Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
It is just after sunset when we arrive at the Little River Inn, perched on a lovely curve on the Mendocino coast with a commanding view of the ocean. Little River Inn is one of the oldest lodgings on this dramatic stretch of the Northern California coastline, family-owned for 80 years. Over the years, it has expanded, upgraded and modernized in delightful ways to be a true luxury resort with the charm of an inn and ideal for everything from a romantic getaway to a family adventure to a destination wedding.
The original house that is the nucleus of the inn was built in 1857 by Silas Coombs, and has remained in the family ever since. Grandfather Ole Hervilla, clearly a pioneer in turning Mendocino’s economy from lumbering to tourism, turned the original building into an inn in 1939, which is now run by its fifth generation innkeeper, Cally Dym.
Set on 225 wooded acres, the old Coombs home is now surrounded by 65 ocean view rooms in townhouse-style units where you have your own entrance and your own balcony and luxurious amenities like Jacuzzis, steam showers, private hot tubs, gas and wood-burning fireplaces, superior quality bedding and linens. There is also a lovely dining room in the original building and a legendary Ole’s Whale Watch bar.
The Little River Inn is distinguished by having a nine-hole golf course – the only golf course on the Mendocino coast (Ole actually built it himself in 1957 after being dissuaded by the cost of hiring golf architects); two tennis courts with lights for night play, and a day-spa.
Dining in the inn’s restaurant is sublime. The garden has been opened for outside seating (actually it is a tent) as an accommodation for COVID but has proved extremely popular – we sit among twinkle lights at the base of redwood trees.
The sophisticated menu offers a host of delightful preparations, marvelous flavors and gorgeous presentation. Sarah indulges in the Spicy Lobster Tagliolini prepared with lobster meat, lobster-tomato broth, yuzu caviar and house-made Tagliolini pasta (one of the “small plate” offerings that is sufficient for a main course); mushroom agnolotti prepared with “black pearl” oyster mushrooms, ricotta, parmesan with a black truffle cream and pecorino tartufo. Eric savors the Cioppino, prepared with Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, local rock fish, simmered in a tomato-fennel broth; and I delight in good ol’ Ole’s cheese Burger with flourishes of grilled onions, tomato, mayo, pickes, Pain de Mei bun, prepared with perfection.
These are the creations of Chef de Cuisine Jason Azevedo who has largely taken over from five-star chef Marc Dym, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and was named Executive Chef at Little River Inn in 2006 after Marc and Cally (the fifth-generation Innkeeper) were married. Azevedo brings a modern twist to classic American-regional cuisine and have garnered Little River Inn high Zagat ratings.
Schedule a tee time at Little River Inn’s Audubon-certified 5,458-yard, nine-hole golf course. Tucked among redwoods and pine trees, it offers majestic views of the Pacific and some “unexpected” challenges.
I love the colorful back story that once again features Ole Hervilla, who turns out to have been a major visionary for Mendocino’s tourism: After watching Arnold Palmer play on television, in the 1950s, he got the idea to build a golf course at the inn because it would be a draw for guests. Locals were skeptical that anybody would want to play golf on the coast (tell that to Pebble Beach). Working with his own contractors (after getting cost estimates from golf architects), he opened his course in 1957.
There is also a driving range, putting green, two lighted tennis courts (available free to guests; they even supply the racquet) and fully stocked Golf and Tennis Pro Shop (call 707-937-5667 to reserve a tee time).
Little River Inn’s Spa offers a full array of services including customized massages and facials (open daily, 10 am-5 pm).
All of this – the setting, accommodations, dining, amenities – makes Little River Inn prime for destination weddings from elopements to grand affairs of 200, reunions, as well as events and functions, with four different venues.
The inn is especially welcoming to families and offers Family Discovery and Family Adventure packages, and children under 16 stay free. Pet-friendly units are also available (check out the Water Dog package). Other packages include Stargazing, Romance, there are also special offerings for festivals and seasonal promotions.
Little River Inn is perfectly positioned to take advantage of all the attractions in Mendocino, Fort Bragg. You can stroll down its private trail down to Van Damme State Beach where there are 10 miles of hiking trails, a Pygmy forest, beach and tidepools.
And so, after lingering over coffee sitting in rocking chairs on our balcony, reveling in the view to the Pacific Ocean, we set out to thoroughly explore Mendocino.
Little River Inn, 7901 N Highway 1, Little River, CA, United States, 95456, 888-INN-LOVE, 707-937-5942 www.littleriverinn.com.
To get to Mendocino, you drive through Anderson Valley with its picturesque vineyards, wineries, and farms, take a twisty road that winds around hills, and go through the Navarro Redwood Forest (a magical experience) and finally, along the Pacific coast. You are already feeling the calm sweep over you by the time you reach Brewery Gulch Inn, set on a hillside with a sweeping view of a cove and the ocean. And then you fully exhale and feel all stress and worldly concerns slip away. Time seems to slow down.
Brewery Gulch Inn
With Mendocino itself just around the bend, we head directly to the Brewery Gulch Inn, a marvelously quiet, intimate inn (just 10 rooms) which sits just above the coastal highway, nestled amid trees and lush landscaping.
We arrive just in time for the 5:30-6:30 pm wine hour – a delightful tasting that accompanies a delicious artfully prepared light dinner. There are many modifications due to COVID-consciousness – so many actually being very pleasant adaptations that have become popular with guests. So, instead of serving the inn’s signature dinner as a buffet, we are given our own bento box, accessed with our room key (late arrivals will find it in their room).
We can sit in the Great Room – a combination living room and dining room (with well spaced tables) set around a fireplace, that opens out to the outdoor patio, or we can sit outside on the patio or lawn. We opt for the outdoors, bathing in the golden light of the setting sun as it falls into the ocean, watching waves hit against rocks in the intriguingly named Smuggler’s Cove, and hummingbirds chase each other. The feeling of well-being – pure contentment – washes over us. It is perfection.
Each day, Executive Chef Stephen Smith prepares artful, imaginative dinner selections that are a feast for the eyes as well as the palette, featuring organic produce accompanied by local wines and beers (included in the stay).
This evening’s menu features Pina Colada prawns; creamy green chili and parmesan cheese polenta; chilled black bean and corn salad; chocolate-raspberry truffle tart. The menu changes daily: the night before we arrived, dinner consisted of Cajun chicken fingers with Creole remoulade and pickled zucchini; maple-whipped sweet potatoes; orange chiffon cake with cream cheese frosting and crème Anglaise. On another night: crispy duck breast with rosemary Dijon & cranberry-ginger gastrique, blue corn polenta crackers, fennel-smoked tomato stuffing, House-pickled vegetables and Gran Marnier chocolate mousse.
Every detail is carefully arranged: the dinner is served in “Mendo-style” bento boxes created by local woodworker, John Myers, from the same eco-salvaged redwood used to construct the Inn. The boxes are labeled with the name of each room (ours is Osprey and is decorated with Osprey images) so that guests can be sure the box prepared for their room will accommodate their dietary restrictions. “We are hoping the portability provided by these boxes will make it easier for you to dine outside, in our Great Room, or in the privacy of your room.”
(If you arrive after the concierge leaves, the bento box is sent into the room. They ask that you inform them by 10 am if you won’t be dining at the inn for the evening, to avoid food waste.)
Every possible guest comfort is integrated into the experience. The Great room is loaded with games (even the furniture becomes a game board) and a huge selection of DVDs (just help yourself); there are bird books and a spotter scope on the patio; fresh coffee, fresh fruit and fruit-infused iced water set out, as well as a refrigerator that we guests can use – and the sweet, patient help of the concierge.
The interior design, furnishings and art are exquisite. And the ambiance and services are also very in tune with the environment – there are several EV charging stations (you are asked to reserve time).
The effect is to be a place of serenity and peace.
We loved the personal notes from Guy Pacurar, Proprietor, Sarah Rowe, Guest Services and Manager, Laura Hockett in advance of our stay that ask about dietary restrictions, and offer driving directions with suggestions of places to stop along the route and activities to pre-book.
The inn’s website offers marvelous suggestions of what to do in the area, especially what might be pre-booked. Under Pre-Arrival Concierge, there are various services and activities, including massages, wine tours and tastings such as in Anderson Valley, horseback rides, chocolates, wines, restaurant reservations, that the inn can arrange for you prior to your arrival.
In the morning, there we find muffins and coffee laid out and we enjoy a marvelous cooked-to-order breakfast in the Great Room (we could also have asked it to be served in our guest room). I have a delectable salmon scramble.
Considering what is included in the experience – the wine tasting, light dinner accompanied by local wines and beers, lavish cooked-to-order breakfast from a seasonal menu (in the Great Room or served in your guest room), WiFi – this is an intimate inn (just 10 rooms) which provides the experience of a luxury hotel that is also a value proposition.
It is no wonder Brewery Gulch Inn consistently merits awards and accolades: named to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2021 Readers’ Choice for Best Hotels-Northern California, its seventh time on Conde Nast Travelers’ list of best lodging properties in the US; Travel & Leisure’s Top 15 Resorts in California (2021) and a six-time winner of Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Lodging Awards.
In the morning, aided by the suggestions of Brewery Gulch’s concierge (Glass Beach, Noyo Harbor for lunch, Headlands Coastal Trail for a hike), we head out to explore. First stop, the famous, historic Skunk Train and its novel “railbike” experience in Fort Bragg, just 20 minutes up the coastal road.
Brewery Gulch Inn, 9401 North Highway One, Mendocino, CA, 95460, 800-578-4454, brewerygulchinn.com.
One of my favorite places for a driveable getaway is Sandwich, Cape Cod’s first village, settled in 1637. Sandwich is an enchanting jewel where history, exquisite architecture, fascinating attractions abound in a compact, walkable area, a short distance from the delightful Sandy Neck beach as well as the Cape Cod Canal biking trail. It is quintessential New England, an idyllic place to visit, to stay, to make your hub for exploring Cape Cod.
All through Sandwich, you see homes that bear the names of the ship captains who commanded the packet ships and clippers that made this area a mercantile center.
Many of these quaint historic houses and buildings (including a church) have been turned into charming bed-and-breakfast inns, but if you want to extend your time travel back to when the Patriots were debating revolution, a wonderful choice is the Dan’l Webster Inn and Spa, at the heart of the village. It is also is the most substantial in size, with 48 rooms, amenities and services that include a full-service Beach Plum Spa, offering the best of past and present.
