The way we travel as the world opens up post-pandemic is set to be shaped by an increasingly conscious consumer, serviced by a tourism industry striving to educate and inspire its travelers. The nature of tourism will inevitably be affected by the ever-changing landscape, and most importantly by the ripple effect of the actions we take. In the second of our monthly webinar series, The Regenerative Shift, we explore ‘The Future of Travel in 2021″ with Fathom founder, writer, and podcaster Pavia Rosati who explains how the pandemic has spotlighted just “how interconnected we are in terms of how our impact affects so many other things.” Jeremy Smith, sustainable tourism consultant, writer, and speaker who recently co-founded Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, told us now is the time where “the only thing that you can look to is regeneration because that has to be what comes next.” He believes regeneration is intrinsically a word evoking positive action.
With local travel at our fingertips, SUITCASE Magazine founder and award-winning entrepreneur Serena Guen believes that the conscious traveler is now more aware of “following where the dollar or pound that you spend goes and making sure that it tries to…end up with local communities or small businesses.” Jenny Southan, editor, and founder of travel forecasting agency Globetrender, highlights a number of travel trends predicted for 2021 including pleasure flights from Quantas airlines over Australian landscapes, door to door isolated vacations, antisocial sightseeing, and ‘taking two’ trips to redo initial lost vacation plans.
Regenerative Travel in 2021
Beyond buzzwords, the rise of regenerative experience-seeking is evident. Every traveler has personal agency, as Rosati hopes “if everybody thinks in that way – a lot more carefully – it means that regenerative travel will not only be a buzzword. It will become the norm.” The implications of this on our interconnectedness means “being responsible to the other people around you,” requiring an active role in regenerating our surroundings. Smith sees the promise that “regeneration has been this word throughout the year,” reflecting the responsibility to both travelers and host communities at the heart of a regenerative relationship with the travel sector.
Southan highlights the unavoidable travel testing in the next year, essential to “minimize and eliminate the need for quarantines.” She urges the need for collaborative streamlining to make the process efficient for travelers, with airlines and airports needing to “work really hard to make all this testing as cheap and as easy as possible for people and to get them going on holiday again as rules and regulations continue to change on a daily basis.”
“Universally approved apps, such as CommonPass,” Southan explains, will be part of this industry-wide alignment. She notes innovators as Rocco Forte hotels who, in partnership with test facility Blue Horizon have launched a fit to travel free-flight testing service.
As offices and work become increasingly mobile, Southan states that paradise destinations as Barbados, Bermuda and Anguilla are offering remote workers the chance to “work from their beaches” with digital nomad visas. Similarly, resorts such as Vakkaru Maldives Resort offer a Work Well package that provides a “suite with a proper office,” whilst Blue Apple Beach offer longer stays for visitors seeking an artist residency. Closer to home, hotels with a higher vacancy rate this year have “pivoted to offering these rooms to remote workers.” Southan goes on to explain that “instead of selling it for the night, people are booking to stay and use the spaces in the daytime.”
Smith makes clear that hotels and tourism providers are the vital links in the regenerative supply chain, explaining that consumers can’t go on regenerative holidays if the industry hasn’t built or designed such hotels and experiences. To help cut through the noise, Smith explains that a regenerative travel agent is “a storyteller and guide, there to inspire us and to connect us.” Rosati states that travelers will make the ethical choice given they are informed and educated on the true “cost of their travel decision.” Travel agents provide this trusted, human service that Rosati believes cannot be found through online searches; “these are the personal human things that make travel agents and travel advisors more valuable to the travelers.”
Wilderness seeking undertook a chic rebrand when Hoxton Hotel Group set up Camp Hox in Oxfordshire, UK this summer. Urban dwellers have long sought a connection with nature, with the year’s homebound restrictions magnifying the call to freedom. As Rosati notes, there is a rediscovery to be found in going for a walk with a friend, a simplicity to savor in realizing “we don’t have to do anything special” to find pleasure. When you’re ready to glamp on vacation, try rustic, eco-luxury East African treehouses at Chole Mjini Lodge or step back in time amid the simple rhythms of life at The Mudhouse in Sri Lanka.
As Guen observes a “whole new shift in narratives” this year, the concept of luxury has also shifted. After months of travel restrictions, Rosati states “traveling is a privilege” with Guen echoing the sentiment that travel itself is now “being seen as a luxury again.” By transforming the notion and idea of travel, we reset these increasingly “wow moment”-led notions of luxury, as Rosati terms them, to recognize that exaggerated selling points can be empty of an authentic luxury experience which leads with positive impact. As we reevaluate the values of our travel experiences, Rosati hopes travelers “actually stop thinking about what the price tag is on the luxury and start thinking about how meaningful it feels.”
Virtual Travel Experiences
This year’s declined tourist trade has contributed to a significant loss in conservation revenue for resorts, with companies like African Bush Camps innovating to offer virtual safari experiences. Guen states that amid restrictions on travelers going out into the world, the focus of publications has been bringing the world to the traveler. She notes how more active engagement between companies and consumers has been critical in evolving and adapting alongside a rapidly changing world. For many, anticipatory cultural immersion and exploration can be as exciting as the trip itself. Rosati reflects on the paradox of travel, adding that a travel at home experience is a legitimate one “because it gives us a sense of global awareness. It gives us a sense of our place in the world.”
Beyond armchair travel, our doorsteps are a treasure map of experiences. Guen shares excitement on the domestic travel trend; “I just think it’s so good for local economies. It’s really great for the climate.” “Local exploration and road trips have skyrocketed domestically,” Southan notes. Smith explains tourism agents are looking to resident communities to “see how it could resource that and how it could build relationships there.” Hotels repurposed to provide free accommodation to local care workers, or even transform into hospitals, whilst destination management organizations provided information from services for vulnerable people, to whether a takeout was still in service or a walking trail was still open.
Missed the webinar? Rewatch The Regenerative Shift Webinar Series: “Future of Travel 2021” recording here.