Last Christmas, many of us were starting to look ahead and plan our adventures for 2020. Unknown to us, there was a pandemic about to unfold across all corners of the globe, causing misery and fear and putting paid to all our travel plans. By spring, travel was totally off the table – with flights grounded, travel companies – some of which had been in business for decades – going bust, and travel magazines closing. It was an unmitigated disaster for the industry and for the millions of people who work and are supported by tourism and associated businesses.
Now, with the prospect of vaccines and new treatments for Covid, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are slowly emerging out into the world again. So, what will 2021 bring? In the first of my features looking at travel forecasts for 2021, today, I reveal two trends predicted to be on the rise for next year: wellness travel and a new demand for seclusion and privacy.
IMMUNITY BOOSTING RETREATS AND EMBRACING NATURE
One thing Covid has taught us is just how fragile our health can be, and how not to take it for granted. With wellbeing a priority for many, therefore, there is a rise in a focus on holidays which boost our mental wellbeing and encourage us to embrace a healthy lifestyle with very specific, targeted retreats and packages.
Paul Joseph, founder of Health and Fitness Travel – a leading wellness travel company specialising in creating life-enhancing experiences to boost health and fitness – agrees: “As we continue to face the Covid-19 pandemic, we have become increasingly conscious about our personal health and wellbeing,” he says. “Taking a wellness holiday has been shown to lower stress levels, improve resilience, boost immunity and improve our mental and physical health.”
“After being confined indoors for months, people are more highly aware of how both travel and outdoor exploration play a vital role in our wellbeing, allowing us to connect with ourselves, others, and nature. Our wellbeing and immunity is more important than ever as we continue to fight against current and future viruses. As a consequence, we have seen demand for clients now booking our new immunity boosting wellness retreats to give their mind and body the reboot it needs.”
Based in Phuket, Thailand, Amanpuri, for instance, offers an Immune System Support retreat, which fuses modern medicinal diagnosis of your body with ancient eastern spa therapies to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. Any irregularities with your health will be identified through blood tests and heavy metal scans before you’re holistically treated with the ancient practices of acupuncture and Ayurvedic massage.
In Sri Lanka, the Immunity Boosting Detox retreat, offered at Santani Wellness Resort, recognises the role that nutrition and a healthy gut play in keeping the immune system in tip-top condition. The detox programme is centred around a strict personalised diet plan, Ayurvedic practices and cleanses of the digestive tract.
Renowned for its innovative retreats and cutting-edge spa, Chablé Maroma, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, is also offering tailored wellness breaks to help boost immunity. Wellness director, Cinthya Alva, comments: “Now more than ever, people around the world are acutely aware of the importance of good health and are looking at their general wellbeing with greater interest. They want to stay healthy, with prevention being key.”
She continues: “Looking ahead, there will be a shift away from lighter pampering treatments to a more serious and creative embrace of evidence-based medical treatments and alternative therapies. At Chablé Hotels, we can develop tailored wellness programmes which give the best possible chance to fight off illness, as well as combat the long-term effects of Covid-19. Also, with stress-related burnout and anxiety increasing becoming an issue due to the pandemic, we can create programmes that focus on helping find mindfulness, balance and mental peace.”
Meanwhile, described as a ‘recalibration for mind, body and soul’, Shakti Himalaya’s new village walk series takes guests on a unique journey, in more ways than one. Providing privileged access to places far removed from the noise of the modern world, the private guided hikes allows guests to get under the skin of the remote mountain states of Kumaon, Sikkim and Ladakh – and in doing so lift the spirits and leave stresses behind.
From the rhododendron-rich slopes of Sikkim, to the majestic peaks and forests of Kumaon and the desolate and otherworldly moonscape that is Ladakh – these journeys will see guests taking privately guided hikes across remote villages, visiting ancient temples and monasteries, savouring authentic Indian cuisine, and enjoying stays in beautiful traditional village homes. All the while, they are walking in the shadow of the Great Himalayan ranges and taking in breathtaking views that will soothe even the most tired souls. In these places of intense beauty travellers can slow down and simply ‘be’.
Closer to home, Gleneagles in Scotland is also embracing the great outdoors in the pursuit of wellness. Its new Wild Wellness two-day retreat is a mindful and restorative nature-based programme, set in the wild surrounds of the hotel. Guided by the principle that exposure to nature has significant physical and mental health benefits, the break invites guests to reconnect with the natural rhythm of the dramatic Scottish landscape, to nurture mind, body and soul.