The present inn sits on property that was once a parsonage, built in 1692 by Rev. Roland Cotton; in the 1750s, it was converted to the Fessenden Tavern, one of the first and most famous of New England’s taverns and a Patriot headquarters during the American Revolution (the Newcomb Tavern, just across the pond, served as Tory headquarters). In the late 1800s, the inn, then known as the Central House, hosted famous visitors including President Grover Cleveland and poet Henry David Thoreau.
In 1980, the Dan’l Webster was acquired by the Catania family’s hospitality company which operates the popular Hearth n’ Kettle Restaurants, as well as the John Carver Inn in Plymouth and the Cape Codder Resort, in Hyannis. Since acquiring the Dan’l Webster, they have restored it with exquisite taste and respect for its heritage – there are antique furnishings and Sandwich glass.
The Catania family also acquired the historic house next door. A marker outside the house tells the story: Nancy Fessenden married Capt. Ezra Nye in 1826 and moved into the house following their wedding. She was the daughter of the innkeeper (now the Dan’l Webster Inn). Nye was a famous captain who broke the speed record by sailing his clipper ship from Liverpool in 20 days, in 1829. Restored by the Dan’l Webster Inn in 1982, the house now offers accommodates four luxury suites, each named after prominent people associated with the inn, dating back to 1692.
The Dan’l Webster has become an award-winning hotel, spa and dining destination. Recognized as a Distinguished Restaurant of North America (placing it in the top 1% of restaurants in the country) it offers a choice of the casual Tavern at the Inn, the cozy Music Room or the more formal (and romantic) ambiance in a lovely glass enclosed Conservatory.
The Tavern at the Inn is an authentic replica of the two-centuries-old tap room where Daniel Webster made regular visits and which had been a meeting place for local Patriots during the Revolution.
In a village of many substantial attractions and places of interest, what truly stands out is the Heritage Museum & Gardens – a destination attraction. It hits on a spectrum of cylinders – 100 acres of magnificent grounds and trails on the banks of the Shawme Pond; the vast, stunning and notable gardens that feature internationally important collections of rhododendrons, including those created by Charles Dexter, collections of hydrangeas, over 1,000 varieties of daylilies, hostas, herb, heather gardens, and more than a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers along beautiful and easily walked paths.
Also, the JK Lilly III collection of vintage cars and folk art, and you can take a ride on a delightful working vintage carousel. There is also – imagine this – Hidden Hollow, an enchanting family-friendly outdoor adventure center where you can get a “squirrel’s perspective” of the forest. You should allocate the better part of a day to visit. (Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 508.888.3300, www.heritagemuseumsandgardens.org, open daily through Mid-October.)
What built Sandwich, though (and likely the reason that so many of its magnificent buildings reflect the prosperity of the early-1800s) was that in 1825, Deming Jarves built a glass factory to manufacture glass with a revolutionary process that made it affordable for the masses (Sandwich glass is still a thing). The factory grew rapidly to be one of the largest producers in the country with over 500 workers producing over five million pieces of glass annually by the 1850s. By the 1880s, labor strikes, an economic depression, and new factories being built further closer to natural gas fuel sources forced the factory to close.
Today, you can visit the Sandwich Glass Museum which displays original pieces created during the 1800’s and provides demonstrations of glass blowing techniques. The museum’s theater shows a great documentary of the history of Sandwich. Throughout the village there are several glass blowers and artists with open studios to visit, creating a dynamic center for contemporary glass art (Sandwich Glass Museum,120 Main St., 508-833-1540, www.sandwichglassmuseum.org).
A short walk from the Dan’l Webster Inn is the Dexter Grist Mill, a working grist mill since 1654 where you can still buy ground cornmeal, or draw fresh water from the well (as many locals do for their personal supply).
The Hoxie House, built in 1675, was lived in until the 1970s but was never modernized with electricity or plumbing. This saltbox is named after a whaling captain who owned the house in the mid-1800s. it is now a wonderful little museum house showing what family life was like in the 1600s.
Benjamin Nye Homestead & Museum, is the 18th-century home of one of the first 50 men who settled in Sandwich.
Also, the Wing Fort House, built in 1641, the oldest house in New England continuously owned and occupied by one family (63 Spring Hill Rd., 508-833-1540).
A short distance away, you can visit the Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen (6 Discovery Hill Road off Route 6A), which celebrates author and naturalist Thornton W. Burgess, who wrote the Peter Cottontail stories. There are nature programs, nature trails, a working 1903 Jam Kitchen, jam-making classes (508-888-6870, www.thortonburgess.org).
One of my favorite things about Sandwich is the proximity to the Cape Cod Canal which offers a 6.2 mile-long paved path (on each side) for biking, roller blading or just walking (the banks of the canal are also popular for fishing). Along the trail, you can visit the Aptucxet Trading Post, built by the Pilgrims in 1627 to facilitate trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam and the Narrangansett Indians.
The Cape Cod Canal is a marvel (there is a visitor center on the mainland side that tells the history). The canal was constructed in 1914 – up until then, there were a tragic number of ships that were wrecked trying to sail around the peninsula. But it is astonishing to learn that interest in building the canal dated back to the earliest settlers: in 1623, Pilgrims scouted the area as the place best suited for a canal. In 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered a formal proposal to build a canal, but no action was taken. In 1776, George Washington, concerned about its military implications, studied the site. But it took until 1909 for construction to start. (60 Ed Moffitt Dr., 508-833-9676, www.capecodcanal.us).
Cape Cod also has the most marvelous network of dedicated bike trails.
Sandwich offers easy access to other marvelous places to visit on Cape Cod, like Falmouth, Wood’s Hole, Hyannis but you should spend at least a day on the other side of the Sagamore Bridge, in Plymouth, to visit a score of historic attractions associated with the Pilgrims, including the Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation, one of the best living history museums anywhere.
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lake Winnipesaukee, “The Smile of the Great Spirit,” gets its name from a charming and romantic legend of the Abenaki Native American tribe who lived in this New Hampshire Lakes region for 11,000 years. The tranquil setting here indeed, immediately brings smiles to generations of visitors.
And Mill Falls at the Lake, in Meredith, proves a fabulous base for immersing yourself in the pleasures of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.
With a most picturesque setting on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake, Mill Falls is a most unusual sort of lakeside resort complex, with four distinct inns – Bay Point and Church Landing on the water, connected by a lakefront boardwalk, and The Inn at Mill Falls and Chase House across a busy boulevard. Mill Falls also offers a full-service Cascade Spa, EKAL Activity Center, five restaurants, 12 shops in a four-story Marketplace housed in the historic mill with a 40-foot waterfall, and a vibrant Main Street community to complete the experience.
Mill Falls’ name pays homage to its heritage – the story told in historic photographs that grace the walls. Meredith started as a mill town powered by the flow of water.
In 1983 Meredith Bay Corporation bought the mill property, raising most of the buildings, but reconstructing the historic old mill into a four-story “Marketplace” shopping experience. Most of the original hand-hewn beams and wide barn boards remain; a half-ton copper cupola acquired from the North Woodstock church tower was hoisted to a new perch on the mill roof. A shopping plaza with three new retail buildings was created and the lovely 54 room Inn with swimming pool was added. The area was beautifully landscaped, incorporating the waterfall.
The opening of the Inn at Mill Falls and the Mill Falls Marketplace was the end of the industrial chapter for Meredith, but the beginning of a new era for the town.
In 1993, the company acquired an office building on the lake, which was reconstructed into the Inn at Bay Point.
Then, in 2003, after St. Charles parish moved, HHH acquired their old church and waterfront property – a spectacular promontory that juts into Meredith Bay. Rather than raze the church, HHH incorporated the structure into its stunning design in the style of the great shingled camps of the 1880s. Church Landing opened in May 2004.
In addition to a spectacular new inn, Church Landing added 1,000 feet of boardwalk to create a three-quarter mile contiguous public walkway along Lake Winnipesaukee’s waterfront, connecting Church Landing with The Town Docks Restaurant, The Christmas Loft, two public parks, and the existing walkway system that extends past The Inn at Bay Point. It also includes two 60-foot docks and a public gazebo and pier, which are attached to the existing town docks system. The final and crowning touch to Church Landing is the full-service Cascade Spa.
Yet another incarnation has taken place with the acquisition of Mill Falls at the Lake in 2019 by Procaccianti Companies, a New England-based, second generation privately-held real estate investment and hospitality services organization. The property is managed by its hospitality management affiliate, TPG Hotels & Resorts.
The new owners acquired the activities center, EKAL (lake spelled backwards), so has control and access to the rental bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, aquacycles, canoes that are now incorporated into a new daily schedule of programs, including both free activities as well as fee-based ones.
The new General Manager Nick Squire and new activities director, Sharon Wells, are turning this lakeside gem into a full-fledged destination resort, and even a wellness retreat.
“Everything I do is sharing wellness,” the aptly named Sharon Wells (her motto, ‘Sharing wellness”) tells me during the ice cream social she is hosting on the Boathouse patio on a Saturday afternoon.
Sharon, who has spent her entire career in wellness, came to Mill Falls in April to create an activities program. Her idea is to expand it with creative and clever ideas.
She organizes a schedule of daily activities that are provided at no extra charge to guests – like pilates, yoga, cardio kick boxing, or meditation on the boathouse lawn; paddleboard yoga, a fun ice cream social on the boathouse patio, jump rope, water balloon toss on the boathouse lawn, Art at the Lake (paint in plein air), a campfire or a fire spinning demonstration. She invites the Coast Guard to give a talk on reading navigation charts, local fisherman to talk about their life, an herbalist to do a plant walk, wild animal demonstrations by the Squam Lake Science Center, a presentation by the Loon Center (there are 26 loon pairs on the lake).
A score of activities are available to guests at extra fee – guided hikes, guided bike rides, guided kayaking trips, a sunset cruise on the Mill Falls’ pontoon boat (also available for charter) and in winter, skiing at nearby Gunstock Mountain – that take in the spectacular nearby preserves, mountains and lakes.
Sharon is developing weekend programs organized around wellness, hiking, leaf-peeping and the like, and plans to add Winter Wonderland activities, ice skating for when the lake freezes, snow shoeing, micro-spiking, Nordic skiing, winter hiking (check the website for dates). A group can request customized programs.
