NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Unlike the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns, which sent people on road trips and to second homes, the second wave has globally triggered a desire for more permanent, warmer, far-flung escapes.
In the UK and Europe, the wealthy have flown to such warmer climates as Dubai, the Maldives, and Spain to escape winter lockdown, says Justin Huxter, founder of UK-based Cartology Travel. Americans have more options for tropical bunkers: Hawaii has eased its travel restrictions and borders are open in Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, and many parts of the Caribbean.
“People with lockdown fatigue have realized they can continue life in places with a lot less stress and a lot more room to breathe,” says Jack Ezon, founder of Embark Beyond. He’s seeing East Coast clients flock to luxury hotels and resorts in Florida, South Carolina, and Turks and Caicos Islands while West Coast clients flee to Arizona and Puerto Vallarta and Cabo in Mexico – anywhere with equally good weather and Wi-Fi.
The average cost, he says, is US$70,000 (S$92,500) a month, with most clients booking two- to four-month stays.
Extended-stay discounts, the reopening of certain international borders, and better awareness on the precautions to take when traveling have further enabled a second-wave exodus. While socially isolating in a five-star resort may have been a novelty at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s now a need for a certain class of consumer; in Thailand, it’s a business plan.
“By October, people started to realize they’d be facing another winter in San Francisco with no restaurants, no entertainment, no offices – really nowhere to go. They wanted out,” says Leigh Rowan, founder of Bay Area-based Savanti Travel, whose clients are buying one-way tickets and working remotely from beachfront villas or amenity-laden hotels.
This time, he says, they’re not coming back until there’s promise of a vaccine appointment.
Indefinite checkout, please
Melanie Woods, a 39-year-old graphic designer, left San Francisco well before there was word of a winter lockdown. Since Oct 1 – the day Belize reopened its borders-she’s been working out of director Francis Ford Coppola’s rustic-luxe Turtle Inn resort, where her desk is by a window with a sea breeze.
“I swim for exercise between calls. On weekends, I feel like I’m on vacation. I can snorkel, zipline, swim,” she says.
Belize requires travelers to have a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival, which gave Ms Woods peace of mind. The 27-room hotel, located on beachfront in Placencia, is also almost entirely open-air, making it easy to eat and socialize in distanced, outdoor settings. Rooms start at US$329 a night, but extended stays reap 20% discounts on both accommodations and food; Ms Woods is renting out her apartment back home to offset the expense.
“I probably won’t return until summer, or when I can get a vaccine,” she says.
Improved creativity and productivity
Jetting off to a sandy paradise isn’t just a lifestyle play. Travel adviser Rowan says many of his clients can actually do their jobs better in a different setting.
“Many creatives, start-ups, and techies are realizing they can meet interesting investors in places like Oaxaca or San Miguel de Allende,” he says.
Cheyenne Quinn, 39, a partner in a branding and consulting company in Los Angeles, is among that set. “When LA went into lockdown again, it was way more intense,” she says. “I was consumed with the idea of escaping.” In October, she flew to Tulum and has been renting homes around Mexico for as little as US$20 a night.
“This trip has benefitted me financially, socially, and emotionally,” she says.
Before the pandemic, Ms Quinn was working with such major clients as Louis Vuitton and Modelo. That business has disappeared, but she’s met artisans and small company owners through her travels who have helped rebuild her company; several have hired her to consult on social media strategy and marketing, she says.
Shawn Garvey, a 55-year-old chief executive officer of an energy innovation company in the Bay Area, has also seen productivity gains from his extended vacation in Mexico. He’d been dragging himself into his empty office simply to stay productive.
“I was lethargic and tired. My inspiration was declining,” he says, adding that most of his days consisted of “rolling out of my bed and working from my laptop in my underwear.”
His wife Kimberley Garvey owns a court reporting firm that she now runs remotely; their three children are grown. “For the first time in decades, we didn’t have anything preventing us from leaving,” he says.
Now they’re living at the Modern Elder Academy near Todos Santos, on Mexico’s Pacific coast; it was named one of Bloomberg Pursuits’s Best Places to Travel in 2021. A monthlong stay for two, including meals, costs US$7,500, which Mr Garvey estimates is half of the couple’s monthly living expenses back home.
“I’ve done more here in the last four weeks than I did all of last year,” says Garvey, noting that he and his wife are essentially still sheltering in place. The access to the great outdoors has reinvigorated his creativity, he says – when whales breech or jump during his Zoom calls, he tells his coworkers they’ve earned Mother Nature’s applause. It’s been such a positive experience, he’s now building a home in Todos Santos.
“From a professional perspective I’m not interested in returning until the offices are open again,” Mr Garvey says. “Frankly, I think clients and collaborators react very positively to the idea that I am here in Mexico.”
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