Focusing on harnessing nature’s healing powers, while combining learnings from both Shinto and western practices, the retreat has been designed to focus on organic mindfulness, with self-connection to nature as the guiding factor – setting it apart from the traditional guided mediation approach. The Wild Wellness guide encourages moments of quiet and contemplation, to enable guests to forge an authentic connection with nature.
Finally, Paul Joseph at Health and Fitness Travel, also predicts that “wellness music and healthy sound experiences are going to redefine wellness travel in 2021”.
“New evidence from medical journals suggests that music is invaluable in easing the side-effects of a variety of physical and mental conditions, like PTSD, anxiety, and high-blood pressure,” he says. “In the same vein, living in loud environments, which most people do, has been linked to a rise in heart disease, obesity, low birth weight and cognitive impairment in children. Wellness retreats have recognised the health benefits of sound experiences and many are incorporating them into their offerings.”
Shreyas Silent Retreat in India, for instance, offers a traditional Indian Ashram experience, where sound meditation is integral to the wellness journey of guests.
“Travellers can expect a tailored wellness programme to their specific requirements to maintain and boost their immunity,” Paul says. “Until a vaccine is available, our immune system will need to adapt unaided to COVID-19 and our clients want to focus on a long and healthy life, be free of disease and prevent future health conditions.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF SECLUSION AND PRIVACY
Months spent apart from others, and the importance of social distancing, has led us to crave space and privacy – to avoid the dangers of too much close contact with strangers. Due to this, it is likely that next year many of us will seek out places that offer us room to breathe, while enjoying new surroundings.
Perhaps offering the ultimate in a home-away-from-home, is the new The Mayor’s Residence just opened at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. The private, nine-bedroom ‘palace’ sleeps up to 15 guests, with its own entrance on the canal, at a cost of €24,450 per night. Included is a dedicated team of staff, including a butler, private chef, spa therapist, concierge and housekeeper. Guests can book unlimited spa treatments throughout their stay and will have sole use of the spa to ensure their privacy. Steeped in history, The Mayor’s Residence was built during the Dutch Golden Age in 1665 for Hendrik Hooft, one of Amsterdam’s most influential mayors.
Meanwhile, Vill’Otel by Oliver’s Travels is offering the ‘best of both worlds’ with a range of private villas, cottages, and even castles or château, with all the luxuries of a hotel. Exclusive surroundings, private pools, daily breakfasts, maid service, welcome drinks and concierge all come as standard.
Villa Genoveva, in the Algarve region of Portugal, is part of the offering, and benefits from total seclusion in its own grounds, while giving guests the ability to dip into the wider facilities of the Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, as and when they like.
Meanwhile, also ticking the boxes for seclusion, is Zannier Hotels’ new property – Bãi San Hô, which has opened this month in Vietnam. Found within 98 hectares of paddy-fields and hilltops, it overlooks an untouched, private beach and offers the chance for guests to completely disconnect from everyday life.
Arnaud Zannier, founder & CEO of Zannier Hotels, says: “People are leaning towards more remote-based trips over the bustling city break experience. Next year, they will be more careful about choosing their destination, maybe opting for smaller hotels, with a lower guest density. We’re receiving a lot of demand for our lodges in Namibia – the vast, beautiful landscapes coupled with a very limited number of rooms and unique, bucket-list experiences, are exactly what people are looking for. Our new property in Vietnam, Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô is also perfect for this. With just a handful of small fishing villages nearby, it offers the chance to completely disengage, clear the mind, yet uncover other ways of life.”
The resort is situated on a secluded peninsula in the untouched Phu Yen province, on Vietnam’s south-central coast. Surrounded by miles of pristine coastline, travellers can immerse themselves in local life, by harvesting oysters, learning how to cultivate rice, taking a trip aboard a traditional long boat and hiking, or cycling, along the network of trails. Those looking to discover the region’s history can also visit the ancient ruins of the Champa Kingdom and Nhan Tower.
Gastronomy is also integral to the resort, with three dining options available: Bà Hai – meaning ‘Grandmother Hai’ – which sees chefs use traditional recipes handed down from their mothers and grandmothers; Nhà Ở – which serves all-day South East Asian menus; and Làng Chài – a beachfront restaurant, offering fresh fish and seafood dishes.
James Bell, managing director of Turquoise Holidays also predicts that ‘seclusion’ and ‘privacy’ will be the company’s key buzzwords for 2021. “Turquoise clients are desperately wanting to switch off, experience five-star service, and find somewhere they can spend quality time with their families and appreciate what life is all about,” he says.
