The National Basketball Association this past summer successfully demonstrated that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
With its season halfway complete when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, league officials salvaged the sport as best it could by creating a Covid-free bubble where the players, coaches and other officials were tested frequently and quarantined from the general public. But could this concept be duplicated for other aspects of our lives?
From a travel perspective, the answer is yes — to a degree.
Acendas Travel President Brent Blake tested the concept with a trip during the holidays to Cancun, flying on Delta and staying at the J.W. Marriott Resort for five days and four nights. He had traveled several times since March, but this was his first venture outside the United States.
“Being in the travel industry, I was probably more aware of what was being done to ensure traveler safety than the general public,” Blake said. “So I really had few concerns as I planned the trip, and have even less concern now that I am on the backside. Marriott did a great job in all aspects of our stay.”
The trip to the resort featured the now normal airline and airport safety measures of health questionnaire, reduced touch, distancing, masks, loading the planning from the rear, open middle seats and plane sanitization. Once on the ground, luggage was sanitized as loaded into the private transportation and again upon entering the resort. At the resort, measures were taken with masking, distancing at the restaurants, scheduling for gym/recreation, etc. All of the excursions were available and the beaches were open as well, with appropriate measures being taken.
“They had it down,” Blake says. “The staff was efficient, well-trained and most helpful. I knew we’d be taken care of from a safety perspective. But my biggest concern before the trip was what kind of experience it would be. I can tell you it was great. We had a wonderful time. It was good to be away from the cold and snow.”
While at the resort, Blake said guests wore masks with the exception of in rooms and when distanced around the pool in lounge chairs. Most of the time was spent at the resort, although they did go offsite to a restaurant across the street which enforced similar protocols.
Perhaps the major difference based on what Blake had heard was the resort operated at a greater capacity than a few months earlier. The holiday break plus the desire to escape winter put occupancy at approximately 50 percent, Blake said, with it growing to around 70 percent for the New Year celebration. And, as reservations grew, the better “deals” began to dissipate.
“The resorts have been offering great fares to stimulate travel, but as they fill up, you will see rates begin to tick back up,” Blake says. “I think there will be some opportunities for good values, but those will go away quickly once travel opens up. You could see that with our trip. We booked early and received a better value.”
Which goes to the point Blake makes for those looking to travel.
“Times have changed. You might think you can do it all on your own. But you really need to protect yourself by using a professional travel advisor. They know the best destinations, the best places to stay and the little details that can make a big difference in your experience.”