For me, one of the biggest realisations of the last 18 months has been that we don’t all need to be in the same office to work well as a team. As Bangkok has reopened, it’s certainly been incredible to feel the buzz of my SiteMinder colleagues in person again – and the value of that face-to-face time can’t be replicated. But I also continue to relish dodging the morning commute, and the chance to spend more time having breakfast with my young family at home.
I’m definitely not alone in feeling this way. Studies show that Thai residents are embracing the ability to work flexibly and capitalising on the lifestyle perks it can provide. In our recent Changing Traveller Report, we highlighted that 51% of Thais surveyed plan to work on an upcoming trip, which is 10% more than the next highest country, the United States, and 21% above the global average. This underlines how many are strategically navigating work and travel, often as a way of maximising annual leave time.
For the hoteliers accommodating these guests, this data should ring alarm bells.
Not only are travellers desperately in need of a holiday right now, but as they plan their travels, the majority are looking to add work to their itinerary as well.
In recent weeks, many of the hotels I’ve spoken with, both in Thailand and in the broader region, are making adjustments to accommodate these ‘workations’ – vacations that allow people to work remotely. But others aren’t, and are missing a booming, long-term opportunity.
I want to take this opportunity to break down a range of approaches that I’ve seen our customers taking to engage this growing traveller segment in the months ahead, as a way of helping others to adjust accordingly.
- Firstly, as guest volumes increase, it’s important to be creating deals specific to workationers. As a rule, workations allow travellers to spend more time away than regular vacations, with the security of having an ongoing stream of income. So as more people embrace this slower style of travel, and seek out longer trips, creating specific, long-stay (or unlimited stay) packages will be attractive to guests. Lean into your circumstances here, however. If you are a central city hotel, for example, it will likely make more sense to target those who want to maintain their rural lifestyle and need a place to stay in the city for a few nights in the middle of the week.
- Make your working areas inspiring places to be. Many of the businesses we work alongside have focussed on making their co-working spaces uplifting. At your property, ask yourself: are the desks set up to take in the outlooks available? Are you making use of indoor plants to improve oxygenation? Are people able to work in outdoor areas? Being able to offer a point of difference, like a comfortable outdoor working arrangement or an incredible view, is being seen as a big upside for those who have been working in the same location for months in a row and are seeking a change.
- Help workationers find ways to boost their productivity. One of our customers has designed a menu of ‘productivity-inducing’ meals, while others are providing ‘work butlers’ who take care of administrative tasks like printing and scanning. Even something simple like pre-stocking the kitchen is a way that hotels are allowing those staying with them to maximise every moment they have available.
- Cater to the broader family. Many seeking out a workation will be looking to bring their family along too, so this is a key group to be keeping in mind. To cater to them, some of our customers are creating educational kids’ programs that provide confidence to working parents, while others are building itineraries for time-sensitive local excursions, to provide an escape from the screen.
- Make it fun. While work can take up a lot of the day on a workation, it’s important for your guests to be enjoying their time in a new environment too. I’ve been seeing businesses offering perks such as free rounds of golf and also cooking classes, to ensure that the break isn’t just about work.
- Finally, and most obviously, get the basics right. At a minimum, it’s important to be offering free and high speed wifi for video conferencing, comfortable chairs and spacious, high quality desks. You can’t afford reviews saying that your internet is slow in this market.
As a country, Thailand is renowned for providing an ideal environment for workations, amongst both local and international travellers. In a September survey by Germany-based company Holidu, both Bangkok and Phuket ranked among the top 10 cities for workations in the world, with Bangkok topping the list. And the options for locals looking to escape the city are extensive, too.
For me, and many of my colleagues at SiteMinder, this time has proven that we simply don’t need to be in the office five days a week to collaborate effectively; and with that, workations are surely set to grow in appeal. To attract the locals that are looking for time away from home, and the growing group of international travellers who are contemplating overseas workation stays, it’s never been more important to showcase your active engagement with this trend, and to prepare accordingly.