“My background is wellness, fitness, health. I came here in a time of need to be healthy. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental illness, obesity, drug addiction, alcoholism – these are top killers in US. The only way to become healthy is to be educated – get outdoors, eat better, meditate, work body-mind-spirit.”
She adds, “’Winnipesaukee’ means Smile of the Great Spirit – it’s about experience, memory, enjoying one’s family, exploring and discovering lakes region. True experience is gained through exploration – nature, beauty. I want people to appreciate the larger world beyond you. Let people feel calm, serenity, peace of wilderness. This place offers Yesteryear Simplicity – a place to de-stress, refresh, eat well, live well. We teach how to live a healthy lifestyle,” as she offers returning kayakers her cucumber, ginger and mint smoothie.
After leaving the ice cream social, following Sharon’s suggested route, I take my bike for a 10-mile ride following the lakeshore to get a taste of these neighborhoods.
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire–25 miles long, 15 miles wide at its widest point, it has 72 square miles of surface, 182 miles to circumvent the lake, and contains some 244 islands, some as small as a quarter acre. (Neighboring Shaum Lake was where “On Golden Pond” was filmed).
Lake Winnipesaukee is 45,000 acres – about as big as Lake Tahoe, but because it is not deep (as Lake Tahoe is) and as little as a few feet deep near the shore, the water is in 70s, comfortable for swimming, and there are beaches.
The setting is incomparable: crystal clear waters of the spring-fed Lake Winnipesaukee at the foothills of the White Mountains, surrounded by three mountain ranges and a the wooded shoreline.
It’s a haven for boaters – and if you don’t have your own, there are many places to rent any manner of boat or watercraft. There are ports all around the lake where you can just tie up and go ashore to enjoy restaurants, go to shops, buy ice cream.
There is much to explore on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee by boat or by car. Meredith is a restored mill village, where you can browse through antique, art and craft galleries. Weirs Beach has arcades and boardwalks, waterslides, a public beach and an activity center. Wolfeboro is a picture perfect village, right down to its historic Main Street. Center Harbor, Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Alton, Gilford and Laconia all have their own special flavor. All communities have public parks and docks, and feature varied activities such as fireworks displays and band concerts throughout the year.
Mount Washington Cruises, a New Hampshire tradition since 1872, offers scenic and sunset dinner dance cruises on the 230-ft. M/S Mount Washington and two smaller vessels, the US mail boat, Sophie C., and M/V Doris E.
It is a special experience to cruise along on the M/V Sophie C – the oldest and one of only two floating United States Postal Service post offices still operating – as it makes its deliveries to eight of the lake’s islands.
Floating post office service was started on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1892. The Sophie C. was built by Boston General Ship & Engine Works in 1945 to temporarily replace the Mount Washington, when the Navy commandeered its engines and boilers during World War II and took over the mail route from the Uncle Sam II in 1969. Sophie C. delivers mail Monday-Saturday, June to September, sells postage, and collects and postmarks outgoing mail. Sophie C. also operates as a sightseeing boat, carrying up to 125 people on her two cruises a day as she delivers mail, and sells ice cream and snacks to residents of the islands she serves.
There are any number of places nearby for hiking, biking, mountain biking: Belknap Mountain, Mt. Major, Chamberlain-Reynolds Memorial Forest, West Rattlesnake Mountain, Red Hill, Gunstock Recreation Area, Abenaki Tower, Cotton Valley Trail and Russell C. Chase Bridge Falls Path.
Wakefield, which prides itself on being a bicycle-friendly community, offers six loops ranging from 11 to 52 miles long.
Gunstock Mountain, 15 minutes away from Mill Falls, offers hiking trails, treetop adventures, mountaintop yoga classes, and electric biking; ski lifts, which in winter, access217 acres of skiable mountains, are open year-round.
Hermit Woods Winery offers wine tastings and tours (Food & Wine Magazine included it in its 2017 “500 Best Wineries in America”).
The 18-hole Waukewan Golf Club course,designed and opened by Dr. Melvyn Hale in 1958, is a few minutes away from Mill Falls.
Funspot, founded in 1952 by Bob Lawton offers 600 games including 300 classic arcade games, a 20-lane ten-pin and candlepin bowling center, indoor mini-golf, restaurant and tavern (it was named the largest arcade in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008). Lawton, who reportedly still works at Funspot, is a former representative to the New Hampshire legislature and revived the Weirs Times in 1992.
The timeless all-seasons resort on Lake Winnipesaukee, Mill Falls offers 171 rooms across all four inns, each with its own special ambiance – Church Landing, Bay Point, Chase House, and The Inn at Mill Falls – with all the elements for a family gatherings, destination wedding, corporate event or wellness retreat.
Church Landing (which includes the Boathouse where I stay) is a luxurious lakefront lodge with 70 rooms and is the best choice for a family or resort stay. It has two indoor/outdoor pools, the full-service Cascade Spa and Salon, stunning grounds and landscaping that just invite you to sit with a book or just gaze out to the lake, a small beach from which you can swim to a dock. You wander through Chase Landing, through lovely libraries and sitting areas, the walls covered with bookcases, stone fireplaces, a stunning mural depicting the lakefront, pool room, a patio with a stunning stone fireplace, wicker furniture, old wood beams. There is also the Lakehouse Grill which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has a lovely bar/lounge, with a lovely Adirondack feel and stunning views to the lake. The atmosphere is just wonderful.
My room, a spacious king suite with a balcony overlooking the lake, in the Boathouse, is a charming stone building with gorgeous wood rafters, and an old timey Adirondack-style rustic elegance that instills tranquility.
Bay Point is a 24-room inn perched at the end of Meredith Bay with gorgeous views; completely renovated in 2018, it has a nautical ambiance.
The original Inn at Mill Falls, with 54 rooms and an indoor pool, is set within a restored 19th-century linen mill with a tumbling 40-foot waterfall. It is adjacent to the Marketplace shops, restaurants and main street activities. (Pet friendly rooms are available.)
The newly renovated Chase House, across the street from Meredith Bay, offers 21 guest rooms and the Camp Restaurant with a cabin-style atmosphere, servers embodying camp counselors, and specializes in comfort food. (There is no actual children’s activity camp at Mill Falls)
There are delightful restaurants in each of the lodging buildings – Camp, Lago, Lakehouse Grill, Waterfall Café, Giuseppe’s Pizzeria and Ristorante – are run by The Common Man company. I thoroughly enjoy breakfast in the charming Lakehouse Grill, in Chase Landing, with a wonderful Adirondack ambiance and views of the lake. There is also the Town Docks restaurant in the midst of the complex– a bustling place each evening, with outdoor lakefront seating.
Mill Falls on the Lake is exceptionally well set up for wedding, meetings and conferences with several ballrooms (and now, in summer, a permanent tent on the lawn) and meeting rooms.
Mill Falls is very much a four-seasons resort – I see how marvelous it is in summer, I can only imagine how magnificent fall foliage is here, when the colors turn to crimson and gold, then winter white with the lake frozen enough to skate, and then, the pastel colors of spring’s renewal.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, New York State is permitting restaurants to reopen indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, and as of March 15, will allow venues to host weddings at 50% capacity up to 150 guests. Governor Cuomo proposed that couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day and tie the knot on March 15.
Romance is by nature an intimate experience and even in a pandemic, it is possible to find romantic places and experiences. From glamping in nature, to boutique inns, to grand resorts offering specially planned, socially-distanced venues, and from romance to proposal to marriage vows, the coronavirus has certainly reshaped romance and love, but where there is a will, there is a way. Love conquers all.
Back to Nature
There is nothing more romantic than getting a camper van and following wanderlust, or renting a cabin or lodge or glamping on a lake or mountaintop, with that added spice of adventure and nature (as in, “let nature run its course” or “doing what comes naturally”). Glamping is also providing the setting for back-to-nature weddings and renewal of vows.
Kampgrounds of America (KOA) has a special section for glamping, cabins, and “unique camping options” (a teepee, a yurt, a train caboose, a Conestoga wagon, tree house, wall tent, a vintage airstream among them) that offer the atmosphere sure to get an “I will” or an “I do.” (See: https://koa.com/ways-to-stay/unique-accommodations/)
GlampingHub, launched in 2013 as a booking platform for distinctive accommodations, sustainable tourism and luxury camping, is where you can find glamping spots all over the world, ranging from pet-friendly hotels or eco-friendly hotels, glamping retreats & getaways. It devotes a portal to Romantic Glamping (https://glampinghub.com/portal/romantic-glamping/).
The Daniel Webster Inn in the historic village of Sandwich on Cape Cod is inviting couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Feb. 13-15 package that includes champagne, chocolates, roses; $60 toward lunch or dinner and $15 toward breakfast, and a special gift to take home. Also, a suite-deal package is a one-night escape in an elegant suite with fireplace and oversized whirlpool tub, and chocolates and massages, plus $50 toward dinner. (Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa, 149 Main Street, Sandwich, MA 02563, 800-444-3566, 833-361-4988, https://danlwebsterinn.com/)
Mountain Top Inn & Resort has all the charm, the warmth, the cozy, intimate hospitality of a country inn, and all the luxury, amenities, activities and quality dining of a resort. The setting is breathtaking – 700 acres surrounded by open fields, a 740-acre lake and mountains beyond, and the Green Mountain National Forest. In addition to a lodge, it offers separate cabins, and a barn/event space. It is no wonder Mountain Top is so popular for weddings (elopements too!) – it exudes romance. (Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com).
With a secluded island setting and the beauty of the Adirondacks as your backdrop, the grand, historic Sagamore Resort is an enchanting destination for a Lake George wedding, proposal or romantic getaway. Besides the hotel, there are separate villa-style lodges. The AAA Four-Diamond resort offers a world-class spa, a Donald Ross-designed championship golf course, swimming and tennis and the Adirondacks. (110 Sagamore Road, Bolton Landing, NY 12814, 518-644-9400, 866-384-1944, www.thesagamore.com)
Grand Historic Hotels Offer Special Ambiance
Historic Hotels offer ideal ambiance for a romantic proposal, a destination wedding, honeymoon, or special milestone.
