Wealthy City Dwellers Seek Rural Retreats to Ride Out the COVID-19 Crisis
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there's one part of the travel industry still humming along.
By Tom Robbins
While much of the global travel industry shuts down, one niche saw a flurry of booking activity last week: rental properties to which people can retreat and self-isolate in style. “No one wants to be in London,” says Bella Seel, founder of private travel company ALS Sun. “They are looking for a safe haven where they are happy to be in lockdown for a long time.”
Seel reports a rush of inquiries and bookings, particularly following United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Monday advising greater social distancing measures. Her clients have been prepared to double their usual holiday budgets; one booking was for a nine-bedroom house in the Home Counties, which the client took for three months at 50,000 pounds ($58,000) per week.
Specialist self-catering companies have noticed a similar trend. Classic Cottages, which rents 1,100 properties across southern and western England, saw a doubling in web traffic on Monday from people looking for bookings in the next fortnight. Its occupancy for Easter is up 25 percent on last year, although some guests are also postponing trips.
New York-based luxury rental company StayMarquis says it is seeing an “unprecedented influx” of what it calls “doomsday bookings.”
The Landmark Trust, a charity that offers holidays in historic buildings, also reports strong short-notice demand. Following Johnson’s speech on Monday it took bookings for the Martello tower, a defensive fort in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, whose walls are more than 2 meters thick, and the China Tower, a castellated octagonal tower surrounded by forest in Devon. The charity says it has enhanced cleaning at its properties, including the use of virucidal disinfectants.
In the U.S., New York-based luxury rental company StayMarquis says it is seeing an “unprecedented influx” of what it calls “doomsday bookings.” It offers more than 600 homes in the Hamptons, the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, and says bookings increased tenfold in the past week, driven by families canceling trips overseas and wanting to escape the city.
Its more expensive properties have been most in demand, and renters have been requesting a “right of first refusal,” giving them the chance to extend their stay if someone else tries to book the property for the subsequent period.
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