Wealthy vacationers hunker down in hotels amid ‘shelter in place’ orders

Calls to practice social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are ubiquitous worldwide — but not everyone is canceling their vacation plans.

Rather than sheltering in place at home, CNN reports, some affluent folks have pivoted to a new strategy to avoid contact: renting out entire hotels.

Some hotels are shuttering due to state closures of non-essential businesses; others are adjusting to the new normal by employing sanitizing robots or converting into hospitals. And still other properties are available for full buyouts — and the world’s wealthiest vacationers are signing on.

Dubliners Francis Lynch, his wife and their two sons have opted to rent Loungueville House, a 300-year-old Georgian country house with nine bedrooms. The 450-acre wooded estate is in the Irish countryside, a three-hour drive away from Dublin. The price tag of the Lynches’ 10-day buyout? $27,600.

“We want to stay in the country and feel safe by being secluded,” Lynch tells CNN. “The best way to get close to total privacy and to control your environment is to have the whole place to yourself.”

Lynch rented the house through Siobhan Byrne Learat, owner of the travel company Adams & Butler, who says she has seen increasing requests for hotel buyouts in Ireland since the country’s virus restrictions have intensified. Customers do stipulate that staff must be limited, she adds.

“They want to keep services to a minimum to avoid interaction with others,” she says.

Hotels in the US have also been offering full takeovers, like the Cape Arundel Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine, whose buyout bookings will begin in April. The seven-room main house of property, perched on the Atlantic Ocean, costs $9,500 a week or $36,000 a month, with the full 14-room resort priced at $19,000 a week or $70,000 a month. The price includes meals, weekly housekeeping, use of bicycles and access to the clubhouse, which features a billiards table and fireplace.

“We wanted to help offer additional accommodation options for those trying to distance themselves from dense, multifamily urban settings,” Cape Arundel Inn’s managing director Justin Grimes told CNN. To keep his staff safe, Grimes has implemented virtual check-ins, with contactless welcome packets left for guests upon their arrival. Meals can be prepped in advance and will be cleaned up after the guests have left. Room service will use single-service packaging and will be left outside of guests’ doors.

In the Berkshires, the Blantyre Country Resort, a Relais & Châteaux property with 24 rooms on 110 acres, has offered buyouts for families or small groups for the price of $38,000 a night, which includes meals, wellness activities and evening piano entertainment. The luxury hotel would usually open in May, but has decided to kick off the season early.

“Even though we are in the midst of our annual winter closure, we received several calls from many of our loyal guests asking if we would consider reopening for a buyout,” says general manager Stephen Benson. “There is a desire more than ever to want to be transported away from it all with family and loved ones, and reserving our gilded-age mansion is a way to do this.”

Other properties — like the brand-new Urban Cowboy in the Catskills — have been inundated with requests for buyouts. But owner Lyon Porter says that even though there is no explicit order to close hotels, he’s taking the New York’s order on the closure of non-essential businesses seriously. Porter, who owns several properties, tells CNN that the safety and health of his employees is his priority. Some nearby hotels have stayed open; Porter says it’s a “personal decision.”

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