The entire list of Historic Hotels of America members, in my book, are ideal for romantic getaways (historichotels.org), but here are a few of our favorites for your proposal:
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York: Mohonk Mountain House is an enchanting Victorian Castle perched at the top of a mountain with a private lake. The hotel has 120 “summerhouses” which are rustic gazebos designed for two people to share special moments together; taking in stunning views during or after a hike on 85 miles of trails- all of which provide the perfect romantic backdrop for someone to get down on bended knee. The Sky Top Tower is a hiking destination with panoramic views of the Shawangunk Cliffs and Catskill Mountains and a popular engagement site, along with the boat dock, which provides amazing views of serene Lake Mohonk. This is a full-service grand resort with world-class spa, indoor pool.
The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn (1909) Cooperstown, New York: With its majestic views, The Otesaga Resort Hotel sits on the southern shore of Lake Otsego, known as Glimmerglass in James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, which makes the lake a popular place to pop the question. The lake dock, with its quaint stillness and breathtaking views surrounded by century old oak trees is a perfect place to get down on bended knee. There are some who would rather propose in an old-fashioned boat with the resort as a backdrop and others that would prefer to be on a horse drawn carriage pulling up to the resort’s front portico. Moreover, being the home of the national pastime makes Cooperstown and the Otesaga a unique venue for a baseball themed engagement.
Basin Harbor (1886) Vergennes, Vermont: Basin Harbor is a grand yet rustic resort set on the stunning shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Steeped in tradition, this 700-acre resort has a variety of breathtaking settings that provide a perfect backdrop for engagements and weddings. From the Orchard Garden, filled with flowers and greenery to the Lodge Lawn with panoramic views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, there are plenty of places for someone to get down on one knee. There’s just about every activity you could want, including golf course, boating, tennis. Besides hotel accommodations, there are charming cottages.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel (1887) Jekyll Island, Georgia: Built in the Queen Anne style, the Jekyll Island Club Resort is a castle surrounded by Southern charm. With sweeping Spanish moss and hundred years old live oaks, Jekyll Island is one of the most romantic spots in the South. The magic of the island will carry guests back in time to the grandeur of millionaires. From the top of the turret to quiet moments in Crane Garden, this little slice of heaven is perfect for any romantic proposal. Many couples who get engaged at the hotel have grown up coming to the Resort and wanted the destination to be a part of the proposal and eventually, the wedding. Besides the hotel accommodations, there are separate cottages. Jekyll Island also offers elopement packages.
Ledges Hotel (1890) Hawley, Pennsylvania: This hotel’s historic bluestone building and natural waterfall provide a dramatic backdrop for proposals. A life-long commitment made in the shadow of a historic landmark is symbolic of a relationship that will stand the test of time. The tiered decks overlooking Paupack High Falls are one of the most romantic spots to pop the question at Ledges Hotel. It’s a popular destination for engagements no matter the season. During winter, the frozen falls offer a stunning backdrop. Budding trees and rushing waters are a hallmark of spring. Summer by the waterfall is lush and cool, while fall foliage creates a vibrant landscape in autumn.
The Hotel Hershey (1933) Hershey, Pennsylvania: Known for its refined elegance, signature services and abundant amenities, The Hotel Hershey is a marvelous destination for a romantic getaway. The Hotel is rooted in its own romantic love story, between founder Milton S. Hershey and his wife, Catherine, and couples can spend time together in the beautiful Fountain Lobby, which was inspired by the couple’s travels and designed to look like a Spanish-style courtyard with palm trees, a beautiful fountain and a painted sky on the ceiling. The Formal Gardens behind the hotel are a popular spot for proposals. There, guests can find a quiet, romantic, picturesque area with beautiful flower beds, pergolas, fountains and reflecting pools.
Micro weddings are all the rage. It’s all about keeping your special day small, but significant.
The courtyard of the historic St Francis Inn in the heart of historic St. Augustine, Florida, is a charming place for a small wedding. The couple can plan a private elopement for two or a micro-wedding in the four-season garden with up to 10 guests, flowers, champagne, house-made wedding cake and horse-drawn carriage ride (279 St. George St., St. Augustine FL, 800-824-6062, https://stfrancisinn.com/)
Southampton Inn on Long Island has more than 20-years tradition of hosting “micro-weddings” – or the “minimony”. The inn has 3 acres of landscaped grounds, 2,300 sq. ft indoor ballroom for intimate but well-spaced wedding celebrations in a romantic setting (91 Hill Street, Southampton, NY, 11968, 631-283-6500, southamptoninn.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
What may be a renewed old trend: elopement – it is said to date back to the 14th century, taken on new meaning in the 17th century, and was revived in popularity during the Great Depression when resources and money was scarce. Today, elopement packages are seeing new popularity because they have the benefit of catering to small, intimate ceremonies (as few as just the couple and witnesses) and minimizing the stress that typically comes with prolonged wedding planning Hotels also let the couple take advantage of windows of opportunity, compressing the time between “I will” to “I do.”
Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn offers special wedding and elopement packages that keep intimacy and romance in mind. Designed for 2 to 20 people, the Highlands Elopement Package allows couples to exchange vows on a romantic gazebo overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hyatt Carmel Highlights 120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, California, 93923, events specialist, 831-622-5461, 831-620-1234, hyatt.com.
“Now more than ever, we’re all dreaming of destinations we long to go. We dream of wide-open spaces and journeys that stir your soul,” says Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks which have proved such a respite this year. Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals put bucket-list travel experiences within reach this season, and hearten those with wanderlust, pent up with the ongoing health concerns. The offers come with flexibility and assurances to accommodate appropriate concerns, but are filled with hope and optimism to brighten the holidays.
Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks including Grand Canyon and Death Valley, has its biggest sale of the year, Nov. 24-Dec. 1, with savings up to 40%. Generous cancellation policies mean you can save now and travel when you’re ready, and you can be confident measures are in place to create a safe and healthy environment for your visit (we know this first hand from our recent stay at the Ranch at the Oasis, Death Valley):
● Grand Canyon South Rim – 40% off in-park lodging at Kachina Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge and 20% off the crown jewel, El Tovar, during select dates Dec. 2020 to March 2021 (Jan. 2021 to March 2021 for Bright Angel Lodge). Discover the “secret season” at the Grand Canyon with fewer crowds. The lodges are either in or within walking distance to the Historic District and rim of the Grand Canyon which includes Lookout Studio and Hopi House.
● Historic Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.
● The Grand Hotel – 30% off at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.
● The Oasis at Death Valley – 33% off hotel stays at the beautifully renovated historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Valid for select overnight stays between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021.
● Zion National Park – 30% off overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021.
● Cedar Creek Lodge, at the gateway to Glacier National Park – 40% off room rates on select dates from Dec. 2020 through April 2021.
● Yellowstone – Enjoy summer savings at Yellowstone National Park. Receive 25% off best available daily rates on new reservations for Superior Lodge Rooms at Canyon Lodge and Cabins on select dates from June to Sept. 2021.
● The Broadmoor – Rates as low as $200 per night for select dates, up to 20% off Wilderness Properties (The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp), and 10% off for select stays at Fly Fishing Camp.
● Sea Island – To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lodge at Sea Island, book a three-night stay and get the third night for $20. The Cloister is also celebrating little brother’s anniversary.
● Bicycling Tours – Take $150 off any VBT Guided Bicycling Vacation in North America departing between Jan. 2021 and Aug. 2021.
● Walking Adventures – Receive $150 off any Country Walkers Guided-Flex or Guided-Full North America tour departing between Jan. 2021and Aug. 2021.
● Holiday Vacations – Save $400 per person on select award-winning Alaska itineraries in 2021.
● Windstar Cruises – Save on 2021 yacht-style cruises with fewer than 350 guests starting from $1,299.
For a complete list and to take advantage of Xanterra and its affiliates’ Book Your Bucket List offers, visit Xanterra.com/BucketListSale (www.xanterra.com/book-your-bucket-list-sale)
More Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals
Available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday only, Perillo Tours is offering $500 gift cards for the price of $250. Gifts cards can be redeemed for future Perillo Tours to Italy, Hawaii or Spain and valid for travel through December 2023. This gift card promotion is available by phone purchase only on November 27 or November 30 (800-431-1515,www.perillotours.com/giftcard).
Take advantage of Quark Expeditions 2 for 1 Black Friday Sale on select Antarctic and Arctic voyages. These select voyages offer you the chance to cruise past icebergs in a Zodiac while visiting the 7th Continent, be amazed at stunning views of dramatic Arctic fjords while flying in a helicopter, and experience new innovative itineraries such as Greenland Adventure and Essential Patagonia. Plus, experience the inaugural season of the game-changing polar vessel Ultramarine on select voyages. Offers expire Nov. 30 (quarkexpeditions.com, 833-435-1900).
Grand Residences Riviera Cancun’s “All-in Grand offer” provides 46% off on stays through Jan. 14, 2022. The all-suite resort located along a private beach in the secluded town of Puerto Morelos, half an hour outside Cancun, is extending the offer through Dec. 7,. Available for all-inclusive stays or room only bookings (new bookings only with no minimum stay requirements). Complimentary airport transfer included on all bookings and children under the age of 12 stay free. Blackout dates apply and reservations are subject to availability. Book the promotional offer online or call reservations, 855-381-4340; use promo code ZW-20-17.
Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and one of Mexico’s most renowned boutique luxury hotels, is offering 50% off on bookings made Nov. 27-30for stays from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Use the code CYBERCK to reserve at the discounted rates. Link to sale information.
Escape to the tropical paradise of Riviera Maya, Mexico, and enjoy every consecutive 3rd night free breakfast for two at Fairmont Mayakoba, a 401-room AAA Five Diamond resort set on 45 acres within a private, luxury community. Book Nov. 25-27 and upgrade to the next category: Book here: https://www.fairmont-mayakoba.com/offers/resort-offers/black-friday/. Fairmont Mayakoba has been welcoming back U.S. travelers since June 15, 2020. For additional information on Fairmont Mayakoba’s and Accor’s commitment to helping its community stay safe and stay well, visit ALLStayWell.com.
Set in the middle of Meads Bay, one of Anguilla’s most renowned beaches, Frangipani Beach Resort, features 19 rooms and suites and an impressive 5,000 square foot beachfront villa. TheTake All the Credit Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer allows travelers to purchase resort credits at a 20% discount in denominations ranging from $1,000 up to $12,500. Credits can be used at any time including the Festive Season, up until August 2024, and can be used in conjunction with existing specials. Direct bookings, Nov. 23-30, can be made via email email@example.com or by phone at +1 264 497 6442; reference the Black Friday offer.
