Travel Trends Report 2023, Part 4

In this fourth in a series of articles, I talk to travel experts about how we will travel next year and beyond. Insider experts, some of the industry’s leading companies and prestigious. hotel brands reveal their insights as to the growing travel trends on the horizon and what travellers want from exploring the world.

Last time, I spoke about the latest wellness trends and the notion of ‘dopamine’ travel ­for those looking for exceptional, feel-good vibes. Today, I find out why ‘purposeful’ travel is increasingly important and why the idea of a ‘golden age’ of travel is making a come-back.

7. PURPOSEFUL TRAVEL

“At its root, ‘purposeful travel’ is a sustainability concept relating to a sense of responsibility,” describes Lysbeth Fox, CEO of Fox Communications, in a recent ‘Fox Quarterly’ on upcoming travel trends.

“Concerns about travel’s impact on local wildlife, local people and the local environment are at its core. ‘Purpose’ in this context is widely interpreted as having a sense of restraint, engaging in local philanthropy and ethical experiences,” she says.

She continues: “It may seem logical that ‘purposeful travel’ would be more about shorter trips that make less of an impact on a location. However, elite travellers see far less purpose in shorter trips that merely scratch the surface. Instead, they want to travel to fewer places and spend longer in each one, focusing on quality and fully immersing themselves in the location and the people. Education is at the heart of this, not only learning about each place they visit, but also self-learning and self-discovery.”

Lysbeth continues: “It is a common misconception that when an elite consumer says that they are interested in something ‘purposeful’, this means they want to do less: buy less, fly less, occupy less space. However, very few elite consumers think like this. They recognise areas of their life where they can be less wasteful, but very few consider that their entire existence and ‘life footprint’ should be smaller. Sometimes purpose is about doing something properly and for longer.”

Thanda Island, the world’s only exclusive-use island in a marine reserve, is one destination perfect for this. It strives to preserve the natural environment and give back to the local community. Through its various marine life and environment preservation initiatives, sustainability strategies, community, education and entrepreneurship programmes, Thanda Island makes a positive impact on the planet.

On the other side of the Indian Ocean, luxury resort Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi is also on a mission to clean up paradise. The resort’s newly launched Sustainability Lab turns plastic waste collected from the ocean and surrounding islands into bespoke souvenirs and unique products, educating guests and empowering local communities to care for the delicate underwater environment.

Tailor-made tour operator, Audley Travel, has also shared its insights on travel trends for 2023 and says that travelling sustainably remains an important concern with clients.

“We firmly believe that this commitment needs to be more than just carbon offsetting,” says the company. “Clients are keen to book accommodation and experiences where they can be confident their presence will have a positive impact on local communities, wildlife and the environment.”

Eric Darde, CEO of Beaumier, a luxury hotel company with properties across France, agrees that many of us are re-evaluating the way we travel and making a conscious commitment to more sustainable options.

He says: “As we celebrate our first winter season, travel-restriction-free since the pandemic hit, we are back to what we love doing best – skiing – but with an energised focus on doing it properly. Sustainability has always been at Beaumier’s heart. We are proud to champion the local suppliers we source from, for our seasonally-focused restaurant menus, such as those crafted by L’Alpaga’s Michelin-starred La Table. Therefore it only feels natural to now be channelling every effort into making the best ethical decision possible across all levels of our business as we navigate our journey to B Corp certification.”

Offering breath-taking experiences in an untouched landscape, the ethos of Lepogo Lodges, in South Africa, is all about creating a sustainable legacy. Kate Hughes, operations director, comments: “Travelling sustainably is at the forefront of many minds moving into 2023. Our guests are looking for exceptional experiences provided by local expert guides, that leave little footprint, in an untouched landscape. At Lepogo, guests are also totally immersed in local culture. Our lodge is family-owned and operated, and has been developed as part of a life-long dream to create a sustainable conservation legacy in Africa, with 100{5a5867cc9cca71cf546db38f42fbf171004839e3542174405390d177276b4f49} of any financial gains made re-invested back into the reserve for the benefit of wildlife, conservation and the local community. We are proud of the conservation work this allows us to be part of and in turn contributing to conservation efforts globally.”

Quinta do Lago in Portugal is another resort with its roots in purposeful travel. Sean Moriarty, CEO, says: “It goes without saying that travelling sustainably is more important than ever before and there are a few key changes that travellers can make to put this into practice. Everyone assumes the main problem around travel sustainability is flying but unfortunately, this is not the case. For example, at the start of the pandemic flights were reduced by an astounding 85{5a5867cc9cca71cf546db38f42fbf171004839e3542174405390d177276b4f49} but this had very little impact on the environment.”

