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With travel and hotel reservations on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, many hotels are feeling the hit. However, boutique hotels, often family-owned, serve a crucial role to their community; they attract tourists looking for an authentic experience and bring revenue to the community through promoted partnerships with local restaurants, festivals and attractions. While lodging accommodations may be temporarily closed, leading efforts in local areas and innovating future travel experiences remain top priority for many boutique hotels, such as Primland.
Primland, a luxury mountain resort located in Meadows of Dan, Va., is well-known for its world-class golf, refined dining, outdoor recreation and eco-conscious mission to minimize its impact on nature. No strangers to supporting local organizations, Primland has given support to fire rescue groups, area schools and community athletics during this time of need.
The travel industry may never behave the same way as before the coronavirus outbreak, but regardless if you are an occasional or avid traveler, it will be of top priority to have protections in place to safeguard you from unforeseen events. That is why CompareCards interviewed the vice president of Primland and community native, Steve Helms, to gain more insight into community relief efforts and what adaptations boutique hotels are putting in place for future travelers.
Primland Vice President Steve Helms
Photos courtesy of Primland
Q: What do you take pride in the most about Primland?
Steve Helms: There is so much to be proud of here that it is hard to pinpoint just one thing. The beauty and views throughout the 12,000 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains that is our property is special, as is the genuine Southern hospitality of our team members. The activities and amenities are an eclectic, superb collection that resonates with guests. The care, dedication and love of the property from the Primat family inspires our team to ensure that our guests are deeply satisfied and that we carry on founder Didier Primat’s vision.
Q: In the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, what locally run relief efforts have made the most impact on the community? What role does Primland play in these relief efforts?
Steve Helms: Our team has been doing the following to assist our employees and communities during this time:
- Providing area school lunches and breakfasts one day a week.
- Our culinary team created a “Make your own pheasant pot pie” package, and it was delivered to employees and select locals.
- We established an online auction called the “Primland Cares Employee Relief Fund” that ran for seven days to assist our team during this difficult time.
- We set up a food bank on the property for staff to come and pick up goods as needed.
- We created safe face masks for all of our staff to wear, and we will also be sharing these with our future guests.
Q: How are you handling cancellations and rescheduling people who previously had reservations?
Steve Helms: If registered guests for April, May or June are canceling because of the guidelines and/or travel bans due to the COVID-19 crisis, then we are offering them a rebooking at another date and applying their deposit to the new set of dates. If they are canceling and not interested in rebooking, we are refunding their deposits. If a cancellation is requested for July or further out, then we are handling those on a per case basis since we do not have any specific guidelines established past June.
Q: What efforts would Primland make to provide affordable accommodations for customers on a tight budget?
Steve Helms: Our 10 mountain homes offer one bedroom to seven bedrooms for families and people who wish to get together at a reasonable cost. Our rate is charged per house per night, so splitting between a few people makes these venues affordable; plus, they have their own kitchens should guests wish to prepare their own meals.
Q: Do you have any loyalty programs to keep customers coming back?
Steve Helms: We do not have a point system, but we do have many loyal customers who return to visit year after year. We also offer experience packages and promotions, such as “12 golf rounds for $2,100,” and similar promotions for outdoor activities, that encourage guests to make multiple visits to the resort.
Q: Upon reopening, how will you give your guests peace of mind that your accommodations uphold a high level of safety and cleanliness?
Steve Helms: We are in the process of formatting our reopening plans that include social distancing by removing some of the tables in the dining areas so less people are in there at the same time. We are increasing our cleaning procedures (i.e., wiping down surfaces, door handles, elevator buttons, etc.) more regularly throughout the day. We will not offer valet service or turndown service when we first re-open, which is currently scheduled for May 21, barring the unforeseen. We are having special masks made for our employees and our guests. We set up hand-sanitizing stations throughout the hotel. We only allow one person per golf cart. And we have adapted our activities to work with smaller groups and provide more time slots.
Q: Do you think people will be hesitant to stay at boutique hotels as opposed to large chains once people are traveling again? What benefits or hurdles would boutique hotels have compared to large chains?
Steve Helms: Remote boutique and smaller hotels and resorts will be the predominant choice for guests once traveling returns. These types of properties make it easier for people to follow social distancing and other safety guidelines. Primland is particularly appealing as we are extremely boutique (only 61 lodging units total) and remote (amid 12,000 acres) and there are so many outdoor amenities and activities.
Further, resorts within travelers’ drive markets will be preferred. People do not want to go to airports and fly on planes at this time, and probably for a good while to come. But, they will want to and need to get out of their house and go places. Driving will be the safest. Primland drive markets include Atlanta, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Eastern Virginia, Washington D.C., etc. More guests from these areas will choose Primland as will be the same with corporate groups.