At its finest, luxury travel is effortless. Everything from where you stay to what you do should be arranged without lifting a finger. But for many travelers during the pandemic, a luxury travel experience became more than staying in the finest locations, enjoying opulent welcome amenities, and sleeping beneath superior thread counts. These became secondary tablestakes; boxes to check.
“Luxury service is no longer just about stocking groceries or planning excursions, but about ensuring basic needs and fears are tended to,” says Leslie Cowell, Regional Director of Operations for Exclusive Resorts. “Our Members want to feel safe and informed. They’re choosing to travel with the Club during these cautious time because they trust us.”
Club Members will never be a room number. What’s more, during uncertain times, these relationships—with Ambassadors and Concierges—have become the anchor to connection and safety. To evolve with the changing landscape, the Club introduced the Covid Navigator, a dedicated concierge who handles Member queries and concerns as they navigate re-openings, testing requirements, destination capacities, and more.
Much of the on-site teams’ time has recently been spent helping Members navigate rapidly changing travel restrictions, requirements, and protocols, along with meeting basic needs. In Virgin Gorda, this means food. “Grocery deliveries have skyrocketed as Members don’t wish to stray from their residences or can’t because of quarantining, but we still want to focus on providing an experience unique to the destination,” Cowell says. On the island, Concierges frequent the marina to deliver fresh seafood to Members so they can grill in-residence.
Attending to the needs of Members goes beyond simply reacting, but proactively providing a seamless home-away-from-home experience. “We’ve seen a change in what it means to vacation. For many, it’s keeping up with work and school life, just in another location,” says Cowell. The team has set up desks and makeshift workstations within the residences for those working and schooling remotely. “And, for those who wish to avoid shared amenities, we’ve dropped off exercise equipment such as mats, bands, and weights, and even a stationary bike for one Peloton enthusiast.”
Though Concierges create memorable vacation experiences, their role has shifted to accommodate today’s rapidly evolving travel landscape. “We’ve found we’re no longer simply working around requests, but fears. Our job is to instill confidence in our Members, ensuring they feel safe and secure when returning to travel.”
FROM THE FIELD
Christin Bourland, Concierge at Maui’s Montage Kapalua Bay, has been hypervigilant with Member requests and ensuring peace of mind. While the state of Hawaii reopened for tourism in October 2020, navigating the testing and quarantine requirements remained complicated. Here, she shares a unique Member story.
When the Zelek family arrived at Kapalua Bay in November, they discovered a family member’s PCR test results were lost. Because of the negative testing requirement, he would have had to quarantine for 14 days in his residence instead of enjoying the vacation with his children and grandchildren.
“I spent about 48 hours reaching out to all my contacts, hounding the mayor’s office, health authority, and tourism board for on-island testing solutions,” Bourland says. “I spent nearly a full day on the phone waiting to speak to someone who could help—I was 45th in the queue.”
Finally, her persistence paid off—the mayor granted approval to be tested at a local facility. When his negative results came back 24 hours later, he was free to take advantage of all the island had to offer alongside his family. “It’s a rewarding experience to see Members arrive and enjoy their time on the island without being too overwhelmed by the protocols,” Bourland adds. “We help make that happen. Right now I’m more than a Concierge—I’m a COVID professional!”