Casa Chameleon Hotels, which operates properties in Las Catalinas, Nosara, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, from jungle villas and ocean-view suites, to a private clifftop estate is offering 50% off standard rates for five nights or more, booked Nov. 27-30 for travel through Dec. 20, 2021. Accommodations feature coastal views, eco-friendly designs and infinity plunge pools. Book here and use booking code THANKYOU.
Located three miles off the coast of Belize, Cayo Espanto offers private island luxury. Recognizing that travelers are looking for a way to escape to nature and focus on taking a break from it all, the resort is offering a special “Choose Wellness” package where guests can experience the unique tranquility offered by a private island at a special all-inclusive starting rate of $3,995 per couple, a savings of over $3,000. Offer includes an all-inclusive three-night stay in Casa Ventanas, the Over-the-Water Bungalow (pricing available for other villas and longer stays) along with a series of customizable options such as private yoga classes from the comfort of your villa, menus crafted to fit a health-conscious focus, a private excursion to snorkel the Great Blue Hole or explore the Belizean jungle (excursions off-island are priced separately). Book online at aprivateisland.com or call 888-666-4282 Nov. 27 through Dec. 4 for travel now through Dec. 15, 2021.
Get 50% off standard rates for two nights or more at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad, Aruba on bookings Nov. 27-Nov. 30 for travel through the end of 2021.Renaissance Aruba offers two experiences, the adult-exclusive Renaissance Marina Hotel and the Renaissance Ocean Suites. The resort is the only property on Aruba to operate its own private island, a 40-acre atoll exclusive to guests. Book here and use booking code: BOG.
Pacifica Hotels’ “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” enables guests to book their collection of more than 30 boutique, independent, design-inspired hotels along the California coast, at 45% off. This offer is bookable from November 27-30 on stays through March 31, 2021. Sale link will be live on the 27th.
Hawks Cay Resort is offering guests the ultimate Florida Keys vacation experience with onsite amenities like fishing excursions, dolphin encounters, snorkel trips and more. The resort is offering an extended booking window this year, so travelers have a full week to save big on a getaway to Hawks Cay! From Nov. 23-30, receive 40 percent discount on two nights or more with promo code BLKFRI. Reservations are valid on stays through October 31, 2121. Visit www.hawkscay.com for more information or to book.
Ocean Club Resorts’ “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” offer makes every third night booked complimentary, for stays March 1 – December 18, 2021. This offer includes a new cancellation policy implemented by the resorts where guests can receive a full refund up to 10 days prior to their stay dates between March 1 – April 11 and a full refund within 24 hours of their travel dates from April 12 through Dec. 18. Blackout dates apply and reservations are based on availability. The promotional offer must be booked online, use promo code BFCM.
Kingsmill Resort, the only AAA Four Diamond golf condominium resort in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, offers one-to three-bedroom condominiums, with kitchens and spacious living areas. Book by Nov. 27 to buy 2 nights, get 1 free on all room types, plus a $100 per reservation food and beverage credit for stays Dec. 1, 2020 – Feb. 17, 2021.
Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin’s Cyber/Black Friday Travel deal: stay Sunday-Thursday for $159/night, weekend from $179, with a $100 resort credit to use toward skiing, dining, spa services. Book by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27 (flexible change policy).
Timber Ridge Lodge, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is bundling four NOW! Waterpark passes, pizza and $10 arcade credit in its Cyber Deal with weekday rates starting at $109, weekend at $149. Reserve by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27, 2021 (flexible date change policy).
Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen, Colorado is offering up to 40% off accommodations this ski season for bookings between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, for stays through April 18, 2021. Tucked away on 40 acres in Aspen’s quiet West End neighborhood, this low-key resort surrounded by mountain views is still close enough to be on the slopes of Aspen/Snowmass within minutes.
The Preservation Society of Newport County is hosting an online Exclusive Experiences Holiday Auction from Nov.22 through Dec. 6 consisting of 19 unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that allow people to explore the Newport Mansions in new ways (one is a wedding at The Breakers! Another is a sleepover for up to 8 kids and 4 chaperones in the Great Hall), All proceeds support the preservation work of the Preservation Society of Newport County (www.newportmansions.org)
If you can’t get to places, some popular tourist places, known for their clever boutiques, can bring themselves to you:
The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce has created a virtual store, offering goods and gift cards from members, nantucketchamber.org/marketspace. Purchase proceeds go directly to each small business. Also, Nantucket is encouraging shopping with a “red ticket” program which becomes a lottery for prizes (https://www.nantucketchamber.org/red-tickets).
You can purchase Lift Certificates, gift certificates for discounts at the most interesting local lodging, restaurants, artists and boutiques on Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth on Cape Cod. Shoppers have access to exclusive discounts not offered elsewhere. The site is powered by Martha’s Vineyard Bank (at no cost to merchants) https://lift.mvbank.com. Also, Martha’s Vineyard’s chamber is building a Vineyard Holidays web page.
by Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
People are being urged not to travel now as COVID-19 cases are rising, but travelers who show judicious care and act responsibly should be able to continue to take trips, because the travel, tourism and hospitality industry has taken bold steps to keep travelers safe.
We realized we had a window of opportunity to travel to California in October because we take to heart Dr. Fauci’s warning about travel during fall and winter when the weather gets cold (coronavirus lingers longer in cold air), there are fewer opportunities to do meals and congregate outside, and the numbers of infections have spiked, especially in states that have not taken seriously the necessary measures to contract the virus (just as he predicted).
Indeed, the spike in cases as the winter holidays approach, is horrifying and I would avoid traveling at any distance during these concentrated times, especially if travel involves going through states and destinations that have been so cavalier about containing the coronavirus. So we chose our itinerary with great deliberate care and intention, as well as showing the consideration and personal responsibility that all travelers should exercise.
And we are still planning to bike and hike in fall, ski and snowshoe in winter, and looking forward to traveling in spring when I expect a new Biden administration to do a better job of controlling the spread (if 95 percent of Americans would just wear a damn mask, the spread would be contained), when there will be more likelihood of treatments and perhaps even vaccines. (Indeed, RV vacation companies are doing gang-busters business and Tracks & Trails has made Dec. 15 a hard deadline for booking summer 2021 trips.)
It would have been better – and likely tens of thousands of lives would have been saved and millions avoid long-term health issues – if the federal government had been more honest that COVID-19 would be a problem for a year or two, not two weeks or months (“Churches open by Easter!”), because businesses, infrastructure, and families would have made the necessary investments (even just wearing masks and having adequate PPE, while stores, restaurants, schools, offices and factories would have made proper changes), and people would have felt much more confident to get out and about.
The travel industry, facing existential crisis since these are the most face-to-face, people-to-people enterprises (airlines, restaurants and hotels are more than 50% percent down in business and unemployment is epidemic, especially among women who predominant in these fields), has been a model to make the necessary changes.
And that is what we experienced, pretty much going through the entire travel and tourism infrastructure that comprises a long-distance trip: airport, airline, car rental, AirBnB, hotel, restaurant, art gallery, vineyards, bike rental (Laini was disappointed with some elements of the bike rental), tennis, pool. We thoroughly enjoyed all of Sonoma’s delights – vineyards and wine-tastings, hiking along the Pacific Coast, beaches, even taking advantage of outdoor dining at a couple of restaurants, with the piece de resistance, an getaway adventure to Death Valley National Park (great vast open spaces, but still, everyone put their masks up on hikes when coming upon other hikers) which involved AirBnB and hotel accommodations and restaurants.
The point being that both sides of the equation, the travel purveyors (transportation, accommodations, dining, attractions) have to be responsible, but so do the travelers.
That begins with the planning.
We felt comfortable planning a trip to California, a state which was hit early but hard by the coronavirus, but, especially in San Francisco’s environs, has acted very responsibly since and gotten its infection rate down. I frankly wouldn’t have considered going to a place which has been cavalier, even arrogant or dismissive of protecting residents and visitors, politicizing the very notion of public health, and where, sadly, the infection rates are skyrocketing (South Dakota is a key one).
We quarantined ourselves for two weeks before traveling and each of us took COVID-19 tests (readily available in New York State for free) in time to have the results back when we departed.
Laini booked a car rental from Dollar which promised COVID-19 sanitizing (the car rentals are connected to the air terminal by AirTrain, which is preferable to a shuttle bus, which was almost empty).
She booked an AirBnB for one night at Death Valley (originally it was for all three nights, but we realized we needed to be inside the park rather than more than half-hour drive outside), and we used hotels.com to book one of the few hotels in the park. She interrogated the Ranch at the Oasis, where we stayed a delightful two nights, to insure that they sanitized the room and left it vacant for 24 hours before the next guest arrived, that we didn’t have to go up in an elevator or go through a lobby, and could dine outside.
We brought a lot of our own groceries (David baked sour dough bread) to cook dinner at the AirBnB as well as for breakfast and for picnic lunches for the remaining time (they located a popular grocery store, Carroll’s, en route to Death Valley, which had received rave s for its blue-cheese dressing); we ordered take out dinner (espresso rubbed steak!) from the Ranch’s restaurant and ate it on the outdoor terrace one night, and dined on the outdoor patio at the Inn at the Oasis’s fine dining restaurant the next.
The timing of the trip wasn’t just because I considered this a window of opportunity that would be shuttered for six months, but because we had a special event: to attend Laini’s opening of her art exhibit, “Between Walls” (on through December 20) at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg (paulmahdergallery.com).
Healdsburg is a wonderfully vibrant town, culturally rich with some 25 art galleries and a food-and-wine haven with marvelous restaurants and 30 wine-tasting rooms (we loved our lunch at Bargas, and our dinner at the H2Hotel restaurant, with gorgeous outdoor seating areas), set around a lovely village square.
Healdsburg, which like Sonoma, depends on tourism, has taken public health precautions very seriously: signs say you will be fined if you don’t wear a mask, and sanitizing stations at the crosswalks. Restaurants are organized for take-out and outdoor dining (space heaters available), menus are either disposable or can be wiped off; the retail stores have sanitizing stations, require masks, limit capacity and kept their doors open for added ventilation. The same for the art galleries.
Indeed, art and wine come together – there is a wine-tasting semi-outside room at the Paul Mahder Gallery (fun fact: it boasts the largest moss wall in America) and the gallery itself is very large, well ventilated, with mask-wearing required.
