2020 — The year flight tickets were cancelled, passports gathered dust and globe-trotting luggage festered in storage.
This was also the year when virtual travel rose, as people sat on their couches in pyjamas wistfully scrolling through peaks of Dolomites, the caves of Algarve and hot pools of Rotorua, adding destinations to growing bucket lists. No wonder, according to a survey by Booking.com, 94% of Indian travellers indulged in “Search Escapism,” seeking vacation inspiration and comfort through lockdown. The survey also shows that 63% of Indian travellers indicated they are more appreciative of travel and will not take it for granted in the future.
2021 is on us, filling us with the promise of a better year, complete with vaccines and vacations. What will travel look like the next time you pack a suitcase?
While many are more than happy to revisit their favourite cities or make do with a selfie in front of the Eiffel, this year, however, there has been a shift in that pattern. Mohit Batra of Scandinavian Tourism Board says, “There is a definite interest in offbeat places both for reasons of escaping the crowded cities and for spending quality time with family and friends.” Travellers wish to explore places they have not visited before, while also addressing their safety concerns. Mohit lists places such as Mons Klint and Bornholm in Denmark and the Skane region in Sweden. Longer stays and authentic local experiences such as foraging are in demand too.
The Swedish Right of Public Access entitles you to forage and set up camp almost anywhere you want in Swedish Nature, as long as you treat flora, fauna and other people’s property with respect and care, adds Mohit. As a result, Sweden has turned the entire country into a DIY-restaurant, with The Edible Country initiative. Top chefs are curating menus with ingredients found in Nature — the local forests are filled with berries, mushroom, and nettles. Several wooden tables have been placed all over the country, and anyone can make a reservation.
According to an April 2020 report by Technavia, the “luxury yacht market size has the potential to grow by 310 units during 2020-2024, and the market’s growth momentum will accelerate during the forecast period”.
Charlie Birkett, co-founder and CEO of Y.CO — a Monaco-based yacht company that supports over 100 large yacht operations worldwide — says, “It is clear clients are viewing yachting as a freer alternative to shore-based holidays. Because of a yacht’s natural isolation and self-sufficiency, it can be seen as a safe respite from the restrictions that have been imposed in some areas.”
Stating that there is a lot of demand for charters early this year through to next summer, Birkett says the popularity of chartering private yachts comes from the fact that the world has changed, and people are emerging with new perceptions and priorities. More people are re-evaluating the way they work and live, realising that they can run businesses remotely and therefore spend more time at sea.
Y.CO’s guests have varied requirements — some bring their family together after a disrupted year and want a “high-energy” crew to create treasure hunts and teach their kids to windsurf, while others want to simply escape to remote destinations. Some require heli-skiing instructors, submarine pilots or private tutors.
Currently, yachting is no more about anchoring at crowded ports. It is about exploring secluded areas, spending maximum time on board and less in ports. This year, says Birkett, many want to experience an out-of-the-ordinary destination in an out-of-the-ordinary way: Kayaking with orca whales in the Antarctic peninsula, or skiing in the island archipelago of Greenland, accessed via the helipad of a Grade-I icebreaker expedition yacht.
As a result of the virtual making its presence felt in almost all aspects from dating and shopping to work, people have been experiencing online fatigue. To get away from it all, they are now looking at offline travel. Which means once they reach their destination or accommodation, they simply switch off their phones. They are also choosing accommodation that does not offer Wi-Fi, high tech gadgets and other trappings of modern life.
Properties like Len Foot Hike Inn in North Georgia (US), private island resorts like Petit St Vincent in the Caribbean, and traditional homes like Ansitz Hohenegg in Bavaria among others give you that much-needed digital detox while providing access to acres of pristine Nature and activities such as hiking, snorkelling, diving, getting pampered at a spa…
Increasingly, hotels are also throwing in the option where guests can submit their mobile phones and gadgets at the reception for a designated period and take the time to connect with themselves and those around. Zoom calls be gone!
Paranoia may not necessarily be a bad thing for the hospitality industry. For, from it stems yet another travel trend of 2021: Buyouts — these allow guests to reserve an entire/part of a property exclusively for a set period of time. Buyouts have existed in the last five years but now more hotels, resorts, ranches and other accommodations are making themselves available across various budgets.
The 288-year-old Normandy Farm (Pennsylvania, US) that started offering its property for buyouts in 2018 has seen more enquiries and bookings for 2021. “After the events of 2020, it seems folks from both the corporate and social side appreciate exclusivity more than ever before,” says Suzanne Gildea of Normandy Farm. The benefits include more flexibility in how the space is used and the relief in knowing that you are safe with people from just your group.
Gildea says, “The benefits that a buyout customer receives include a secluded area just for their guests, more flexibility in how their space is used, the ability to assign specific room types and an area in which their group can be at ease knowing that they are amongst folks from just their group.”
Being stuck within four walls at home has triggered a thirst for the exotic. A spate of unusual accomodation has come to their rescue, including tree houses in Jamaica, game reserves in South Africa, glass igloos in the Arctic wilderness and lighthouses in Ireland.
Unlike traditional hotels that have rooms within one block, these are spread out, offering privacy as well as physical distancing.
Take 700’000 Heures, the world’s first ephemeral hotel, by Thierry Teyssier. “Each year, our wandering hotel sets up its custom travelling trunks in one or more destinations in the world for a few months,” says Teyssier. One needs to become a member to access these experiences. This year, the brand is setting up two nomadic hotels in Japan: one within a traditional Japanese house in Ine and the other in a temple in Koyasan. “Until 2020 people chose our experiences for the uniqueness of our trips. They enjoyed the privacy and immersion in different cultures. But in this period of time, this experience of being far away from the crowd and the risks associated, is of course more valuable than ever.”
Sure these stays work out expensive — €1,250 per night per person in Japan and €750 in Salento, Italy (including meals and activities) — but Teyssier says people who love travelling are looking for new experiences. With COVID-19 making travelling precious, people will travel less but better.