Palm Beach area hotels were prepared for the worst, but the season turned out to be better than expected, despite the pandemic. COVID-19 protocols that were in place as visitors arrived in increasing numbers.
Hotels across Palm Beach County experienced an improvement over March 2020. This March the average occupancy rate was 74.5%, compared to 48% a year ago, according to Discover the Palm Beaches.
“With the onset of Thanksgiving and the holidays, our prime winter season reactivated, and business has been strong — averaging 65% occupancy — while travel is rebounding among our key feeder markets throughout the U.S.,” said Paul Leone, chief executive officer of The Breakers.
“The resort’s short-term bookings continue to increase. Our leisure business is stronger than ever, and we anticipate group business to surge this fall,” Leone said.
Consistent with national industry trends, The Breakers experienced decreased occupancy levels compounded by capacity restrictions throughout 2020. Then, the greatest demand was from the leisure and local drive markets.
The Breakers continues to maintain self-imposed occupancy restrictions to support social distancing and provide a more spacious experience. Currently, it sells up to 400 of its 538 guest rooms and suites and expects that to continue through the summer. It operates leisure venues and indoor activities such as its spa at 50%.
During the high season in 2019, The Breakers occupancy rate was 90%.
This summer, it projects an estimated occupancy of 70% as it continues to practice strong health-and-safety protocols. Outdoor recreational activities, amenities and dining are popular, including private poolside bungalows for guests and club members.
The Colony declined to comment on how its season went, stating through spokeswoman Elisabeth Munder that it does not release or discuss any guest demographic, occupancy or revenue metrics. The Colony has 89 rooms, seven of which are villa apartments and two are penthouse suites. The hotel closed in March 2020 and reopened Oct. 29. During the closure, the hotel initiated major renovations and facility improvements.
Eau Palm Beach
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Manalapan, reopened July 1, almost 100 days after closing March 25. When the season started in November, many guests arrived from the Northeast from places where they could not move about as freely as in Florida, said Nick Gold, public relations director.
Eau Palm Beach, the third largest hotel in Palm Beach County with 309 rooms and suites, held an undisclosed number of rooms back to provide more space.
“We had a very, very good season despite what is happening around the world. Things were open in Florida. People felt comfortable coming here,” Gold said. ”People were home. They were not spending their travel dollars elsewhere. They could not go on cruises or to St. Barts. They could not get to international destinations.
“From what I have seen for our hotel and others, it worked in our favor,” Gold said. “The summer is looking good. Rates are not dropping as they normally would. Demand is staying strong, and rates are maintaining.”
Business at The Brazilian Court, with 80 rooms and suites, was better than expected, all things considered, and started to pick up the most toward the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter of 2020, said Stacy Lee, director of sales and marketing.
“The Brazilian Court saw a large increase in demand for long-term stays following the inception of their ‘Key to Paradise’ package,” Lee said. “The hotel sold out of their two, three and four-bedroom suites over many dates during the high season, all due to number of long-term stays.”
Lee said the hotel is ideally suited for these unique times with the ability to access select suites without entering the central lobby or elevators, multiple open-air entrances/exits and a socially-distanced-friendly layout.
“Summer looks promising as more people start to get back to travel, both in-state and out of state,” Lee said.
Natalie Le Clerc, general manager at The Chesterfield, said, “The second half of the season was much better than expected. We had a high occupancy in the high 80s. Florida is a great drive market. People are ready to travel, and what better way than to drive to Palm Beach? We have guests flying in from all over the country.
“Bookings were steady to begin with and came in strong from our food and beverage and onwards,” she said. “We will finish April with over 80% occupancy. We are expecting May to be a busier month than we usually have, as seasonal travelers are staying longer, which means the season is starting to become longer than previously.”
This April surpassed the occupancy levels of April 2019, and the hotel has been near full capacity this season.
“As more people are getting vaccinated, event inquiries have picked up massively. People are starting to plan events for the summer, fall and into 2022 – baby showers, birthdays, weddings for missed celebrations that they know will now happen,” Le Clerc said. “We expect to have a busier than usual summer.
“Our outside options at the courtyard and pool area have been very popular, and guests bring their pets along to dine with them. The hotel is pet-friendly, so many guests come to stay or visit and bring their dogs where they can sit in the open spaces in our amenity areas,” Le Clerc said.
The Chesterfield is still having live music in the Leopard Lounge on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and all guests wear their masks.
“Our Traditional Afternoon Tea has also been a huge selling point during the pandemic,” she said.
“Our guests want to get out but also in more intimate and personalized settings, which a boutique hotel like us offers,” Le Clerc said. “We are busy with inquiries from people we haven’t heard form in a while. We have done such a good job of staying connected to our clients, even during the worst of times.”
The Chesterfield is offering special rates and packages for the summer months, with 15% to 20% off the best available rate, as well as packages with a dining credit. It also has Florida resident and AAA packages.
The Four Seasons Resort reopened April 1 after being closed to the public for more than a year. During that time, it operated as the temporary trading floor of Chicago-based Securities firm, Citadel Securities.
Mohamed Elbanna, regional vice president and general manager of the Four Seasons said, “As excited as we were to open our doors to new arrivals and local experiences, we were equally honored to see just how many guests and locals were eager to visit Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach. There is positivity, energy and joy, and it’s a good feeling to know that we can welcome everyone back to the trusted comfort of Four Seasons.
“Our occupancy was over 85% for our first weekend of welcoming new arrivals, a weekend trend that continued throughout the month,” Elbanna said. “Interest in beach vacations and resort getaways is very strong as indicated by our future months booking trends which are surpassing pre-pandemic levels.”
Now through September, the Four Seasons is offering exclusive Florida resident rates.
“Our Day Spa and Beach Retreat is also a local favorite, and soon, we will be introducing even more ways to experience our Palm Beach paradise for a day escape,” Elbanna said.