20 Oct 2020 • Hospitality
How school-cations could transform luxury hospitality
As remote working offers many more parents the opportunity to work from wherever, resorts are making sure that kids are also catered for.
With business travel collapsing and consumers inclined to holiday locally rather than abroad, hotels have had to quickly diversify both their offer and their target demographic. As we’ve documented, many have repositioned themselves as boltholes for those wanting to swap working-from-home for working-from-hotel. The first iterations were mostly properties based in the city centre that transformed bedrooms into private offices rentable by the day. But, as the summer progressed, destination hotels started evolving the concept, looking to tempt consumers into longer stays that would allow remote working in a more idyllic setting.
But extended work-cations bring a second set of requirements: what about the kids? With pupils already having suffered through disrupted spring and summer terms, there’s little appetite from parents to extend the instability of the last eight months. Frustrations with the insufficiency of remote education are widespread, from the lack of active learning to a glaring need for socialization. At the same time, many parents are still dubious about pupils mixing en masse in traditional learning settings. As a result, several hospitality brands have developed highly structured education programmes that mean any working holiday will be as productive for the young as the old.
The luxury of learning
In some instances this takes a highly extracurricular approach that focuses on cultural immersion. The Family Coppola Hideaways group of resorts, based in Belize and Guatemala, have developed their own Coppola Curriculum that includes activities such as wildlife conservation, Creole classes, local craft skills and scuba training. The Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita offers a similar menu, evolving the brand’s Kids for All Seasons offer into a new Knowledge for All Seasons programme; highlights including papalotl (butterfly) kite making, folkloric ballet lessons and seasonal sea turtle releases.
For those still required to undertake remote lessons, resorts are also making sure they can provide the basic amenities. Guests staying a minimum of 15 nights at The Eden Roc Cap Cana resort in the Dominican Republic can opt for ‘in-suite classrooms’ complete with a desk, notebooks, printers and computers. A team of bilingual 'children concierges’ are on hand to help kids with school work.
The Kimpton hotel chain has also created dedicated staff teams to help student guests, recently announcing the rollout of Chief Virtual Learning Officers (CVLOs) at all of its properties across the US. These problem solvers will do everything from fixing dodgy Zoom connections to supplying stationery and print documents. Parents can opt for the Kimpton Field Trip package, which allows them to buy a second room for a nominal $99, which can be used for work or learning. Meanwhile Kimpton sites that have business centre facilities, such as the Kimpton Rowan in Palm Springs, have booked out meeting rooms to provide dedicated space for learners. The brand is also taking a full-service approach, with some locations supplying special chef-prepared lunchboxes.
Other brands are going a step further by developing proxy schools on site. Montage has created its own Montage Academy, which includes classroom work in the morning based on each individual’s home-school programme, and virtual tutoring in up to 180 subjects in the afternoon facilitated by tutor.com. For students approaching key exam periods, Montage offers a paper review service and Princeton Review test prep for SATs and ACTs. Children can enrol at a cost of $725 per week. ‘We’re delighted to be adding enriching programs and offerings to help families with remote learning and working during this very unusual time,’ says Montage International founder and CEO Alan J. Fuerstman. ‘With children continuing virtual school sessions, we saw the need to create an environment that is conducive to remote learning and working.’
What that environment looks like can often be far superior to that which even the most expensive private school can offer. For instance at the Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel in Montecito, California, students can book out poolside cabana classrooms complete with iPads, Apple TVs and wireless earbuds. The $195 a day fee includes a $50 credit for ordering lunch from the onsite restaurants or adjacent ice cream stand.
Demand for such services could prove high. As we’ve covered, some employers are already providing staff with working holidays as a new type of perk aimed at curing cabin fever. Meanwhile, the attraction of childcare as part of employee benefits packages has only increased since the pandemic. A recent study by Care showed that many would be keen to trade in other benefits for help in reducing the childcare burden, with 60% of those not currently receiving employer-sponsored childcare claiming that it would improve their job performance. Bundling the two concepts makes a lot of sense, and perhaps even hints at potential future partnerships between hospitality brands and large-scale employers.
One caveat: parents (and we realise we're talking about the elite here) might rightly worry that children will struggle to transition back to traditional school environments if and when that time comes – the stock classroom can hardly compete with the trappings of a luxury hotel. But as our forthcoming issue Frame 137 outlines, the pandemic could prove to be a major inflection point in education architecture, ushering in a new era of design-forward learning spaces that are far more responsive to the needs of today’s students (irrespective of wealth).
Hero image: University of Sharjah, UAE, Pallavi Dean (Roar)