He continues: “In order to travel more sustainably, we need to start with the destination – it is vital to choose somewhere to holiday with strong environmental values, where they take real actions to protect nature. Our resort, Quinta do Lago remains a low rise, low density and ecologically-driven region as per its original masterplan. We also encourage our guests to avoid hiring a car when they visit us and recommend they cycle or walk around the resort instead – this not only reduces carbon emissions but offers a healthier lifestyle. I would also advise travellers to avoid single-use plastic as much as they can when travelling and eat locally – a lot of our produce is from our very own Quinta Farm.”

Meeting the needs of those looking for more meaningful ways to travel, is Marriott, which has launched a dedicated scheme to offer purpose-driven experiences. Bart Buiring, chief sales and marketing officer for Marriott International Asia Pacific, says: “Emerging from the pandemic, consumers are now more intentional about where and how they spend their money, while also wanting to increasingly positively impact the destinations they visit. Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy™ offers guests the opportunity to do just that – with purpose-driven experiences focused on Environmental Protection, Community Engagement and Marine Conservation.”

Luxury tour operators Scott Dunn says that post-pandemic, clients are rethinking what ‘value’ means, with the notion of ‘purpose’ have a deeper significance for some. “Scott Dunn guests perceive the value of a holiday in more than just monetary terms. Through the pandemic, we all gained a deeper appreciation of our personal freedoms and the joy and enrichment that travel can bring. Time is precious and having a personal Travel Specialist to take all the hassle away from planning that dream trip is of the utmost value to our guests. So, too, are the personal touches and moments of joy that we offer. For instance, over the past year, our team organised a husky sledding birthday party for a young guest in Sweden; surprised a car-fanatic guest with a vintage Aston Martin in India; and secretly delivered a grand piano to a multigenerational family’s Christmas villa rental in Mauritius so they could continue the family tradition of carols led by their grandfather on the piano.”

Finally, Cat Jones, founder and CEO of Byway, a slow travel planner for flight-free trips, says that ‘regen-tourism’ is a new term and the latest move towards regenerative tourism.

“Travel can be an enormous force for good, especially when tourist spending skips international chains and goes straight to local owners of shops, accommodation and experiences on the ground,” says Cat. “Money spent this way tends to stay within the communities visited rather than leaking out to central coffers, and it’s why we’re so excited to see the acceleration of local-led and regenerative tourism. Increasingly, travel brands and individuals are joining us in bypassing hotspots in favour of areas actively looking for tourism, and passing over cookie-cutter chains to recommend and spend with local businesses along the way.”

8. RETURN TO A GOLDEN AGE OF TRAVEL

There was a time when travel were inherently glamorous – when the journey itself was a joy rather than a ‘job’ to get over with. This ‘golden age’ was a time when you could savor the art of getting somewhere, as well as the destination itself, whether it was by steamer train or rail.

Just as the Roaring Twenties followed the Spanish Flu, Original Travel predicts that we will see a return to a golden age of travel in the wake of the pandemic with rail, boat and even airships soaring in popularity.

For instance, Original Travel’s flagship, the Steam Ship Sudan – the last remaining paddle steamer from the golden age of Nile travel in the 1920s and 1930s, and the very ship on which Agatha Christie sailed – is currently its best-selling holiday. Original Travel’s 10-day Taste of the Nile itinerary includes five nights onboard the SS Sudan.

Original Travel is also eagerly watching the return of airships with the likes of OceanSky and Hybrid Air Vehicles reimagining what was the most exciting travel innovation from the 1920s and 1930s for the modern era. Ocean Sky’s North Pole expedition is already open for bookings and promises to offer the level of opulence and sense of adventure you’d expect.

Meanwhile, rail travel is already experiencing an uptick in popularity with travellers eager to experience a slower and more sustainable kind of travel. Great Rail Journeys, the leading escorted rail tour provider, and its sister brand – Rail Discoveries – report a huge surge in bookings to the imperial capitals of Europe, with a 30{5a5867cc9cca71cf546db38f42fbf171004839e3542174405390d177276b4f49} uplift from September to October 2022. “Europe is home to some of the finest cities in the world; from their historical heritage to their bustling, metropolitan streets, the imperial capitals of Europe make for a wish list trip,” says Great Rail Journeys.

