While the majority of the world's population is biding time at home until the threat has passed, some wealthier people are seeking solace by buying out small hotels, renting homes in remote locales or fleeing to vacation homes with extended family members.
Travel in the time of this global threat is apparently still quite possible, but inaccessible to most.
Loungueville House, set in the picturesque countryside less than a three-hour drive from Dublin, Ireland, will be occupied by a single party in May. Francis Lynch, his wife and their two young adult sons will have the nine-bedroom hotel to themselves.
Lynch and his family, who live in Dublin, almost always travel internationally for holiday, including to Italy, the United States and India. They've altered their plans this year to stay safe and far away from others.
“We want to stay in the country and feel safe by being secluded,” he says.
The 10-day Loungueville House buyout (for over $28,000) to the rescue.
“When you stay in a hotel with other people, it's hard not to have social interaction,” says Lynch. “The best way to get close to total privacy and to control your environment is to have the whole place to yourself.”
Siobhan Byrne Learat, the owner of the Dublin-based travel company Adams & Butler, says she has had numerous requests for hotels buyouts in Ireland from her Irish clientele since the outbreak intensified in the country during the second week of March. Several of these requests have led to confirmed bookings (Lynch rented Loungueville House through her).
“The interest in exclusive-use properties has suddenly shot up,” she says. “But people don't want a full staff and daily housekeeping like they typically would. They want to keep services to a minimum to avoid interaction with others.”
In the United States, several hotels have started to offer takeovers in the wake of the crisis.
Cape Arundel Inn, in Kennebunkport, Maine, is one example.
“This is a new offering we're implementing for the month of April. We have seen so many of the seasonal summer homes in the area become a respite for folks who live in highly populated urban areas,” says the hotel's managing director, Justin Grimes.
“We wanted to help offer additional accommodation options for those trying to distance themselves from dense, multifamily urban settings.”
The ocean view upscale hotel has 14 bedrooms, and the weekly rental rate of $19,500 includes weekly housekeeping, bicycles, access to the clubhouse lounge that has a billiards table and all meals.
Grimes has created numerous protocols to keep his guests and staff safe during a buyout. For one, check-ins are now all virtual through email and phone, and welcome packets are being left for guests upon arrival.
When it comes to dining, meals can be prepped in advance and left for designated dining times as family-style. They'll be cleaned up after the guests are finished and have left the space.
Food can also be delivered to rooms in single-use packaging and will be left outside of guests' door for them to retrieve themselves.
Blantyre Country Resort, a Relais & Chateaux property in the Berkshires set on 110 acres and with 24 accommodations, has also made itself available for buyouts.
Typically closed this time of year (the hotel usually opens in May for the season), Blantyre will make an exception for guests seeking to reserve the entire property for a single family or small group.
“Even though we are in the midst of our annual winter closure, we received several calls from many of our loyal guests asking if we would consider reopening for a buyout,” says general manager Stephen Benson. “There is a desire more than ever to want to be transported away from it all with family and loved ones, and reserving our gilded-age mansion is a way to do this.”
Such seclusion doesn't come cheap: The buyout price of $38,000 a day includes meals, a daily wellness activity such as a meditation session and evening piano entertainment.
With pricey hotel or estate buyouts out of reach for most of the world's population, and the potential for more short-term rental restrictions around the world, that leaves vacation homes or second homes as the best travel options during these scary times.
In South Carolina's Kiawah Island, where homes start at half a million dollars and go all the way up to $20 million, second home owners from the New York metropolitan area, Atlanta and Charlotte are capitalizing on their good fortune. They're retreating to Kiawah Island, where golf has never been so popular, according to Patrick Melton.
Patrick Melton is the founder of South Street Partners, which owns and manages The Kiawah Island Club & Real Estate and The Cliffs, outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
The Kiawah Island Club's regular amenities such as the fitness center, spa and restaurants have closed, but the golf course and to-go food and beverage operations — remain functional.
And while Melton notes the governor's restriction of gatherings of more than 10 people in South Carolina, he admits this isn't something they are monitoring or policing.
No additional screenings or precautions beyond the closure of the club and basically all of the indoor operations, have been put in place, in spite of increased travel to the area.
“[It's] not the worst place to have to hunker down,” says Melton.
While the rich still travel to secluded mansions and hotels, the rest of us will wait it out in the comfort of our own homes where at the end of the day all that matters is the safety and health of our family.