Cover Martha Waslen, founder of DayAway

The founder of the Singapore-based travel start-up believes the daycation revolution is just beginning

Holidays just aren’t what they used to be. Instead of heading for a quick break in Phuket or Bali, most of us spend our weekends ensconced in hotels or exploring outlying islands on a yacht, desperately trying to scratch that travel itch.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and play and shaped how we view our city as a place of leisure. Over the last year, “daycations”—daytime experiences within hotels—have grown in popularity responding to the essential need for a change of scenery. It was something that Martha Waslen, founder of travel start-up DayAway, noticed herself as she and her family were grounded in Singapore.

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“We live in the Orchard area surrounded by so many beautiful hotels. When circuit breaker lifted, the one we kept visiting over and over was the Shangri-La. The facilities there are just so beautiful—they have a gorgeous pool, a fantastic kids club called Buds, a new gym that I know they were selling membership for. There were so many of us with kids who wanted to see something different from our homes and I was wondering why there wasn’t any way to use the hotel facilities without going on a staycation,” shared Waslen who previously worked in lifestyle and tech roles at beauty platform Luxola and Ralph Lauren.

This personal observation propelled Waslen to contact the hotels themselves as well as to speak to friends in the hospitality and travel space. While she knew that a lot of the properties were “dark and sitting empty” she said there was some pushback when she asked about possibly spending the day there. “They liked the idea but the hotels said they didn’t know how to do it or their systems didn’t allow for it.”

The gap eventually led her to establish DayAway, an online platform that specialises in curating and retailing in daytime hotel experiences. The homegrown start-up has partnered with notable brands including the Fullerton Hotel Singapore, Intercontinental Singapore, Andaz Singapore, The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore and will have 30 properties joining their portfolio soon.

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“There’s never really an 'aha moment'. We all have million-dollar ideas that come for a few minutes but it’s when you take the time to have conversations and do the research that the idea starts to form,” she added. 

Unlike an ordinary booking website or aggregator platform, DayAway differentiates itself by the kind of experiences they offer and the technology that backs it up. Instead of just taking the experiences that a hotel already has, the DayAway team works with each hotel to curate packages that answer the specific needs of the property while making sure it appeals to a wide base of travellers. 

There’s never really an 'aha moment'. We all have million-dollar ideas that come for a few minutes but it’s when you take the time to have conversations and do the research that the idea starts to form
Martha Waslen, Founder of DayAway

Over the last year, many brands have launched work-from-hotel passes and daycation packages, but Waslen realised that hotels themselves don’t have the inventory management system to accommodate these daytime experiences. Surprisingly, it was still a manual process of checking with various people and keeping tabs on an excel spreadsheet.

“I learned that there is so much opportunity for innovation. The tech systems are a bit antiquated—they only focus on room inventory and don’t allow for a lot of flexibility for hotels to act on the ideas they already had.” With their sophisticated technology, DayAway streamlines this aspect for the hotels, making it an attractive B2B2C offering. 

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One of DayAway’s best-selling experiences is the Sunrise Spa and Swim at Raffles Hotel Singapore, which features a 60-minute massage followed by a 2-hour booking at the pool. Between 10 am to 2 pm, the Raffles Spa has always been quiet and this package helps drive traffic during that lull period. Needless to say, there are many locals and tourists who would jump on a chance to enjoy a morning of self-care at this storied property.

Daycations have been part of the hotel lexicon for years, but it wasn’t so much the priority when travel was booming. Even when the borders open soon, people have developed a greater appreciation for local establishments and see hotels as an integral part of the community. Spending the day in a hotel—be it a rare date night or a baby shower in a suite—will always have an allure.

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“Hotels have been trying to increase revenue generated by this kind of ancillary inventory for nearly a decade and had difficulty marketing their properties as destinations to the local market. This changed profoundly during the pandemic and will continue to be the case as the travel industry recovers,” says Waslen. 

After a successful launch in Singapore in April 2021, DayAway is set to expand regionally throughout Asia-Pacific in markets such as Hong Kong and Australia. It hopes to conquer the rest of the world soon to offer that same convenience and curation to hoteliers and hotel lovers alike.

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