What are hotel soft openings?
In the hotel business, a soft opening, or soft launch is an unofficial opening, usually held with little publicity, weeks or months before the official grand opening.
During such soft openings, the hotel may run at reduced capacity, perhaps only opening up certain floors or wings of the property, and in some cases, certain facilities, such as the pool or spa may not be available or only partially functioning. Room service might also be a little slow.
Soft openings serve two purposes. The first is a training period to get staff until staff become accustomed to the regular day to day requirements of running a hotel so that they are prepared for the rush when the fully publicised grand opening is held. Many problems will be ironed out during soft openings and the hotel may discover bottlenecks they may not have been anticipating.
Hotels also love soft openings because they provide an early source of funds in the crucial early months of operation. Feedback from guests is also often keenly sought.
Rates during soft openings are often greatly reduced from the rack rate, in order to compensate for any inconveniences guests may experience while the staff work out the kinks in running the hotel or resort. An example of such inconveniences might be that room service may take a little longer than expected, or the pool may not be open yet; there may even be some construction sounds as the finishing touches are being applied to the hotel. In other cases, the buildings and facilities are complete, but the staff are not yet fully trained/prepared.
The photo above was taken at 2:10 pm last December 17, a week before Christmas at the Regent Cape Panwa in Phuket. We were lucky in that during this soft opening the pool was fully functioning. (I’ve stayed at hotels during pre-opening where the pool was full, but the hotel was still working on the PH. levels so guests weren’t allowed in.) There were hardly any guests there and we pretty much had the pool like this all to ourselves all day every day. The spa wasn’t ready and some rooms were still under construction. Also, only one of the restaurants was functioning.
Soft openings can be a great deal for people looking to stay at luxurious hotels and resorts for a fraction of the cost if they are willing to put up with some possible inconveniences, but they can also be a gamble. I would always highly recommend contacting the hotel directly and asking them exactly what is and what isn’t available, asking specifically about anything that is important to you (pool, spa, kids club etc).
Coming soon- List of hotels in Thailand currently in a soft opening.