Miami-Dade hotels focus on new trends, beefed-up safety
Since Miami-Dade authorities gave local hotels the green light to reopen this month, hoteliers from luxury resorts to family-owned businesses have evaluated their business plans, focused on new trends and beefed up safety protocols.
One market many hoteliers are now focusing on is the road trip/staycation crowd: locals or close out-of-staters within driving distance looking for a getaway. Other trends some experts predict include more exclusive nightlife options, greater demand for outdoor spaces and a shift in guests’ views around technology and cleaning procedures.
Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO of Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, told Miami Today she believed several Miami hotels would open between now and July.
Ms. Kallergis expressed confidence in Miami’s location and said that, while some destinations remained closed, tourists could still get a “taste of Miami” by strolling Ocean Drive or the Miami Design District, visiting reopened museums and aquariums or patronizing outdoor attractions such as Jungle Island.
“I see a lot of benefits here in South Florida,” she said. “We have such a great leisure business, especially during this time of year.” Ms. Kallergis pointed out that Ocean Drive, one of South Beach’s most famed streets for shopping and dining, is currently closed to traffic to allow restaurants more room for outdoor dining.
Ms. Kallergis also worked alongside Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos GimÃ©nez as part of a task force establishing hotel guidelines for the new normal, which she said pulled from best practices of hotels around the country and paid close attention to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Occupational and Safety Health Act, and World Health Organization standards.
Some examples Ms. Kallergis gave of common new practices included requiring masks for employees and guests in common areas, removing furniture and other decorative “touchable” elements from lobbies and installing Plexiglas shields at check-in and customer service desks.
Of course, many hoteliers have chosen to go beyond minimum requirements and shifted elements of their business models to better cater to guests’ new needs.
Jamila Ross and Akino West, co-owners of The Copper Door B&B in Overtown, told Miami Today their business will be shifting to a self check-in model and allowing 48 hours between stays in each room. Additionally, they have transformed their traditional sit-down breakfast model into a “grab-and-go” meal concept called Rosie’s.
Ms. Ross and Mr. West founded The Copper Door B&B in July 2018 after years in the high-end restaurant and boutique hospitality industries. “Our goal is always to create a really intimate, personalized experience with an emphasis on food and beverage,” Ms. Ross said. “We pride ourselves on (encouraging) guests to check out areas that may be overlooked.” Specifically, she anticipated the reopening of the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s Caribbean Marketplace and Wynwood’s Art Walks.
Going forward, Ms. Ross said she believed embracing technology to allow for virtual check-ins and concierge services that limit one-on-one interaction between staff and guests will present an opportunity for the hotel industry. Also, while she acknowledged the widespread closure of some of Miami’s most popular nightclubs, Ms. Ross said this challenge could lead to a resurgence of more private, exclusive events that many Miami visitors and locals could find very attractive.
Indeed, Simon Sorpresi, area vice president of SBE, the parent company for the Miami hotels SLS South Beach, Shore Club South Beach, SLS Brickell, SLS LUX Brickell, and Hyde Midtown Miami, said via email that he saw the new normal guidelines as an opportunity for nightlife.
“SLS is looking at the situation as an opportunity to create an incredible experience for our guests,” he said. “We don’t see capacity limits; we see it as a time to bring back the exclusivity of a smaller but potent crowd.”
In addition to nightlife, Mr. Sorpresi said his hotels are encouraging guests, many of whom are road-trippers, to explore Miami’s cultural and outdoor destinations.
“Based on our team’s audits and research,” he said, “we anticipate staycations and extended stays to be the top trends amongst travelers.”
To cater to these guests, he said, SBE hotels are offering promotions like the “Love Our Locals” and “Suite Escape” promotions, which offer benefits and savings such as waived resort fees, dining credits, and free cabanas.
Another local hotel, South Beach’s Art Deco boutique The Betsy, is also looking to attract local guests with its “Drive-In Offer,” which grants road-tripping tourists 20% off a stay, free valet service and complimentary breakfast for two. Owner Jonathan Plutzik told Miami Today that hotels in Florida and nationwide were seeking to serve the drive-in market since many guests are still reluctant to fly.
While this will certainly hamper some business, Mr. Plutzik said Miami hotels might reap the benefits of stateside tourists looking for a tropical vacation without going overseas.
He also predicted that hotels and guests would change their traditional views on the visibility of cleaners and sanitation workers, who usually stay relatively out of sight. Given the current environment, he said, even guests in luxury hotels may feel a great sense of comfort seeing cleaners frequently working and disinfecting common areas. On the other hand, some travelers who typically expect a nightly in-room cleaning may opt out of this service, feeling safer in an untouched room.
The Betsy will reopen June 28, but Mr. Plutzik said his hotel has continued to service guests and locals throughout the break by hosting a series of virtual events focusing on topics such as literature and music. The hotel also continued to operate The Alley, its Italian restaurant, for takeout and delivery during the shutdown.
Guests right now, he said, are looking to get away. “Creating an environment where (people can) get together, though maybe more socially distant than they did in the past, is hugely important right now.”