One of the most popular tours is provided by Rail Discoveries, where guests can experience the wonders of Vienna, Prague, Berlin on a specially curated ten-day tour. For those looking to indulge in a wider array of unique European experiences, Great Rail Journeys’ Grand Imperial Cities 13-day package will delve further into its city destinations, immersing guests in the delicious local cuisine and unique experiences.

Dave Riley, the newly appointed CEO of Great Rail Journeys, comments: “Rail travel is developing into one of the most effective ways to actively reduce your carbon footprint, and when you travel with us by rail, the journey becomes part of the adventure. Our timeless tours allow passengers to travel to multiple destinations in one trip, including places you can only reach by rail – making these memorable, once in a lifetime rail adventures increasingly popular.”

Angelee Rathor, founder of SevenTravel, a conscious luxury travel company, agrees and says that: “More and more clients are opting for train travel options through various countries to take in the sights and sounds of each destination first-hand with less stress on ‘how to get there’. Our South Africa Safari package includes a magical three-night train journey on the Rovos Rail through the Cape winelands, Highveld grasslands and the Great Karoo, offering a standout experience. Train travel is often preferred by many travellers now as a more environmentally friendly option.”

Finally, renowned for some of the most iconic properties in the world, Belmond has announced a 10-year rejuvenation programme to: “become the world’s most desirable luxury travel brand”. It aims to redefine luxury travel so that guests can find deeper connections to a destination.

Belmond begun its rejuvenation strategy in 2020 with the renovation of Splendido Mare, A Belmond Hotel, Portofino (which reopened in Spring 2021). Next up, in May 2023, Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, Riviera Maya (Mexico) will reopen its doors, following an extensive renovation and redesign by Tara Bernerd and her team. With buildings aligned to the Sacred Geometry of Mayan masons, the hotel will be completely reimagined while honoring Mexican artisanal traditions, authentic craftsman and local materials throughout the interiors. Wellness at Maroma will also take on a new dimension with the launch of the first Guerlain Spa in Latin America, with personalised treatments inspired by a Mayan wellness philosophy, sound and healing rituals.

The iconic Splendido, A Belmond Hotel, Portofino has also begun its multi-phase renovation, overseen by internationally acclaimed interior designer Martin Brudnizki, which will see the transformation of guest rooms, a new spa, and garden landscapes, scheduled for completion in 2026. Each seasonal closure will give the team an opportunity to undertake the restoration of the former 16th-century Benedictine monastery. The 2023 season will introduce guests to a newly imagined poolside restaurant, swimming pool and surrounding pool terraces, and a new signature suite.

This follows recent renovation projects which include the collaboration with acclaimed filmmaker Wes Anderson for the re-design of the Cygnus carriage onboard the British Pullman, A Belmond Train, and the restoration of Copacabana Palace Theatre, located adjacent to the iconic Copacabana Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Rio de Janeiro. The restoration, which involved more than 600 craftspeople across 18 disciplines, brought Rio’s cultural venue back to life, following a 30-year closure.

In May 2023, the newly renovated Coquelicot, A Belmond Boat, Champagne will launch, taking travellers on a cinematic journey of the famed Champagne region. Designed by French duo Humbert & Poyet, the boat will feature three glamorous cabins with ensuite facilities, an indoor salon with a champagne bar and an outdoor deck. To elevate the journey, Coquelicot will partner with Maison Ruinart – the world’s oldest champagne house, founded in Reims in 1729 – where guests will be treated to a private tasting lunch by Maison Ruinart’s chef in residence, Valérie Radou, and Coquelicot head chef aboard the new barge.

2023 will also welcome a new Suite category onboard the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train, Europe with eight new suites joining the rake, following the success of the introduction of six award-winning Grand Suites. Steeped in history and restored to retain the craftsmanship of the 1920s and 30s, the new suites are an ode to the dramatic landscape unfolding through the train’s picture-windows.

Roeland Vos, president & CEO of Belmond said, “Travel is back but we all must travel better. As a proud custodian of timeless heritage, our asset rejuvenation strategy has been sensitively planned to ensure that our precious properties will continue to hold their iconic status for generations to come. At the same time, we believe travel has the power to transform both our guests and the communities in which we operate. Our goal is to curate guest experiences that will enrich the connections between our guests and the destinations.

He continues: “We will continue perpetuating the legendary art of travel – leading the industry by setting new standards of luxury – standards that are defined by one-of-a-kind authentic experiences and genuine connections.”

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