In late November, Kathy Corby, a retired emergency physician, felt insecure. She had bought a renovated 19th-century house near Woodstock and had plans to rent it much of the time, but it was almost Thanksgiving and she had very few winter customers.
“I was really worried because there were so few bookings for January and February, but suddenly things came up and now it’s full,” the Philadelphia resident told The Post. “I actually wanted to go there at least a week a month, but it’s so busy I can not do it.”
After the first mass exodus of New Yorkers fleeing the city in 2020 due to COVID-19, many began returning this year, encouraged by fewer cases and encouraged by vaccines. East End villages along with upstate towns returned to their cold weather quietly. Then came the Omicron variant of coronavirus, and the city was again a disease epicenter. By the Christmas weekend, daily positive tests in New York rose close to 50,000. Holiday flights and vacations were canceled and people began to retreat to safer surroundings.
Hamptons here we come
Hotels outside of NYC, including the Hamptons, are now experiencing an increase in visitor numbers. “Our reservations increased 30 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels for this winter, and we have well over a million dollars in advance reservations for 2022,” said Dede Gotthelf, owner of Southampton Inn. “In the last two weeks we had a very steep pickup with guests booking more frequent and longer stays.”
The Capri hotel in Southampton had closed until the spring, but now owner Michael Pitsinos has decided to adjust. “Because of Omicron, we plan to reopen this winter,” he said.
Holly Corey, 53, a yoga teacher living on the Upper West Side, had been staying east since the onset of the pandemic, but moved back to the city in the fall.
“I had lunch with a friend and she called a few days later to say she was testing positive,” Corey said with a sigh. “Then I went to yoga and got an e-mail that someone in the class was tested positive. At that time, I left and went to a friend’s house in Southampton. “
‘We can extend if it does not feel safe to return’
Long Island City resident Diego Fernandes Farias and his wife, Mayra Lopes, who works for the United Nations, chose the Catskills as their destination to escape Omicron.
“Even though we want to be isolated, I have to walk our dog several times a day and I want to feel more secure in the woods than in a crowded city park,” said Farias, a 35-year-old financier. “We booked a week, but we can extend if it does not feel safe to return.”
The couple booked their cabin through Red Cottage Inc., which operates retreats in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.
“People’s plans exploded everywhere and they had to turn around, so we’ve got a wave of last minute requests,” said Jennifer Grimes, the company’s owner. “The beginning of January would have been a dead time for us, but we now have a lot of week-long stays planned.”
Ariella Duker, a 40-year-old interior designer living on the Upper East Side, was one of those pivots. She canceled her trip to Barbados for a lot of weekends at upscale hotels, including the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Conn., And Troutbeck in Amenia, NY.
“When everyone was scared, I decided to lie down,” she said. “My friends and I find these places a great way to get out of town without much interaction.”
To stay in Florida
Many who flew to Florida during the holidays have decided to stay instead of returning north. “This year, we saw 20 to 25 percent of customers postpone their return to New York and stay in Palm Beach or Miami,” said Melissa Tomkiel, president of Blade Urban Air Mobility, the private airline.
With many people scheduled to return after the New Year, Tomkiel expects another round of flight delays this week.
Corby also had a New Year’s cancellation, but it was due to a family emergency and she immediately had requests for her house, which was rented in minutes.
“I have never booked so fast,” she said. “It’s strange to make money on yet another COVID increase, but I’m happy to be able to provide a safe haven.”