Bucket lists, destination weddings, honeymoons, once-in-a-lifetime trips. All of these have had to be put on hold temporarily. With armchair escapism on the rise, many of us have been wondering when we will be able to take our suitcases out of storage again.
“The travel industry has been turned upside down and we don’t see travel returning to ‘normal’ in the foreseeable future,” says Brenda Collin, Managing Director of Ireland, UK, and Scandinavia at Preferred Hotels & Resorts. “The way we travel has irrevocably changed and, as an industry, we will need to come together to shape this new era. But with change comes opportunity, and this crisis calls for innovation and smart solutions.” Some of these, according to Collin, will include a demand for slower and more deliberate ways to travel with an increase in eco-hotels and residences that the whole family can enjoy.
Across the world, countries are preparing for some restrictions to be lifted in time for the summer holidays. But what exactly will this new normal look like? How can we find a balance between satisfying our thirst for wanderlust whilst protecting our world at the same time? We ask some of the top female hoteliers from around the world what they think the future of travel is going to look like.
As part of a family that owns and runs two Small Luxury Hotels in Barbados, The Sandpiper and Coral Reef Club, the effects of COVID-19 have been fast and brutal with abrupt closures of the hotels and approximately 350 staff sent home for an indefinite time period, with all of us facing an uncertain future. What the ‘new normal’ will be like has been the subject of much discussion. When we re-open, there will be new safety and health measures and protocols with sanitation procedures featured heavily, whether that be on arrival for luggage or the stepped-up cleaning of the rooms and public areas on a more regular basis, including details such as sanitising of menus between use. COVID-19 is uncovering fault lines, but also so much kindness – this is what we should focus on, along with all of the new protocols.
Owner, Borgo Santo Pietro, Tuscany
I believe travel in the future will be much more about authentic experiences and being part of local life wherever we are going, rather than lux, corporate 5-star hotels with packaged experiences. Also, the connection to nature will be super important—we want to be explorers with real connections, not tourists.
The hotel’s approach to sustainability has to be real. I think we will see a rise in hotels and destinations that hold these values close to their heart and not only as a marketing campaign. People don’t want to be marketed to anymore; they want to connect with places that really live and feel what they sell. We have finally come to an era where sprinkling a bit of local community and sustainability fairy dust on top of luxury is not enough—the modern traveller is far too savvy and can see through this. As travellers, we will be looking for the hoteliers who live the lives we want to be part of.
General Manager at The Guardsman, London (opening Autumn 2020)
International travel will clearly be different for the foreseeable future to reduce the spread of the virus. However, travellers will soon adapt to the new normal once confidence returns in travel. Short term, we will have an increase in domestic travel and as we have adapted so well to working from home, there may well be an increase in longer leisure stays. Boutique hotels should bounce back quicker than other hotel sectors as they have done post-previous turbulent times. Travellers who usually enjoy bespoke personal service will likely feel confident that their specific needs will be met when they return to stay. During lockdown, there has been huge support for small local businesses. Communities have wanted to support those they know and trust with their safety in smaller environments to reduce personal risk. This support is likely to translate to boutique hotels as we will want to reduce our time in large areas and minimise our interactions. Confidence in Health & Safety and cleanliness will be very important and we will want to demonstrate to guests our actions to ensure their safety.
Owner, CasaSandra, Holbox, Mexico
I think post-COVID-19, travellers, especially women, will look for spiritual, healthy, and relaxing experiences. There will be a need to be in open-air surroundings and the ability to immerse in nature. Of course, initially, travellers will look at local options—staycations will be the first solution for all of us who are looking for a change and the chance to disconnect from the routines we have created at home after months of lockdown. But I feel there will also be a need to disconnect from the digital world—between social media and Zoom meetings, technology has been dominating our lives. I am pleased to see that thanks to COVID-19, there is a new interest in environmental issues and I believe travellers will be more concerned about their carbon footprint. They will maybe stay in places longer, will prefer small properties, and expect a more personalised service and authentic connection with the local community.
Managing Director, Glenapp Castle, Scotland
Post lockdown, I would suggest that travel and the ability to reconnect with people will be more important than ever before, whilst understanding travellers will want to respect social distancing and so seek out hotels that comply with the government’s advice. We anticipate more interest in exclusive use of the Castle and the self-contained penthouse apartment, The Endeavour, which we will soon launch. With the option of private dining, this will be a happy compromise for guests who are wanting to enjoy the hotel, whilst maintaining social distance. With a newfound appreciation for nature, we expect greater demand for rural accommodation over city breaks, certainly for the rest of 2020. Outdoor activities will lure travellers and the rise of domestic travel will result in longer stays, as the staycation market may switch from shorter stays to holiday stays. We remain positive that international travel will return next year as we continue to receive enquiries from abroad.
General Manager at Half Moon, Jamaica
As events continue to unfold, it’s difficult to say definitively how travel and tourism will ultimately be affected. However, based on events to date, there are long-lasting developments such as the methods and approaches to sanitisation conducted by business, hotel and resort operators that will give travellers a few more check boxes to consider when making their holiday plans. Operators will have to ensure travellers, our guests, feel comfortable with the measures we have implemented to put their minds at ease. Space, privacy and access to PPE will be top priorities as well as specially-curated experiences. Despite the implementation of social distancing, there are opportunities for operators to personalise experiences that are attentive in nature, that cater to the individual versus a collective. Offerings and experiences will change, and the transformations will pique wanderlust. Luxury travel will lead the way and operators will have to listen to our guests and adapt, once again redefining luxury and how this plays out at all levels, regardless of travel budget.
Valentina de Santis
Owner & CEO, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como
Travelling has always been a big dream for many people, and after this pandemic, it will possibly become an even bigger dream. It is for this reason that I am convinced that when the world is ready to reopen its borders, travel will return as one of the strongest industries. I believe that people will approach their travels slightly differently, focusing even more on quality. This will be quality with regards to how we use our time, quality in terms of who we share our trips with, quality in terms of the experiences we seek. Travel will have a deeper and more important meaning for all of us and we will appreciate it even more than before.
Owner, Son Brull, Mallorca
In my opinion, travel will go back to its origins when travel was for pleasure, holidays, discovery. Lockdown, across most of the globe, has made all of us find ways to continue with our jobs at a distance. This has made us realise that business travel might not be, after all, essential. But still, we are all eager to travel, to enjoy the essence of it, and go somewhere where you can get away from the crowds, be calm and relaxed, and move around freely. In that sense, I predict that tourism in big cities might take longer to recover, and properties like my own, which are isolated and surrounded by nature, will be in high-demand. This crisis will emphasise even more the importance of sustainability, of using natural products, the farm-to-table concept when it comes to our restaurants, and for our guests to get a home away from home feel, to feel secure and looked after and confident that all measures are taken for them to be safe.