At each of the places we visited in California, which like New York, has mobilized to contain the coronavirus and, at least in the San Francisco environs, gotten huge buy-in from the community – farmers market, restaurants, galleries, stores – not only sanitizer, mandated mask-wearing, social distancing – and to minimize transactions to reduce in face-to-face interactions.
We had hand-sanitizer at the ready for when we had to fill up at gas stations or pick up food.
I felt comfortable booking a stay in a hotel because I have been following the hotel industry’s protocols that have been put into place, because the industry, facing existential crisis, is aware that people have to feel confident to travel.
“Through our Safe Stay initiative, hotels have enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give travelers even more peace of mind,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. (See: www.ahla.com/safestay).
We booked our stay at the Ranch at Death Valley over hotels.com (I’m a regular; Laini likes booking.com) – one of two hotels at the Oasis at Death Valley which date back to the beginning of tourism in Death Valley (www.oasisatdeathvalley.com).
Hotels.com states at its website (while also advising travelers to “check government advisories before booking and traveling”), now includes “COVID-19 Hygiene and Cleanliess” list on property pages:
Travel with peace of mind. We’ve made changes to allow hundreds of thousands of properties to add their hygiene and cleanliness details to the Hotels.com site, so you can make the right choice for your stay.
Enhanced health and safety measures
Look out for “COVID-19 Hygiene and Cleanliness” on the property pages to find information on enhanced health and safety, such as:
Hygiene and Sanitization • Property is cleaned with disinfectant • Commonly touched surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant • Gap period enforced between guest stays
Social distancing • Contactless check-in and check-out available • Shield between guests and staff in main contact areas • Social distancing measures are in place
Essentials at the property • Guests are provided with free hand sanitizer • Masks and gloves are available to guests • Individually wrapped food items available
Official health standards • Property adheres to corporate/organizational sanitization guidelines
“COVID-19 hygiene and cleanliness measures vary by property. Please check the relevant section of the property pages when searching for your stay.”
Laini went a step further and called the hotel directly to confirm that they sanitize the room and leave it empty for 24 hours before arrival, and chose a room where we didn’t need to go through a lobby or ride up an elevator. The Ranch is a sprawling-style resort with low buildings, rather than one large high-rise. (We were really surprised by the number of guests at the hotel, judging by how full the parking lots were in both the Ranch and the Inn, as well as the number of campers and RVs throughout the park.)
Many destinations (like Hawaii and Maine) had been requiring 14-day quarantine for out-of-state tourists, but now are accepting COVID-19 test results in place of the quarantine. Hawaii is making rapid testing available to visitors. New York State, trying to tamp down a new spike in infections and responding to the surge throughout the country, now requires everyone (including New Yorkers) who have been out of state for more than 24 hours (except for the contiguous states of New Jersey, Connecticut) to get tested before they come back, self-quarantine for three days after arriving in New York, and get a COVID test on the fourth day (otherwise, self-quarantine for 14 days).
Had the federal government been honest and told businesses that the risk would be one or two years, they would have invested in the changes, and public health protocols would have been as accepted and routine as the anti-terror security protocols after 9/11, instead of being politicized and tribal.
Look at Hawaii. As the New York Times reported, instead of quarantine, the islands accept a preflight coronavirus test, processed by specially certified laboratories and trusted testing and travel partners including some airlines.
“Hawaii is at the vanguard of what travel will look like for the next year or so as we reopen,” said Avi Mannis, senior vice president of marketing at Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Air is one of a few airlines that began offering pre-travel Covid-19 tests in October.
“In some markets, especially for international travel, until a vaccine is more widely available, testing will become part of the norm,” said Aaron McMillan, United’s managing director of operations policy and support. “What the data suggests so far is that here in Hawaii, testing has been the key to safely reopening. We now understand the data and the importance of testing. Testing provides a high level of protection for visitors, staff and residents.”
Upon arrival back at Albany airport, we were greeted by National Guardsmen who handed us a form to fill out for contact tracing and notifying us of the self-quarantine and testing requirements.
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hotels and lodgings, perhaps the industry most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, mindful of the uncertainty and changeability of conditions, have introduced flexible policies for changing or canceling bookings, offered hefty discounts on rates and gift cards, and, through the American Hotel & Lodging Association, introduced Safe Stay, an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare America’s hotels to safely welcome back guests and employees as the economy reopens.
Overseas Leisure Group Introduces ‘Carefree Bookings’
It’s okay to dream about travel again and plan it, says Overseas Leisure Group, a luxury travel company operating in 34 countries across the globe. The company is announcing its Carefree Bookings initiative, offering a risk-free method of booking across an attractive portfolio of more than 1,000 destinations and experiences around the world. The newly launched industry-wide program has been designed to allow travelers plan their next trip despite the uncertainty of future restrictions enforced due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It features no deposit, no cancellation fees; automatic cancellation 7 days prior (if not paid by then), for travel between June 1 and October 31 at select top tier destinations and properties.
The Carefree Bookings campaign follows the nationwide survey by the Miami-based travel group recently conducted among 2,000 travel enthusiasts in the U.S., revealing that 72 percent are already making plans for their next vacation; 53 percent are planning to travel this summer or fall, and 42 percent are ready to make a reservation now if it there was no constraint or penalty. With millions of travel and hospitality jobs on the line, it was deemed essential to obtain vital insight from travelers themselves.
Carefree Bookings offers a convenient method of making a reservation with some of today’s leading destinations and experiences around the world, without the need for a deposit and with no cancellation fee if travel plans change. Furthermore, the cancellation policy is truly carefree, whereby if payment isn’t made 7 days prior to the arrival date (to guarantee the reservation) the booking is automatically cancelled with no penalty whatsoever. These no-strings-attached terms for the Carefree Bookings initiative apply to travel between June 1st and October 31st, 2020.
More than 1,000 hotels, resorts and experiential providers are participating in the Carefree Booking program, including: COMO Hotels and Resorts, 1 Hotel, Auberge, Belmond, Crowne Plaza, Disney, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Hard Rock, Hyatt, InterContinental, Kimpton, Loews, Marriott, Meridien, Peninsula, Ritz Carlton, Rosewood, St Regis, and Westin Hotels and Resorts.
In addition to the vast array of participating hotels and resorts, Carefree Bookings offers hundreds of experiences, such as surf lessons in Malibu with actor John Philbin (Point Break), and private helicopter rides with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, among others. A full list of participating properties (with opening dates) and experiences can be found by visiting the Overseas Leisure Group website (https://www.overseasleisuregroup.com/CareFreeBookings.php).
“After weeks of confinement, there is a growing need for freedom and new horizons,” says Felix Brambilla, CEO of Overseas Leisure Group. “We heard the same comments time after time: “I am ready to make plans but I cannot commit if there is a risk of getting penalized.” Working with our hotel partners, we came up with the Carefree Bookings concept. More than a thousand properties already accepted to amend their usual T&Cs. We are very proud to be launching this initiative at a much-needed time!”
“In these extraordinary times, we believe strong partnership is fundamental to our business acumen, therefore we are thrilled to partner with Overseas Travel new initiative “Carefree Booking,” says Michele Bondanelli, Global Sales Director – Luxury, Lifestyle & Leisure for Hyatt. “A large number of Hyatt hotels are participating in the program across all brands and we look forward to welcoming their guests in the days, months and years ahead.”
“What a great way to address the current global situation and the effect it is having on travel,” says Kidist Grznar, Vice President of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. “A ‘Carefree Experience’ is an amazing way to give people the opportunity to keep dreaming and move forward with their travel plans ‘worry free.’ I am excited that Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters is participating.”
According to Statista, domestic and international travelers spent nearly $1.1 trillion U.S. dollars ($1,127 billion) in 2019 alone. When this sum is split by type of traveler, domestic travelers spent $972 billion, while international travelers spent $155 billion. Total travel expenditure in the U.S. is forecasted to reach $1.26 trillion by 2022.
Overseas Leisure Group is a growing global network dedicated to providing travel professionals with insider expertise for all luxury travel needs. The company is represented in 34 countries through 41 offices and continues to expand every year. Through its brands, Overseas Leisure Group provides unique luxury programs for individuals, groups and high net worth individuals.
Complete results from the recent survey conducted by Overseas Leisure Group can be viewed here. For further information on Carefree Bookings, visit the website. For further information on Overseas Leisure Group, visit www.overseasleisuregroup.com
Major Hotel Groups Ease Restrictions
Major hotel groups and chains including Marriott, IHG and Hyatt have introduced flexible policies. But as a rule of thumb, double-check the specific cancellation, refund and change policies of whatever hotel, resort or lodging you book – for example, Marriott is excluding cancellation policies during peak travel periods.
The advantage of booking early is that lodgings are hungry to lock-in bookings and may be offering excellent rates, opportunities to upgrade, bonuses on gift cards, and alleviate the concern by offering very flexible and liberal change, cancellation and refund policies. You also get to lock in those favorable rates and the reservation because there is the possibility that when restrictions are lifted, there will be a great release of pent-up demand – weddings and honeymoons that had been put off, anniversary and bucket-list travel that have new significance and urgency.
Marriott International Hotel Brands
For all Marriott International hotels world-wide:
Guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, are allowed full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by June 30,2020. Any changes to existing reservations will be subject to availability and any rate differences.
For guests making new reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, between today and June 30, 2020, reservations can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival date. Changes to the reservation will be subject to availability and any rate differences.
Marriott brands include The Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels Worldwide, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, Sheraton, Marriott, Marriott Vacation Club, Delta Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Autograph collection Hotels, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels, Gaylord Hotels, Courtyard By Marriott, Springhill Suites by Marriott, Four Points by Sheraton, Fairfield by Marriott, Protea Hotels, AC Hotels, Aloft, Moxy Hotels, Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites, Marriott Executive Apartments, Element by Westin. (Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott International (HVMI) are excluded. Periods with special event restrictions or peak demand weeks may also be excluded; refer to the property’s Rate Details for applicable terms or exceptions, if any, when booking or changing reservations.
IHG ‘Book Now, Pay Later’
IHG has introduced “Book Now, Pay Later.” This new rate offers flexibility and savings. With no deposit required and cancellations possible up to 24 hours before your stay for direct bookings, travel planning is commitment free. Guests benefit from 5% or more off our Best Flexible Rate for bookings made up to September 3, 2020 for stays until December 30, 2020 (excluding Greater China).
