-night hotel packages that travelers can buy now -- providing the hotels with cash immediately -- but use when the pandemic threat was lower. Vouchers bought on the website can be used for up to a year from the date that the border between the U.S. and the country where the property is located reopens.
"We are trying to get beds filled and get revenue to the hotel immediately," Green said. "The idea is get the hotels the cash they need to stay afloat and give the consumer a great deal."
Hotel partners agree to customize three-night, nonrefundable vouchers with perks, add-ons and steep discounts, sometimes up to 70%. There are very few blackout dates and restrictions. And Green believes that by tying the voucher validity dates to border reopenings, Americans will be motivated to book in Europe and other locales that are currently restricting visitation.
And should a traveler not make it to the property within the first year of access, a generous 80% of the voucher's value can be applied to a future visit.
Steele Hotels transmits the money collected to the hotel within 30 days of a voucher purchase. Steele adds a commission on top of the net hotel rate. Additionally, Green is giving 10% of profits from the website to the HSMAI Foundation, which provides resources to hotel and travel industry professionals as they weather the pandemic.
Among Steele Hotels' partners are Italy's Lungarno Collection, Mexico's Nizuc Resort, London's St. James's Hotel and Club, Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and a selection of Nobu and Hard Rock hotels.
The three-night package currently offered by Nizuc, for example, starts at $1,188 for an Ocean View Deluxe room that would normally cost $1,860.
At the Hotel Lungarno in Florence, a three-night package that normally sells for $2,716 is only $1,494, with daily breakfast for two guests and complimentary entrance to the Ferragamo Museum.
There are currently 32 hotels on the site and quite a few more in the pipeline, Green said. He hopes to eventually get to 100 participants and in the near future plans to offer a 5% commission to agents and affiliates.
Most importantly, he said, "I hope to write a big check to charity and get money to these independent hotels that need it."