Many property developers have asked me what the post-Covid resort should look like, perhaps expecting some radical interventions and seismic alterations. In response, I like to begin by focusing on what we have learned this year as humans. How much we miss quality time with friends and family. How glorious the memory (especially for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere!) of sun on our faces and sand between our toes. A greater appreciation of things formerly taken for granted has to be the positive takeaway of a year of uncertainty and anxiety.
Of course, we missed our holidays and exotic adventures. Intention-to-travel surveys indicate that there will be a bounce-back for resorts globally over time. The successful resort of tomorrow will embrace trends that were highly in evidence pre-Covid, but are now amplified even further as we finally see an exit from the health crisis.
Possibly the most important – and urgent – of these trends is reconnection. After an extended period of being denied contact with our loved ones and friends, the desire for shared experiences and personal connection is stronger than ever. Growth in multi-generational and multi-family travel is not a new trend, but the appetite for spending time together across generations (or family groups) will not abate.
As a result, property developers need to figure out their accommodation inventory accordingly. A mix of suites, villas, and cottages must be offered alongside standard hotel bedrooms. Mixing and matching unit types within a larger residential master plan with thoughtfulness is crucial.
The outlook remains bright for the branded residence sector. Ever more pragmatic buyers are looking for transparent rental pool options. This means that hotels have the opportunity to add a lodging product to target families and friends.
It also means that independently operated rental schemes for real estate development properties have an additional draw. Buyers have flexible weeks to use for holidays with family or friends in a spacious apartment or villa, and can earn additional income from their property as a rental when they are away.
Alongside accommodation, amenities and activities, both on- and off-site, are hugely important in the reconnection process. The world’s most successful resorts are in constant evolution. They create both pop-up and permanent new facilities and activities to retain repeat visitors and generate new demand. Strategic relationships with off-site excursion and attraction providers will round off the resort experience.
Out of adversity come the greatest transformations. Property developers now have a great opportunity to think creatively about the reconnection their clients are craving, and how they can offer solutions in the short and long term. The lessons of this past year will leave us – and visitors – with a permanent desire to make our travel more meaningful by undertaking it with those we love. And that is a new reality that every property developer should take on board. 2021 will present its own challenges, but I feel a strong sense of optimism that it will also herald a new era of interesting resort innovations.
Muriel Muirden is the former Head of Strategy at design firm WATG. She has now returned to Scotland, but remains active in the boutique resort sector.