Best Flexible Rate: This rate offers maximum flexibility to change or cancel your reservation. For direct bookings this rate can be fully changeable or refundable up to 6 pm (local hotel time) on the day of arrival (dependent on the hotels’ individual house policy).
IHG Rewards Club Members Rates: Additional savings are available for IHG Rewards Club members on these Book Now, Pay Later and Best Flexible rates.
IHG Rewards Club nights: You can change or cancel these bookings with no penalty prior to the time period set by the hotel.
We have removed our more restrictive (pre-paid/non-refundable) Advance Purchase rate from sale until later in the year (excluding Greater China)
These rates, and others, have their own terms and conditions. Please refer to specific rate information when booking for further details – including cancellation terms. Changing the date on any reservations may result in different pricing.
Exceptions apply at some Six Senses hotels – see the Six Senses website for details
IHG brands include Kimpton, Regent, InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resort, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Hualuxe Hotels, Voco, EVEN Hotels, avid hotels.
IHG is emphasizing its comprehensive health and safety procedures, including all local laws, and provides its hotels with best practices and guidelines. The company has supplemented these resources with additional COVID-19 cleanliness specific guidance, training and information, “consistent with our own high standards.” This includes: activation of response teams to provide around-the-clock assistance to hotels; hotels have increased the frequency of cleaning public areas (including lobbies, elevators, door handles, public bathrooms) and high-touch points in guest rooms; all hotels have been advised on cleaning products and protocols which are effective against viruses.
“We continue to review food and beverage service in accordance with current food safety recommendations.”
Hyatt Hotels has issued new policies concerning its reservations:
All existing reservations (booked April 1 or before) for arrivals through June 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations.
Reservations for future travel: With some very limited exceptions, reservations made between April 2, 2020 and June 30, 2020 for any future arrival date can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations. The only exceptions are reservations booked after April 1, 2020 at select Destination properties and Special Events Rate reservations booked after April 1, 2020. The cancellation policies for a Special Event Rate will be noted in the rate’s Rate Rules section when booking.
Special exceptions are in place for all Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8, 2020 for arrivals before June 30, 2020. Guests holding these fully prepaid reservations who have decided not to travel may still opt, at least 24 hours before their stay, to receive 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points compensation in lieu of both their stay and the offer above (if eligible). World of Hyatt points may be used toward future travel at any of our 900+ hotels across 17 brands globally.
Reservations can be changed or cancelled up to 24 hours before a scheduled arrival on www.hyatt.com or via the World of Hyatt app (subject to the exceptions noted above). For full details or to opt for the 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Point offer, call a Global Contact Center or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reservations booked through Hyatt with MGM Resorts International, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), or Lindblad Expeditions are subject to their cancellation policies.
Hotels.com has always made it easy to get refunds when you book hotels that allow for cancellations without any fees, typically up to 24 hours of a stay, and now, is allowing cancellations for any booking. Because of the volume of cancellations due to COVID-19, the company is saying that refunds may take longer than usual to process – up to 30 days. If you paid with a gift card, hotels.com is sending a new gift card within 4 hours of processing the refund. (I had no trouble cancelling reservations in Prague and Budapest.)
Booking.com isn’t as straightforward about its refund policy, saying it depends on the policy of the country, the arrival date, reason for traveling, and individual reservation policies set by the property you’ve booked. See https://www.booking.com/covid-19.html.
Hotel Association Issues ‘Safe Stay’ Industry-Wide Cleaning Standards
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has introduced Safe Stay, an industry-wide, enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare America’s hotels to safely welcome back guests and employees as the economy reopens. Safe Stay represents the top priority for the industry, the health and safety of guests and employees, the association stated.
The standards of Safe Stay were developed under the guidance of an Advisory Council comprised of industry leaders representing all segments of the hotel industry, and in conjunction with public health experts to advance best practices for protecting against the coronavirus. This initiative represents a new level of focus and transparency for an industry that depends upon cleanliness. These enhanced guidelines are rooted in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotels guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”
The “Safe Stay” guidelines will be revised as needed, based on the recommendations of public health authorities, in compliance with any federal, state and local laws. They include guidance on employee and guest health; employee responsibilities; cleaning products and protocols; and physical distancing.
“The hotel industry maintains stringent standards for cleaning and safety, and the Safe Stay initiative helps to strengthen best practices to provide the healthy environments that travelers expect at hotels throughout the country,” said Ecolab. “Development of the Safe Stay initiative included guidance from Ecolab, a global leader in cleaning and disinfecting solutions and services that collaborates with the U.S. EPA, FDA, CDC, WHO and other organizations to help establish and promote best practice guidance, training and solutions.” For more than 90 years, Ecolab has partnered with the hotel industry to provide cleaner, safer and healthier environments for employees and guests.
“While the hotel industry was one of the first affected by the pandemic, we have collectively stepped up to serve their communities during this public health crisis. Thousands of hotels across the country, more than half of those small businesses, are working tirelessly during this uncertain time to support their employees, healthcare workers and first responders. When the time is right, hotels will be ready to safely and eagerly welcome back America’s traveling public,” Rogers stated.
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The hotel industry has been the most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but is also an industry in position to be a crucial help to break the logjam between the public health emergency and the economic devastation. As the focus shifts to the dire need to test, trace and then isolate people who are positive for COVID-19, the empty hotels, facing bankruptcy, can be used to house both front line workers including health care workers who now have the daily anxiety of passing the virus to their loved ones, and the people who need to be separated from their own families.
The incidence of the disease has already shown to be disproportionate among communities of color, immigrant communities and low-income neighborhoods where people are likely to be crammed into close quarters, unable to be quarantined.
Similarly, the out-of-work restaurant and hotel workers could be hired as tracers; indeed, the call-centers used for hotel reservations companies hired to do the tracing.
The travel industry can also be put into a wartime footing to solve many of the other problems: farmers destroying their produce because they don’t have the commercial markets of hotels, restaurants and schools? Well, rather than throw bailout billions to farmers (already facing 8 percent bankruptcies because of Trump’s tariff wars), could sell their produce to the government, which could distribute to the very same hotels, restaurants and schools, to be hired to produce food for food pantries and shut-ins.
In fact, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is doing this – organizing dairy-products producers to purchase the excess milk and converting it into products that the state will purchase and supply to food pantries and needy people.
Meanwhile, places like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California that have been hardest hit and most restrictive, need to make accommodation for getting people out in the summer. You simply cannot confine people in tiny New York apartments with three kids when the summer temperatures (the last several years have been the hottest on record thanks to Global Warming) hit 100. Communities – especially urban ones – will need to reopen pools (probably mitigating the risk of reigniting infection rates by restricting admissions to two-hour segments), reopen beaches, state parks, hiking areas; fishing and marinas; kayaking and canoeing; even golf courses; and shut down some city streets for walking, biking, and while promoting grab-and-go style eateries and dining al fresco. If ever there was a time for summer concerts in the parks, it is now. People should be conditioned to maintaining social distance as a new cultural norm.
When we visited Central Park we saw people carefully respecting the new safety precautions, very possibly out of fear that if they didn’t, the city would close Central Park. We saw people walking on Jones Beach boardwalk, and on the sand also doing their best to maintain precautions (a couple of the bathrooms were open but closed frequently for cleaning, which is the pattern that other parks and facilities should use).
Governor Cuomo, looking ahead to reopening businesses at least the regions of the state least affected by the coronavirus (with infection rates below 3%), was careful to warn against reopening “attractions” that could become “nuisances” in the sense of attracting people into the area from downstate or neighboring states (the very definition of “travel”). But Cuomo’s reopening/”reimagining” strategy involves individual businesses to come up with plans that take into account the need for properly distance and that should hold true for places that give people necessary respite. Certainly you don’t want areas overwhelmed, but there should be a way to properly allow for people to enjoy – perhaps because parking lots have limits; restaurants that reopen to reduce their capacity (and take reservations) or do grab-and-go eating with outdoor tables for picnicking. And we are hearing about a revival in drive-in movie theaters.
Hotels and attractions should also be part of that Reopening/Reimagining Strategy to submit business plans that address the needs to continue to control the spread of the infection. This would include changes to working conditions, use of masks and gloves, taking temperature of employees as well as guests, more intense and frequent cleaning, providing hand sanitizer, limiting occupancy in order to maintain adequate social distancing.
The Crisis in Hospitality
Let’s be clear: many communities depend upon the very existence of hotels as a mainstay of their economy – quite literally putting their locality on a map. Local hotels not only bring business travelers in to do their deals and establish connections, but enable local businesses to sell their products; local hotels accommodate tourists who bring an infusion of spending – every $1 a tourist spends generates $4 for a local economy. Hotels provide the venues for family milestone events. Moreover, hotels are a mainstay of the economy, an economic engine that contributes nearly $660 billion to U.S. GDP and supports 8.3 million (1 in every 25) American jobs. All of this has shut down because of the coronavirus crisis.
As COVID-19 continues to devastate the hotel industry, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released new data showing that 70 percent of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed as eight in 10 hotel rooms across the nation remain empty.
As this crisis progresses beyond what anyone could have projected, the impact to the travel industry is nine times worse than 9/11, with forecasted occupancy rates for 2020 hitting record lows worse than rates in 1933 during the Great Depression.
“With the impact to the travel industry nine times worse than September 11, the human toll of this public health crisis has been absolutely devastating for the hotel industry. For the hotel industry our priority is rehiring and retaining our hardworking employees who power our vibrant industry,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of AHLA. “Hotels were one of the first industries affected by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover. The CARES Act was an important first step with a lot of supportive measures for the hotel industry, but we need Congress to make important changes to the program to reflect the current economic reality and help the employees in the industries that have been impacted the most.”
Due to the dramatic downturn in travel, properties that remain open are operating with minimal staffing. On average, full-service hotels are using 14 employees, down from 50 before the crisis. Resort hotels, which often operate seasonally based on the area’s peak tourism months, averaged about 90 employees per location as recently as March 13, are down to an average of five employees per resort today.
The key findings of the report include:
Impact to travel industry 9x worse than 9/11. (Tourism Economics)
50% revenue decline (projected) for entirety of 2020 (Oxford Economics)
Eight in 10 hotel rooms are empty. (STR)
2020 is projected to be the worst year on record for hotel occupancy. (CBRE)
Forecasted occupancy rate for 2020 worse than 1933 during the Great Depression. (CBRE)
70% of hotel employees laid off or furloughed. (Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness)
$2.4 billion in weekly lost wages due to the crisis (Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness)
Nearly 3.9 million total hotel-supported jobs lost since the crisis began (Oxford Economics)
As travel halted in late February, the hotel industry took immediate action to work with the White House and Congress to help hotel industry employees and small business operators, which represent 61 percent of hotel properties in the U.S.
