The surprising reason some hotels have their own time zone

Jan 22, 2020

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You know how, when you take a trip to a tropical island, you switch over to island time?

It’s what happens when the service moves a little slower, or you show up a few minutes late to your dinner reservation — but it’s all OK, because you’re moving according to a slower, more relaxed clock. Usually, island time is a much-needed respite from the frenzy of daily life. You’re on holiday, after all, so you should stop and smell the piña coladas.

But some hotels give a whole new meaning to “Island Time” — so much so, they’re quite literally on their own time zone.

One thing’s for sure: You’re definitely going to want to adjust your clocks.

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At Turneffe Island Resort, about 30 miles off the coast of Belize City, a whole extra hour is included with your stay, according to Travel + Leisure. The private island is remote enough to permit the resort to operate according to its own time zone, which gives travellers an extra hour of sunning, snorkeling or diving. The resort is one hour ahead of the capital.

Since most hotels in the Maldives are also on their own private islands — and often miles away from mainland Malé — they frequently operate according to their own rules.

For example, during a recent trip to the Maldives, I stayed at the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, which is an hour ahead of Maldives Time (MHT). They’re only about 70 miles apart.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

The Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa also operates an hour ahead. “To enhance your experience … we have moved our clocks on Villingili Island one hour ahead … [so] you can enjoy an additional hour of daylight”, the resort’s website says.

This is true of many private island resorts in the Maldives. The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort operates on a dedicated “Island Time” so travellers to take advantage of “an extra hour of daylight each day to fully indulge” at the resort. “For all transfers to and from Velana International Airport (MLE) to our resort, our dedicated St. Regis Butlers and professional hosts are well informed of the time conversion and will coordinate all details of your transfers accordingly”.

At least in the Maldives, it’s not hard to find a butler who can remind you to update your clock.

Some resorts have more practical reasons for operating on their own time zones. In fact, in 2015, the entire Mexican state of Quintana Roo (home to Cancun and Cozumel) switched from Central Standard to Eastern Standard Time, following years of pressure from the local government and resort owners. The reasons for the transition were largely economic. According to ABC News, hoteliers expected the extra hour of daylight to translate to travellers spending more time (and money) in restaurants and on excursions, and reduce the use of electricity.

Syncing the time zone to major markets on the East Coast of the U.S. was also meant to boost flights.

So, the next time you decide to switch to Island Time, you may actually need to reset your clocks. Or, better yet, ditch the watch, phone and laptop altogether and simply wake up with the sun (and the breakfast buffet).

Feature image courtesy of Turneffe Island Resort Belize.

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