From The Experts: Delving Deeper Into The Future Of TravelMay 13, 2020
In this occasional series for Forbes, I talk to industry insiders and travel experts about their views on how we will travel in the months and years ahead, in light of the pandemic and its impact. The good news is the message is not all doom and gloom – companies are still getting enquiries for future bookings, resorts are busy putting plans in place to adhere with social distancing for short-term travel (yes, it is possible), and trends are being forecast which will see us search out more meaningful trips and ‘slower’ journeys where we can better connect with a destination, and give back to those who have been hardest hit. Could there be a new way of travelling which might actually be the making of us?
Sean Moriarty, CEO of Quinta do Lago, a residential and golfing resort in the Algarve, Portugal, predicts the rise of adventure travel and the quest for meaningful time together: “Currently, people are exploring new things such as online yoga, meditation or virtual personal training and I think this is going to give people a more open-minded view about what they want their future holidays to look like,” he says.
“Guests are going to want to learn new things, experience a sense of adventure and appreciate what a family holiday together means. I think that people are going to use this pause, this time at home, for reflection. People are going to really think about the things they truly want to do, and those places to seem when this is all over.”
The resort says that, in the meantime, it is using this period of time to support local communities and, in conjunction with Quinta do Lago residents, has donated over €500,000 to local hospitals and the Algarve Biomedical Centre (ABC), the consortium which is leading many of the region’s initiatives to contain the pandemic. At its boutique Magnolia Hotel, it has also offered 100 complimentary hotel rooms to healthcare workers, and the resort is also offering all heath care and emergency service workers a complimentary coffee and breakfast every morning at its café and juice bar PURE.
“Along with the rest of the world, Quinta do Lago is experiencing the effects of this unprecedented time, but, as ever, our strength and optimism prevail,” says Moriarty. “All of us here, from our employees to residents, members and guests, are united in the common goal of protecting life and supporting one another.”
Quinta do Lago says is also planning to implement various regulations and new initiatives surrounding social distancing upon reopening – all abiding by the WHO and DGS guidelines. These include offering regular health check-ups on employees in an on-site clinic, remote check-in / check-out services, regular disinfecting of all areas and limiting the number of people allowed in each area. The pool, gym and spa areas will be kept closed until advised by the government and the resort will encourage outdoor exercise. Other plans include allocating alternate hotel rooms to leave space between guests and providing masks for guests on arrival.
Tom Marchant, co-founder of innovative travel company Black Tomato, says that it will be our innate yearning to explore the world which will mean that travel will always be part of the landscape.
“The drive to travel, in all its forms, is what’s going to steer us back to discovering the world again. After months of living in confined spaces, people are turning their attention to some of the world’s purest and least populated places in order to reconnect with nature and to feel the freedom of unlimited space,” he says.
“Black Tomato is already seeing increased interest for intrepid travel that takes people to secluded destinations such as The Maldives, The Seychelles and the beaches of French Polynesia. People are understandably looking to book beach holidays via a trusted partner and advisor who can book the flights, the transfers and the accommodation for them, rather than booking separate elements themselves. It means that, should you need flexibility, you’re dealing with just one company; one that knows which hotels and airlines have the best rates to take advantage of.”
In terms of the way we will travel in the future, Tom also says that while the impact of COVID-19 will be vast, we all have a part to play to help the industry survive: “The travel industry includes anything from street food vendors to huge airlines. Although they are hugely different, they all have one major point in common; they rely on the support of travel and tourism to keep their businesses running. The spread of COVID-19 may cause staggering damage to this connected community. We must find different ways of engaging with the travel industry during these times and we are asking for people to show confidence by reaching out and engaging with the travel community in whatever way possible and to continue planning trips. We are looking at ways that we can bring the industry to you at home and provide you with the chance to ask locals and experts in-depth questions about a destination. It’s not so much about travelling in the way we used to, but more about finding new ways of engaging people.”
So, is there anything positive to look forward to? “Yes. As lockdown is eased and when we’re finally released from our self- and government-imposed isolations pre-vaccine, we will begin to travel again,” he says. “In the short term, we are predicting people to look for adventures closer to home, or to go to the other extreme of travelling to wilderness destinations that suit social distancing,” he continues.
“Longer term and post vaccine, we expect to see people taking longer and less frequent trips. Over the past few weeks,we have collectively been re-trained to be inspired by the virtues of slower, more purposeful experiences rather than quick, jam-packed, tick-box long weekends. We also envisage people to look for opportunities for more meaningful connections. While the virtual world helps greatly in keeping in touch with people you know, it’s not ideal for forging new connections. There will be an increased desire to meet locals and meet inspiring personalities, such as expert handlers and chefs, or to learn from people on educational trips, where you can pick up a specific skill or address a specific need. We also believe that giving-back programmes in remote communities will be popular. For example, we are working with a mobile-library charity that helps educate the reindeer herders in the remote Taiga in Mongolia – an experience clients can support and travel with on part of their trip.”
Found on a private island in a UNESCO World Heritage Site archipelago, known as Bocas del Toro, in the northwest of Panama, Sweet Bocas is the very definition of secluded, tropical paradise. Founder Annick Belanger wanted to create a destination where guests experience luxury sustainably and more authentically in absolute privacy. A 15-acre estate, it consists of a seven-bedroom villa sitting on stilts over Panama’s Caribbean waters, with additional accommodation on the island. Self-sustainable, it has the second largest freshwater lake in the archipelago and a fully functioning permaculture farm, and is dedicated to providing a conscious travel experience that in turn creates a positive impact for the indigenous communities of Panama. It is this sort of destination, says Annick, which will allow travellers to be connected with nature and themselves – a growing trend in the industry.
“Finding those secluded and deserted places to be with friends and family, without having to worry about social distancing, will be in demand,” she says. “It will become less about going to popular, well-known destinations where you want to be ’seen’ and more about seeking out unique and private places to enjoy with loved ones.”
Sweet Bocas attracts guests seeking to disconnect by reconnecting with nature, culture and themselves. Each guest has the opportunity to leave a positive mark through sustainability, cultural exchange and life changing experiences. Whether it’s marine conservation of local habitats in the mangroves or reefs, volunteering with local communities, teaching opportunities or cooking and farming experiences. Education is one of the cornerstones of Sweet Bocas and the team is dedicated to supporting local non-profit organisations that provide education and community development to local indigenous tribes that have populated the area for centuries.
In terms of the future, Annick reveals the destination’s plans: “Sweet Bocas has maintained a strict quarantine since the very beginning, in February on news of the first case in Panama, coming from Spain,” Annick reveals. “All 22 staff have remained on the property. There is concern about visitors bringing infection to the property, therefore, before we accept visitors we will be requiring proof that there is no chance that anyone will be bringing the virus to the property. Guests will also have to agree to having their temperature taken daily throughout their stay as well as provide test results showing they are in good health prior to their arrival.
“We are ready to receive guests as soon as the country permits airports to reopen,” she continues. “We will privilege guests who are able to fly privately to our local international airport in Bocas del Toro and meet our staff for the 10 minute ride in our private 30-foot motor yacht. The theme is to keep everyone safe and comfortable. That is our commitment – welcome with caution.”
In terms of future trends, Annick says that she feels more guests will be looking to experience luxury in absolute privacy and with an added degree of health and safety. “We also expect longer guest stays as people will be travelling less frequently but for longer amounts of time to decrease any potential risks from travelling. Solo activities will also see a rise where guests can enjoy nature without having to be in close proximity with others, such as surfing, fishing and paddle boarding all of which are possible here at Sweet Bocas.”