“The hotel industry is at a critical juncture. We need more resources to survive this unprecedented time,” said Rogers. “Additional funding is vital for small business owners across America, including tens of thousands of small business hoteliers, to help them keep their doors open and rehire and retain millions of employees.”
Hotel Industry Supports COVID-19 Effort
Meanwhile, more than 15,000 hotels have signed up for a new initiative, “Hospitality for Hope,” which identifies hotel properties that have offered to provide temporary housing for emergency and healthcare workers as the COVID-19 public health crisis grows. While the program primarily focuses on housing for the healthcare community, some hotels could potentially be used as “Alternative Care Sites” such as an emergency hospital or a place for those quarantined to stay if needed.
(New York City has contracted for some 11,000 hotel rooms for this purpose and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that the testing-tracing-isolating campaign would also involve using hotel rooms to quarantine people.)
AHLA’s “Hospitality for Hope Initiative” was created to boost collaboration between the hotel industry and local, state and federal governments to help employees, communities across the country, and the industry during this unprecedented health crisis. In the short time since the initiative was announced, participation has grown to more than 15,000 properties. Already, this initiative has identified a total combined 2.3 million rooms located in close proximity to established healthcare facilities.
To help match and streamline the process for willing hotel properties to connect with federal, state, and local governments, AHLA and its state association partners are working to create a national “Hospitality for Hope” database to assist the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local emergency management and public health agencies. AHLA has also provided a number of resources for members, which can be found here.
“It has been so impressive to see hotel after hotel join this important initiative as a way of giving back to the communities in which they operate,” Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO said. “As an industry of people taking care of people, the hotel industry is uniquely positioned to support our communities by caring for the first responders who are on the frontlines of this public health crisis. Hotels have always been an active member of our local communities, and this time is no different. We are proud to work to facilitate partnerships with federal, state and local governments to support the health community during this critical time.”
Local, state and federal government officials will be able to search willing properties based on geographic location. (Click here for a state by state breakdown of the number of hotels signed up).
Hotels partnering with local and state officials offering housing to doctors, nurses, homeless families and quarantined individual are being reported across the country including in Chicago, California, New York, Dallas, Portland and New Orleans.
“The number of hotels wanting to be part of the program is growing by the hour,” Michael Jacobson, CEO and president of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association said. “Our hotels are answering the call to action, and they want to be helpful to the city and the state.”
“‘Hospitality for Hope’ is just one of the many ways that our hotels are helping those in need in our communities during this time of crisis,” said Kim Sabow, President and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association. “We look forward to working with all interested parties, including local and state officials, and the federal government to find innovative solutions to make it through this critical time together.”
Given the unprecedented public health and economic crisis, hotels and the industry as a whole are coming together to support the community and their furloughed employees, as well.
In expanding “Hospitality for Hope Initiative”, the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation, AHLA’s charitable giving arm, rolled out free resources to help industry employees continue their education during this difficult time including free hospitality management online courses, professional development scholarships for AHLA certifications and continuing education online programs. (Learn more about additional training and education efforts through AHLA’s “Hospitality for Hope” by visiting AHLA.com/ahlas-hospitality-hope-initiative)
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) represents all segments of the U.S. lodging industry which contributes nearly $660 billion to U.S. GDP and supports 8.3 million (1 in every 25) American jobs. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. Learn more at www.ahla.com.
hotel CEOs met with the White House on March 17 to discuss urgent economic
recovery solutions needed to protect millions of U.S. hotel employees and
33,000 small businesses as travel grinds to a virtual halt across the country
because of the coronavirus health crisis. From Main Street to major
cities across the country, hotels everywhere are on the verge of shutting their
doors in the coming days – many by the end of this week. With 1 in 25 jobs
supported by the hotel industry, the rapid pace of booking cancellations is
having an immediate, negative ripple effect that risks seeing mom and pop hotel
owners shutter, furlough their employees, hurting community
hotel industry is an industry of people and the current human toll is proving
to be catastrophic. Based on current occupancy estimates, the American Hotel
& Lodging Association (AHLA) says four million total jobs have been
eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks. In
certain affected markets, including Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and Boston,
hotel occupancy rates are already down below 20 percent and individual hotels
and major operators have already shut down operations.
AHLA, the nation’s leading and largest trade association for hotel industry,
made the case that the economic impact on the hotel industry is already more
severe than 9/11 and the 2008 recession, combined. “The impact of the
coronavirus pandemic on our 33,000 small business owners who operate 66 percent
of hotel properties across the country has been extremely severe with many
considering shuttering and closing their doors for good within days if they
haven’t closed already.”
Rogers, AHLA President and CEO, said the burgeoning COVID-19 health
crisis is unprecedented in its size and scope, and it represents the single
largest decline in travel in modern times.
impact to our industry is already more severe than anything we’ve seen before, including
September 11th and the great recession of 2008 combined,” stated Rogers.
“The White House and Congress can take urgent action to protect countless jobs,
provide relief to our dedicated and hardworking employees, and ensure that our
small business operators and franchise owners – who represent more than half of
hotels in the country – can keep their doors open.”
to an Oxford Economic Study, a 30 percent decline in hotel guest occupancy
could result in the loss of nearly 4 million jobs, with $180 billion of wages
and a $300 billion hit to the GDP – crippling the hotel industry, the local
communities they serve and the U.S. economy.
unprecedented public health crisis has quickly become a catastrophic economic
crisis as well,” said Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel
Association President. “The losses for the travel industry alone are
projected to double the unemployment rate over the next two months and plunge
the country into recession. Small businesses, which make up 83% of travel
businesses, need relief right now if they’re going to be able to keep paying
Oxford study estimates the hotel industry supports 1 in 25 American jobs,
totaling 8.3 million jobs, paying more than $97 billion in wages and salary
income, and contributes nearly $660 billion to the U.S. GDP annually. In
addition to major hotel brands, the hotel industry includes more than 33,000
small businesses, which represent 61 percent of hotel properties in the U.S.
hotel industry leaders laid out several immediate actions the White House and
Congress could take to help the hotel industry protect jobs and help small
business operators. The group focused on two critical goals – retaining and
rehiring employees and keeping hotels from shutting down through access to
liquidity and low interest loans, including for small businesses.
CEOs who participated in the roundtable discussion today at the White House
were hopeful that President Trump and Members of Congress will work together
urgently to provide relief and ensure the industry is positioned to rebound
from the unprecedented impact from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Western Hotels & Resorts President and CEO, David Kong said, “For
nearly 75 years, Best Western has been a brand with small family businesses at
our core. Most of our hotels are owned and operated by hardworking men and
women with their children growing up in the business. For them, their hotels
represent their families’ legacy and their future. Many are being forced to
close their doors with no assurance of when they will be able to reopen. Their
employees are left with no gainful employment and the resultant financial
hardship. It is imperative that the government step in immediately with loan
programs that provide capital and liquidity to help small businesses survive as
well as other employment programs to help the impacted employees. The situation
Hotels International President & CEO, Pat Pacious said, “The
majority of our 13,000 franchisees are small business hotel owners who have to
meet payroll, pay their mortgages every month, and support their families
during this crisis – as well as take care of their guests. As I told the
Administration today, while Choice Hotels is acting to assist our franchisees,
the federal government has a critical role to play in helping minimize the
impact and disruption to the livelihoods of small business hotel owners and
their employees, as well as stabilizing the economy during this difficult and
President and Chief Executive Officer, Christopher J. Nassetta said, “In
Hilton’s 100-year history, we have never seen anything like the current
situation. I am hearing directly from hotel employees concerned about their
mortgage payments and hotel owners worried about making payroll. Nearly eighty
percent of the hotels in our U.S. network are franchise properties that employ
less than 50 people, and we are using every tool in our toolkit to keep these
small businesses viable. Ours is an industry of people serving people, and
that’s why we’re asking Congress and the Administration to help shield them
from the economic impact of the coronavirus, so they can be part of the
recovery that will follow.”
president and CEO, Mark Hoplamazian said, “In our industry, success depends
entirely on the passion and dedication of our people. It is critical that we
take swift action to ensure that our workforce is protected with the proper
healthcare and financial support so that the industry can return in full force
following this unprecedented degree of business interruption.”
Hotels Group CEO Americas, Elie Maalouf said, “The coronavirus
represents a global economic emergency as well as a global health emergency,
and the impact it will have on the hospitality industry is unprecedented. Even
as we’re currently managing this issue to keep our guests and colleagues safe,
and hotel owners secure, we’re committed to doing everything we can to protect
the future of the millions of Americans employed by the hotel industry and
prepare to expedite a return to normal once this crisis passes. We appreciate
the administration’s engagement in this issue and look forward to continuing
this important discussion in the weeks ahead.”
International President and CEO, Arne Sorenson said, “The COVID-19
pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented decline in demand impacting our
hotels and our associates. We are looking to government to support the
hospitality industry through this period of time so we can assist our
associates and hotel owners, many of whom are small businesses.”
Resorts International Chairman & CEO, James Murren said, “Within
days we have transformed from a vibrant industry welcoming people from around
the world, to one experiencing a total shutdown of business. Addressing
this public health emergency required major collective action which is why MGM
shut down our operations. But it comes at a cost to our tens of thousands of
employees, small businesses and communities who depended on us. We look
forward to a productive dialogue on how to ensure that when it is safe, the
gaming industry can be in a position to open our doors so that we and the 2
million jobs that depend can be part of the economic recovery that is to come.”
Hotel Trust is a REIT with 54 hotels with over 13,000 rooms and over 8,000
employees around the country. Our hotels are in most of the hardest hit cities
– Seattle, San Francisco, here in Washington, DC, NYC, Boston, Chicago and
more. As of today, we have had to make the difficult decision to let go over
4,000 employees,” noted Jon Bortz, Board Chair, AHLA and Chairman &
CEO, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust.
the end of the month, we expect another 2,000 employees will also be let go,
representing over three quarters of our employees. We are looking at closing
the doors at more than half of our properties. This is the reality we, and
countless other owners and operators around the country are facing in the wake
of this public health situation.”