From cleaning robots to canceled breakfast buffets, hotels are pulling out the stops to ensure a safe environment for their guests and staff during the global pandemic.
But what about fellow travelers? Are they healthy, are they wearing masks — and does it seem like the man in the room next door coughs a lot?
For those who don’t want to worry about these concerns — and who can afford it — a new trend is emerging. The hotel “buyout” secures the entire premises — the rooms, restaurants, pool, spa and more — solely for your traveling group. And more and more hotels are promoting the option to entice affluent clientele to travel this year.
Kilkea Castle, Ireland
Cost: 7,000 euros ($7,885) a night
One group of up to 26 guests can book all 11 bedrooms and suites in this 840-year-old medieval Irish castle.
Located 45 minutes from Dublin Airport, Kilkea Castle has everything castles are supposed to have —a manicured rose garden, grand salon, courtyard, horse riding, archery, falconry (always falconry) — plus modern updates like a spa, hydrotherapy pool and 4x4 off-roading excursions. The immaculate 18-hole golf course is a nice touch too.
Guests who book the castle have the entire staff at their service and are assured total privacy in the on-site restaurant and bar. A stay includes breakfast, tennis, fishing and access to the 180-estate grounds.
Built in 1180, Kilkea Castle has a richly-detailed history of owners and inhabitants. Courtesy of Kilkea Castle
When to book: Kilkea Castle is scheduled to reopen on July 2, though Ireland is imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on international travelers at least through July 9.
Cayo Espanto, Belize
Cost: From $14,995 a night
Cayo Espanto has seven villas, each different from the other. Courtesy of Cayo Espanto
Up to 18 guests can have exclusive use of Cayo Espanto, a 4-acre private island resort located 3 miles off the coast of Belize. The island comprises seven villas — six on the beach, one over the water — each with private dock, pool, butler service and beach area.
At $14,995, buyouts are “cheapest” in the summer and fall; the Christmas and spring rates are costlier. The rate includes all meals and snacks, most drinks, boat transfers and activities such as fishing, snorkeling and use of a sailboat.
To get there, international travelers need to fly to Belize City, take a short flight to San Pedro followed by a 7-minute boat ride. Alternatively, you can fly direct from Belize City via private helicopter for $1,200 each way.
When to book: July 1 was announced as the tentative target date to reopen Belize, but this has not been confirmed.
Niyama Private Islands & Naladhu Private Island Maldives
Cost: From $35,000 a night
Niyama Private Islands Maldives has two islands: Chill (in the foreground) and Play. Courtesy of Niyama Private Islands Maldives
While the “one resort per island” rule in the Maldives is practically sacrosanct, Niyama Private Islands Maldives breaks the mold by dividing itself over two. There’s Play for ocean adventurists and Chill for relaxation and spa seekers.
All 134 villas and pavilions on both islands can be booked for $130,000 per night, which includes all meals (or “full board” in Maldives parlance), a team of personal butlers, water sports, surfing and access to the kids’ club.
For those who don’t mind sharing a little, 30 villas can be booked for approximately 65 adults for $40,000 per night. It’s not an exclusive buyout of the hotel, but this option also includes all meals and butler service, plus a lunch at Subsix, the resort’s underwater restaurant.
Smaller groups can buy out Naladhu Private Island; 50 guests can book 20 houses — all with private pools — for $35,000 per night (for a minimum of three nights). It comes with access to a luxury private yacht for a day of snorkeling and island hopping.
When to book: The resort is now open. Private jets and yachts are already welcome in the Maldives, and commercial airlines are scheduled to resume from July 1.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Seychelles
Cost: 330,000 euros ($372,000) for one week, plus taxes
A buyout of the Six Senses Zil Pasyon gives you access to the entire resort, including the four-bedroom residence (shown here). Courtesy of Six Senses Zil Pasyon
There is but one resort on Felicité Island — the fifth largest in the Seychelles archipelago — and that’s the Six Senses Zil Pasyon. The hotel can be booked for exclusive weekly stays for up to 20 guests, though additional nights and guests are negotiable.
Granite boulders, elevated terrain and lush forests cover the island, which has 30 one- and two-bedroom villas and two secluded residences. All meals are included as are access to resort facilities and activities ranging from blue water fishing and sunset cruises to guided snorkeling at Koko Island Sanctuary.
Felicité Island is located 30 miles northeast of Seychelles International Airport; from there it’s a 20-minute private helicopter ride or one-hour motor yacht trip to reach the island.
When to book: The resort is currently open and accessible to international guests arriving via private jet, chartered flight or yacht. Commercial flights are scheduled to resume in July.