As we emerge from this torpor, we’ll be craving health-enhancing experiences, restorative immersions in nature, spirit-lifting exercise in the open air and safe escapes for quality time with our nearest and dearest. We’ll need to transition to venturing back into the wider world at a new, slower pace. But we might not want to stray so far from home at first – minimising the amount of time we spend in airports or on planes.
Without a functioning crystal ball or professional qualifications as a psychic or psychoanalyst, my take – as a sustainable luxury travel expert – is from the perspective of both an optimistic idealist and a solemn realist. I think it’s safe to assume that demand will initially be greater than supply. Reports say searches for holidays in Spain for next January are up by almost 2,000 per cent – but it’s clear, we’ll never return to the old version of ‘normal’.
Read our article on when will flights resume in the UK
When we can travel again – whether that is weeks or months away – many airlines will still be grounded indefinitely, if not bankrupted. Travel insurance policies could be more limited (always play it safe and make bookings with a credit card and not a debit card). Wanting to know our escapes are underwritten and won’t fall through is a given. Traditionally that meant making sure they’re ATOL- and/or ABTA-protected if they’re package holidays: but these non-profit organisations’ coffers won’t have much left to give. We’ll likely require health certificates and need to jump through more hoops for visas – if our desired destination even allows visitors. In short, high-quality travel will be more complicated, restricted and more expensive. It breaks my heart to write that.
You probably hoped for an article steering you to a bounty of bargains awaiting us after this travel-barren time. But, as a sustainability enthusiast proposing what a New World Order might look like, I’m also confident we’ll emerge from this more conscious, conscientious and sensitive to the health of people and planet, and we’ll be ready to help the world heal. Yes, the travel industry has bounced back from crises before – but never has the entire globe been forced to stop entirely like this. After 9/11, flights were down, year on year, by 30 per cent for the rest of September. The current slowdown is on an incomparable scale. A few days ago, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) maintained that a pause should be put on all non-essential international travel ‘indefinitely’. How long will the uncertainty last? Who knows. But whatever happens, we’re going to feel the after-effects for a long time.
I know this isn’t music to anyone’s ears, so let’s look at the positives: overtourism has been turned upside down. Marine life is frolicking in Venice’s clear-watered canals, and empty overly trodden paths to World Heritage Sites are sprouting wildflowers. We can take a leaf from Bhutan’s book: its ‘low-volume, high-value’ policy helped the country thrive through a less-is-more approach to tourism – and that is the model much of tourism will now follow. Ask yourself why you always loved to travel in the past. Now ask yourself why you’ll want to travel as we come out of this.
Time has slowed down. A year ago, it was the most precious thing in many of our lives, and because leisure time was at such a premium we savoured it most on our sojourns. Now, time away will need to really feel worth leaving home for. But pleasures await, I promise, as we look forward to planning our next holidays, we’ll find joy in aiming to be a better traveller post-lockdown, and appreciating the memories in full afterwards.
Keeping it safe and simple with staycations
We’ve all been forced to stop and look around at what’s right in front of us – and, luckily for us all, the United Kingdom has culture, coastline, conservation parks and countryside aplenty. Where we might have been compelled to travel to other shores in search of sunshine, the new UK travel quarantine rules may be a blocker for many. Plus due to climate change the weather has become fairly unpredictable and unseasonable everywhere – there’s no sunny guarantee so why not give Britain our undivided attention with a staycation?
The convenience of serviced private villas and luxury hotels
The race is on to reserve the best exclusive-use cottages and villas once travel resumes. All the better if they’re fully serviced and all you need can be brought to you. Avoiding mingling with strangers will be especially appealing for guests in an older age-bracket and those with health issues. One imagines the reputable luxury hotel brands known for their highest standards of health and safety and service may be the most appealing – especially when managed by renowned resort operators. Sorry Airbnb, your digs won’t be so enticing in the short term – unless someone launches a formal hygiene accreditation.
