The pandemic hit the travel industry hard, particularly properties that rely heavily on group bookings and business travel. And while leisure travel is beginning to pick up, business travel remains down 85 percent compared to 2019 and is not expected to improve until the second half of this year, according to AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021 outlook.
However, according to Caroline Rehkow, corporate partnerships manager at Mint House, there is plenty of opportunity in catering to travelers looking to get back on the road while working. To tap into this demand and further drive business, Mint House, a tech-enabled aparthotel company with 21 buildings in downtown neighborhoods across 12 cities in the United States, recently launched Mint Pass, a subscription that allows guests to pay an annual fee of $250 and, in return, receive discounted rates, a flexible cancellation policy, and preferred guest communication along with other perks.
Mint Pass is the latest iteration of Mint House’s pandemic pivots. Rehkow says that the key to the company’s success over this past year has been its flexibility and the ability to test, learn, and try new ideas and strategies. “We had our whole internal team pivot. Everybody became a salesperson. We did things like outreach to travel nurses, outreach to apartment-style accommodation distribution channels—we tried all of these new outlets to try to grow our business,” Rehkow explains. “If you just kept to your same old strategies, you wouldn’t be able to grow the business like you needed to and be able to survive the pandemic.”
The company’s culture of feedback was also pivotal in developing the Mint Pass program. A Mint House guest survey found that 80 percent of travelers staying with Mint House were working from their unit, which, to Rehkow, underscores the importance of designing an offering that caters to these traveler’s unique needs. “We started asking targeted questions to these guests that we identified as ‘digital nomads’—understanding what they really want out of a program—as well as our Corporate Advisory Board, which helps Mint House with each project that we move forward with.” Mint House was also able to cross-collaborate with American Express Global Business Travel (AMEX GBT) and receive feedback on its subscription initiative—part of an existing relationship that includes a partnership with AMEX GBT’s Workspaces program.
The remote work trend isn’t new, Rehkow notes, and it isn’t likely to fade away. The number of digital nomads has grown by almost 50 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to a survey from MBO Partners, and a PwC survey of employees published earlier this year found more than half would prefer to continue to work remotely at least three days a week even after pandemic concerns have subsided.
“With many companies supporting remote work, the line between business and leisure travel is definitely blurring,” Rehkow explains. “Luckily, Mint House has always been well equipped to house guests working from home as large workspaces are a big part of our brand.”
The value of Mint Pass to these digital nomads is in the flexibility it lends, Rehkow says, which is particularly relevant in the current pandemic environment. The subscription-based model gives travelers access to Mint House’s entire portfolio and a discount of 30 percent off each booking for stays between five and 29 nights, with a preferential cancellation policy that allows guests to change their plans up to 48-hours before check-in as opposed to the brand’s standard five-days prior to their stay. Travelers can achieve “Nomad Status” after staying in five different cities over the course of their subscription, which earns them a free night stay at any Mint House property.
The offering targets both existing Mint House customers as well as the expected influx of travelers looking to hit the road while continuing to work from a distance. Rehkow adds, “We need to be there to support these travelers who now have that flexibility to be able to do both leisure and business within their travel.”