The world-wide travel restrictions imposed upon us due to the COVID-19 outbreak has sent the globe spinning in a state of disarray like never before and because the situation is unprecedented it is nigh on impossible to predict what the future holds.
However uncertain the future is, through a wealth of experience, our travel sector experts have formulated their own insights and opinions as to what the future of the luxury travel sector will look like. From Robo chauffeurs and remote lodges to a new standard of service on the hygiene front and private villas in far-off destinations, there’s a real mix of thought-provoking ideas so please read on to discover more.
Andrew Forbes, TLE Editor
This COVID-19 crisis, which particularly affects the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, will accelerate luxury trends. Wellness, for example, was already an established trend, with the move beyond simply adding a spa to a property, to incorporating wellness into all expects of the hotel experience. This will accelerate and more properties will shape their guest experience around nurturing services that boost well-being and the immune system. Also, the growth in multi-generational travel will continue to grow, as families choose the security of travelling domestically, or short-haul, together, typically renting high-end villas and luxury estates that offer sophisticated hotel-level services combined with the healthy security of a private home without other guests.
Jenny Southan, Founder, Globetrender:
Given that Globetrender is a trend forecasting agency and online magazine dedicated to the future of travel, understanding the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on global tourism has become a full-time job. This summer, we will be publishing the first in a series of reports on the “Future of Travel in the Age of Coronavirus”, which anyone who is interested will be able to download for free from our website (just sign up to our newsletter to be the first to receive it). Following the publication of our 70-plus page Future of Luxury Travel Forecast: 2020-2025, we are incredibly well positioned to reveal what lies ahead for the One Per Cent. Interestingly, even though this report was written before the coronavirus outbreak, almost all of the 25 trends we highlight remain highly relevant – if not more so. Examples of these include Robo Chauffeurs, Supercharged Road Trips, Immortality Retreats and Wilderness Hideouts.
We predict that luxury travellers will be the first demographic to start travelling again, albeit with an ‘isolationist’ mindset that will see them choosing private jets over commercial airlines, private villas and yachts over bustling hotels, and remote, nature-based locations over cities and resorts. Travel bans will start being lifted but the risk of getting ill won’t go away for some time so social distancing will be essential.
In the longer-term, a great awareness of one’s own health and mortality will see an increase in demand for highly personalised wellness holidays and ‘longevity spas’ such as Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland. Health will be the new wealth. First and foremost, though, like everyone else, there will be a rush to be reunited with friends and family – albeit in more exotic destinations.
James Bell, Managing Director, The Turquoise Holiday Company:
There is little doubt that the luxury travel landscape will look very different in the days, weeks and months to come, however, I remain positive that it will not be a landscape devoid of hope and travel. Our clients will travel again. When and where are the difficult questions to answer right now but the luxury sector is well equipped to deal with the concerns of clients and therefore I know we will come out the other side of this stronger than ever. It won’t be a clear cut transition from the situation we find ourselves in now to the future of travel. Social distancing will remain important in all destinations, hotels and experiences. Those who already cater for small numbers of guests will thrive. Space and exclusivity were already buzz words in the luxury sector and now they will now become essential. Hotels & resorts which have a high number of staff per guest will be able to offer extraordinary levels of cleanliness and I believe this will be a vital stepping stone to the new version of what we deemed ‘normal’ to be just a few months ago. We have already seen demand for villa product within hotels for Christmas and 2021 holidays, where people can have their own space, private pools, catering etc.
I believe that Island destinations with low client volumes traditionally will be the first to return to the market. Many Maldivian Islands already operate in-house or shared doctors, which will once again reassure clients – temperature checks may become the new norm for a while. I do forecast price increases of up to 25% as capacity will be reduced deliberately, which will be both a benefit and a challenge that we face. Clients will no doubt travel for longer (we are all going to have a lot of annual leave banked up at the end of this!) and sole destination holidays will increase rather than multi-centre trips. I also believe that wellness and spa experiences will see an increase in demand. Despite the unprecedented challenges we have all faced and continue to battle with, we (as a global population) have been forced to recognise and appreciate what is most important, to slow down and savour experiences. Kindness and kinship, treasured moments together. Perhaps we will even do more with our children on holiday rather than putting them in kids club!
I do hope a silver lining of our learning will be a greater emphasis on the importance of caring for what surrounds us, the environment and the natural world, history, culture and traditions. In short, I believe we will all become better travellers. We will tread a little softer, look more closely and listen more carefully. I think we see destinations like New Zealand, Australia and The South Pacific creep up the bucket lists as people grab every opportunity to live life to the full and take more time to travel further, for longer periods of time. What could be more magical than a stay on outback station in Australia, visiting a remote lodge in New Zealand or a South Pacific Island, hundreds of miles from the nearest group of people let, alone a crowd.
I believe Turquoise and our existing suppliers are well placed to serve whatever lies ahead for the future of luxury travel. Although people’s wanderlust has been subdued it has certainly not been extinguished.
Travel remains in our hearts and souls,
John Dopéré, General Manager at Samujana:
After a long period of lockdown and being kept apart from our friends and family; we anticipate a rise in multi-generational travel as well as groups of friends travelling together. Exclusively hiring a luxury villa with exceptionally high levels of cleanliness, comfort and service will be more appealing than ever and enable relaxation and enjoyment from their own private space.