A heightened fear of flying
Spending time in airports isn’t appealing until a confirmation of vaccines or cures are on the horizon. We’ll want more space on flights, with less folks breathing on us, which may mean the layouts of airports and planes will have to be reconfigured. Mandatory self-service testing at airports identifying medical conditions will be de rigueur. There will be an increase in demand for private travel, be it by car or jet. I’m not saying I don’t instantly go weak at the knees thinking about sipping wine in Tuscany or picking at tapas in Barcelona, but many must agree that hopping on short-haul flights so regularly had become too habitual. When I do travel again it will have to feel worth it for all that faff. Which may mean less travel, with our wanderings more considered, cautious and carefully planned, but we will crave next-level adventures more than ever.
5 things everyone should consider when we can fly again
Instead of hopping on a low-cost flight for the sake of it, we’ll spend more time planning, prepping and squeezing the most out of the anticipation. Once-in-a-lifetime holidays will become exactly that again. It’s the anticipation of heading off on holiday, more than the experience of having had the trip itself, that releases the endorphins that lift our mood. Dr Jeroen Nawijn at the Centre for Sustainability, Tourism and Transport in Breda University in the Netherlands published a study indicating that we derive most of our happiness from the expectation of an upcoming escapade. So imagine if you’ve invested time in making it extra sustainable? That buzz is going to be even greater, surely.
Travel with purpose
We’ll be all the more judicious about who we give our money to, in the hope that our trips help communities heal after this hiatus. Conservation has been in jeopardy without revenue from tourists. We’ll want to support hotels, such as those represented by the Long Run, which also provide revenue for much-needed cultural and environmental preservation. Singita’s safari lodges have a ripple effect, which includes empowering women and girls through its Safaris with a Purpose, from its new-look Singita Sabora Tented Camp in Tanzania, a black rhino project, to its Dian Fossey experiences at Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Rwanda. Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in Kenya is a safari lodge that doesn’t just approach conservation the right way; it has set a benchmark with its ‘theory of change’ scheme. Calvin Cottar created the Cottar’s Wildlife Conservation Trust with this framework to lay out its manifesto of how it’s helping the local Maasai people benefit from tourism, boosting biodiversity and fostering wildlife conservation. Those are the type of hosts we should be seeking out and supporting.
Read our glossary for sustainable travel
What is sustainable travel? All the terms you need to know
Be careful what you wish for…
In Out of Africa, Karen Blixen famously said, ‘When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.’ Eco advocates espousing the need for us to minimise our impact on the planet spent a lot of last year fretting over carbon emissions and shaming the jet set. As someone who recognises the vital role tourism plays in economies everywhere and the development of less well-off communities, I didn’t think we should stop flying entirely. We just needed to boost awareness and be more judicious of how and where we travel and to whom we give our money. If you think about the power booking a future holiday could have in helping rehabilitation, when we seek value for money, we need to also think of values for money.
Read our article on how to reduce your carbon footprint when flying
How can you reduce your carbon footprint if you’re flying?
Keep the rewilding going
After isolation and confinement, we’ll all want to immerse ourselves in fresh air and wilderness – without having to traverse vast continents. Alladale in Scotland is a swathe of land being rewilded thanks to the efforts of The European Nature Trust (TENT). Spending time in nature is good for mental health and stress relief, physical wellness and development in childhood – so much so the Scottish NHS had been prescribing time in nature long before any of this happened. Founder of TENT, Paul Lister created the Alladale reserve 50 miles north of Inverness, after acquiring the land in 2003. He points out that less than four per cent of charitable giving focuses on environmental and wildlife-related causes. In Romania, TENT is aiming to create Europe’s largest forested protected area in the Carpathian Mountains, and it hopes this will become the Yellowstone Park of Europe… What we’ll all need is vitamin N – nourishment from nature – and lots of it.
Wellness, fitness and health enhancement
And finally, it’s a given that many of us will want and need immunity-boosting escapes for preventative or restorative reasons. When restrictions loosen, have these articles bookmarked:
The best spas in the world
The best spas in the world for 2020
The best spa holidays for fitness
The best spa holidays for fitness
The best spas in the USA
The best spas in the USA
Until we can start travelling, stay safe and be kind to eachother.