“Places like the Maldives and the Seychelles are our go-tos. Delve deep into the southern atolls of the Maldives, to experience untouched underwater life at LUX* South Ari Atoll. Or fly to an outer island in the Seychelles, where you will be among a handful of other guests at Six Senses Zil Pasyon. Or why not soak up the Caribbean sun, with a rum in hand, at Bequia Beach Hotel? These would be our top suggestions for next year.”
Another leading expert in travel is Lysbeth Fox, founder and MD of Fox Communications, which looks after a wide selection of luxury travel clients. Among her travel predictions for 2021 is the rise in the need for seclusion, and how we might marry this with the new phenomenon of ‘workathons’ – extended holidays where you can work – and play – in ‘paradise’.
“Right now, to echo the ‘location, location, location’ cliché, the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a hotel are ‘seclusion, seclusion, seclusion’,” she says. “While home-share rentals and busy cities will be low on the desirability scale, next year, isolated villas, rural locations and resorts, that offer buyouts solutions, will be scoring high.”
“So, where to go? I would suggest that Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa delivers all round – it is one of the top hotels for lowest density of villa construction in the whole of the Indian Ocean. Not only has it just been awarded the World’s Leading New Resort 2020 at the 2020 World Travel Awards, but it also champions a deluxe all-inclusive formula, which allows guests to unlimitedly order delicacies from the four à la carte restaurants directly to their villas.”
She also adds: “With working from home and flexi working hours becoming more prevalent in the new modus-vivendi, one of the key trends we are seeing for next year is the desire for a longer-term change of scene. With tangible benefits to mental health, productivity and all-round happiness, travel businesses across the spectrum are responding to the ‘workation’ trend in interesting ways. Hospitality brands are launching mid- to long-term stay packages including on-site working benefits, entire destinations reopen their borders, announcing extended stay opportunities through working visas.”
However, perhaps best serving the trend for ultimate privacy, are top-end companies, which are able to curate trips and personalise holidays to suit – for those where money is no object. The exclusive travel and lifestyle management company, Knightsbridge Circle, for instance, offers a unique 24/7 service to its 50 ‘by invitation only’ members. With a £25,000 per year price tag, the business describes itself as “being able to facilitating the genuinely extraordinary”.
Bucking the trend somewhat, the agency reports a growth in membership numbers since Covid-19 hit. Founder Stuart McNeill says he puts this down to the personal service his team delivers around the clock.
“Lockdown has led to exponentially more screen time, with many companies increasingly embracing technology to communicate with their clients. Knightsbridge Circle, however, is resisting the digital pivot,” he reveals. “We feel that maintaining the best customer experiences are built on empathy and trust, which no amount of technology can ever replace.”
They have noticed that their ‘Millennial’ clients require the most contact time – a trend supported by Euromonitor International’s recent finding that 69% of people prefer offline communication rather than speaking via technology.
Live365 is another example of the trend. Launched by private jet charter company, 365 Aviation, the new platform offers a collection of inspiring and enriching travel experiences, in collaboration with some of the world’s leading luxury brands.
Curated in partnership with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Taittinger Champagne, Princess Yachts, PelorusX, Jaeger LeCoultre, The Oxford Ski Company, The Ultimate Travel Company and Your Golf Travel Select, the idea is that travellers can tap into bespoke experiences via private jet, facilitated directly through 365 Aviation.
From yacht explorations in Tahiti to private tours of Swiss watch manufacturers; exclusive use of a Champagne château to luxury expeditions in Antartica, the idea was born out of an increased demand for meaningful, memorable travel experiences.
“It is something which really grown in light of the global pandemic,” says the brand. “Individuals are travelling less frequently, but more purposefully. By working in collaboration with like-minded luxury brands, Live365 will deliver enriching itineraries through a single point of contact. What’s more, each partner is committed to sustainability and communities, through a wide range of philanthropic and environmental pursuits across the globe. These include The Pelorus Foundation, Climatecare, The World Land Trust, The Marine Conservation Society and Clearwater.”
Finally, renowned for its bespoke experiences, Pelorus also sees a demand in remote travels being key for next year. Co-founder Geordie Mackay-Lewis comments: “Pelorus specialises in secluded and private experiences; these have been central to our trips since inception and, due to recent events, we are are seeing even more demand for this type of travel. We would recommend visiting the islands of northern Norway, the jungles of Costa Rica and the deserts of Namibia for true seclusion. We would also recommend chartering a yacht in the Galapagos or Antarctica for the ultimate in being at one in the wilderness.”
Up next: The Travel Boom in Africa and Hidden Europe
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