A focus on health, wellness and being amongst nature has become increasingly important to our guests at Samujana and we foresee a heightened demand for travel that encompasses this. At Samujana, wellness forms a significant part of what we offer, from fitness retreats combining Yoga and Muay Thai boxing and wellness programs that include juicing, detoxing and full health assessments. There’s potential scope to enhance this further to meet new demands and we are looking at ways we can do this.
Hotels/ Resorts will need to adapt to the new needs of the guests and cleanliness and hygiene will be of utmost importance. At Samujana we have already started to respond to this by implementing new procedures. Since the outbreak, we have enlisted an external company to fully sanitise each villa. This is done across the entire property once guests leave and before new guests arrive. We wanted to make this commitment of ensuring each villa has had external certification so that we can provide added peace of mind for guests ahead of their stay. We have also gone one step further and employed a Health and Hygiene Manager who is dedicated to the commitment of our ongoing cleanliness and hygiene standards.’
Jules Perowne, Founder & CEO of Perowne International:
The last month has been, without doubt, brutal on the industry. The speed in which this situation has escalated has been the hardest to comprehend and react to. No amount of crisis planning could have prepared any of us for the scenario of a global shutdown on travel. We all prepare for so many scenarios these days, from terror attacks, illness, flight cancellations and more, but this is just on a level that no one could have anticipated.
What is interesting to us is how the industry will adapt and change after this tremendous shock. What is for sure, is that it’s going to be a very different place when this is over and many brands that aren’t strong enough with stable financial backing and planning may not make it through. So, in many ways this is a survival of the fittest. And it’s also a chance for brands with real values, with integrity, who care about the community and are generous and thoughtful to shine. It’s brands like this that people will be inspired by and will want to spend their money on. I believe it’s an opportunity for great brands right now to create fans for life and the bigger, faceless companies that have been on enormous expansion missions for the sake of aggressive P+Ls will suffer for it.
In terms of green shoots – we are certainly seeing that people are still interested in travel and want inspiration. Last week our beautiful client in Norway 62°NORD got a fabulous enquiry for August from an Italian family who have been self-isolating in Rome for weeks and have been searching for somewhere extraordinarily special to visit as a family. They wanted to do a Scandinavian adventure to see nature, the amazing landscape and do something utterly out of the ordinary. 2021 bookings are also looking up. Ampersand Travel and Scott Dunn are both seeing enquiries for celebratory bookings for birthdays, anniversaries for next year. Christmas and New Year I have no doubt too will also be extremely popular especially if families are forfeiting holidays over the next few months.
What people are requesting are not just lovely hotels but to travel to bucket list places, out of the ordinary destinations, get close to nature, multi-generational once in a lifetime trips. They want to do something extraordinary. They want to visit places that are not perfect but are very real, offering genuine experiences and adventures and a chance to meet wonderful, local people and not just other tourists. They want to travel to Raja Ampat on a beautiful phinisi boat like Tiger Blue, visit the islands off the Pacific coast of Panama like Islas Secas, go to the mountains in the summer, plan a family trip to East Africa with a brilliant guide with a company like Mavros Safaris. People are wanting to be presented with less choice too – gone is the time when we have to have everything available to us right now and we are seeing hotels realising that on the menu in the evening a waiter may simply offer a choice of fish, vegetarian or meat and it’s a surprise. I think we are entering a phase when people’s values change and less becomes more.
I have no doubt that the industry will bounce back. Will it be the same as before? Absolutely not. But it has the capacity to be even better than before.
Knut Flakk, Founder of 62ºNORD, Norway:
Currently all of our hotels are closed due to the coronavirus, with the exception of Hotel Union Øye which we were very excited to reopen last week, on Thursday 23rd April. Hotel Union Øye is located in a remote, uncrowded (and very picturesque) part of Norway. As such it is in many ways an ideal travel destination in times like these where, when bans lift, travellers will look for uncrowded places. Our other two hotels (Hotel Brosundet and Storfjord Hotel) are likely to follow end of May/early June
The uncertainty caused by the virus outbreak has of course had a negative effect on bookings, with a number of short-term cancellations. However, the longer people are “locked-up”, the stronger their desire will be to travel again. Despite the virus, bookings for the coming summer season look reasonable, but we do expect the share of domestic travellers to be higher this year due to the international situation with travel bans and an escalating crisis in a number of countries. With the Norwegian krone at historic low levels, many Norwegians may also be inclined to travel more in their home country this year.
We believe safety will be the number one priority for travellers in the short/medium term and as such, they are likely to seek out places and destinations with minimal risk. Places where they can travel safely together with their family and friends. They are likely to be more focused on the simple things in life and to be seeking places which offer the chance to reconnect with nature and search for peace, quietness and authentic experiences.
Paul Robinson, COO of Bawah Reserve:
We are hoping that we will see a return to travel in the form of travel restrictions and airline routes being reinstated and capacity increased from September this year. We do think our local market will travel first, potentially as early as July. There is great demand pent up for travel and holidays. We see this in guests communicating with us to make bookings later this year and in 2021.
There appears to be much discussion and theories bounding about as to what will and what won’t change in how people travel in the future. I think once travel resumes people in the short term will be more health conscious, especially with respect to hygiene of services, perhaps we will all be more aware of our surroundings, other people near us as well as service staff and products. People are looking for care and assurance in their hospitality experience. A place that takes care of their wellbeing, more than just a fly and flop destination.