Today in the final article in my Travel Trend 2021 series, I look ahead to brighter times. My fifth trend is ‘Regenerative Travel’ – which covers the increase in companies having an eco-aware ethos and ‘give-back’ mentality – and which has been growing in momentum even before Covid hit.
Since the travel world has been on ‘pause’, thus allowing many destinations to go through a ‘reset’, this idea of ‘travel for good’ has flourished. It has been coupled with reports of an abundance of wildlife and nature returning to areas previously affected by over-tourism. This time apart has also given the opportunity for some hotels, tour companies, safari outfits and the like to rethink about their offering and how they can improve their environmental impact. Will travellers post-Covid think more carefully about where they go, and what they choose to do, in light of their impact on the planet? It is looking hopeful that this will indeed be the case.
Today, I also consider my sixth trend – what I am calling ‘Optimistic Travel’ – because there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite these current hard times, many in the travel industry are quietly looking ahead and planning for the time when we can get out and explore again with plenty of new openings and new ventures still in the pipeline.
We’ve heard about sustainable travel, green travel and eco-aware initiatives. but what does regenerative travel actually mean? It’s a phrase doing the rounds in the industry right now, but is it just another buzzword to bamboozle us?
While it has its roots in sustainable travel – which seeks to minimise the negative effects tourism has on the planet – regenerative travel aims to go one step further by actually repairing the harm that has already been done with travellers keen to help ‘heal’ the destination they find themselves in.
New companies – such as the booking agency (and aptly named) Regenerative Travel – does some of the hard-work for conscious travellers wanting to do good while away. It vets hotels on their so-called green attributes and brings together those that replenishes the environment and work with local communities.
Meanwhile, the new Future of Tourism Coalition – which brings together six non-profit organisations such as the Centre for Responsible Travel, The Travel Foundation and Sustainable Travel International – has drawn up a strong set of Guiding Principles for long-term, sustainable growth. “As world tourism begins recovering from the coronavirus crisis, the Future of Tourism Coalition shares a global mission: to place destination needs at the center of tourism’s new future,” it says.
Already some 22 travel companies, including G Adventures, the Slovenian Tourist Board, and the Adventure Travel Trade Association, have signed up to adhere to the coalition’s 13 guiding principles, which include tenets such as ‘demand fair income distribution’ and ‘mitigate climate impacts’.
When it comes to destinations leading the way, however, South Australia is setting a sparkling example. The South Australian Tourism Commission has long worked to protect and promote its pristine natural environments, rich cultural heritage and vibrant local communities for the common good. Furthermore, it has renewed its commitment for 2021, with a raft of new sustainable travel initiatives across the state of South Australia.
This follows a far-reaching and wider commitment in the region, which began with the city’s inception. Adelaide City was actually designed in a planned way to make the most of the environment and to preserve it through the development of the parklands; a commitment which still exists today. Other state initiatives include a focus on recycling – South Australia was the first state to offer money for recycling bottles and banned single use plastic bags in 2009. Commitment to renewable energy – South Australia is the highest producer of wind energy in Australia and has one of the largest lithium-ion batteries in the world. Carbon Neutral Adelaide – This is the South Australian community’s shared ambition to make the city of Adelaide a carbon neutral city. Nature Based Tourism Co-Investment Fund – Part of the AUD$22 million Parks 2025 Strategy, this $5m co-investment fund encourages operators to develop quality sustainable tourism experiences across the state to help position South Australia as a world class eco-tourism destination. Commitment to protecting Aboriginal Culture – Protecting Australia’s indigenous culture in South Australia is particularly evident in the arts and tourism sectors. In 2023, a AUD$150 million Aboriginal Cultural Centre, in Adelaide’s cultural precinct, will open providing a new home for the South Australia Museum’s stunning collection of Aboriginal artefacts.
Furthermore, when it comes to tourism for 2021 there are plenty of initiatives to help lessen your footprint on the environment, such as staying in off-grid houses and eco-conscious accommodation. Included are the Oceanview Eco Villas on Kangaroo Island, CABN tiny houses in the Adelaide Hills and Camel Beach House on the Eyre Peninsula.
Citing ‘Impact Awakening’ as one of its key travel trends for 2021 in its Future of Travel report, Booking.com agrees that “the impact Coronavirus has had on the environment will inspire more travellers to make more sustainable travel choices.” The company has combined research from more than 20,000 travellers across 28 countries, with insights from proprietary search and endorsement data as well as over 20 years’ of travel expertise, to reveal predictions for the future of travel – in the coming year and beyond.
“With 53% of global travellers wanting to travel more sustainably in the future, we expect to see a more eco-conscious mindset in 2021 and beyond, as Coronavirus has amped people’s awareness about their impact on the environment and local communities. More than 69% expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options and travellers will consequently visit alternative destinations in a bid to avoid travelling during peak season and overcrowding. This desire also means that 63% will stay away from crowded tourist attractions, indicating that destinations will need to adapt new, smart crowd management measures to appease travellers visiting their country.
“There are also strong signals for travel operators to be more transparent about how travellers’ money is being used to rebuild a community, paving the way for more regenerative tourism. Two-thirds of respondents indicate that they want their travel choices to also support the destination’s recovery efforts, and more than half want to see how their money is going back into the local community.”
Headed up by the Tollman family, and renowned for its extraordinary boutique properties, spanning across three continents, Red Carnation Hotels has also put sustainability and conservation at the centre of its strategy for the future. Led by the company’s not-for-profit platform TreadRight, and spanning the next five years, the How We TreadRight with The Travel Corporation initiative is based on 11 goals which address the environmental footprint and the community impact of its business and operations.
The goals look at the issues that are imminently facing the travel and tourism industry including: climate change, sustainable food production, responsible consumption, single-use plastics, over tourism, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and animal welfare.
Experiential travel company Pelorus is also focusing on ‘giving back’, with the announcement of the launch of The Pelorus Foundation, a stand-alone, registered charity, with a dedicated team and board of trustees to ensure it delivers far more than a traditional travel company foundation. The new conservation charity has a mission to protect, preserve, and promote ‘at risk’ wildlife and environments across the planet.
“The goal of the Foundation is to protect hundreds of square miles of wilderness by 2025,” says the charity. “This will be achieved by creating, and building on, projects that accelerate the pace of change towards a more sustainable future. The Foundation will support a spread of marine and land-based programmes, in partnership with local charitable partners, to tackle core sustainability issues such as wildlife crime, marine conservation, and forest protection. These will be selected for their ability to make the greatest impact on the degradation of flora and fauna, and to empower and employ local communities.”
“Never before has there been a greater need to promote a kinder and gentler way to explore our beautiful, yet fragile planet,” says Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO of Preferred Hotel Group, which has announced the launch of a new sustainable hotel brand, Beyond Green.
“Driven by our brand promise, Believe in Travel, which guides every decision we make as a company, we believe that now is the time to go big and be bold as we look to the future of travel,” she says.
Beyond Green brings together a global portfolio of 24 founding member hotels, resorts, and lodges that exemplify sustainable tourism leadership. Included are &Beyond Bateleur Camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya; Aristi Mountain Resort in Zagori, Greece and The Brando in Tetiaroa, French Polynesia. “Driven by purpose, the new brand represents Preferred’s steadfast commitment to build a better and brighter future for travel in a way that also helps to protect the planet for future generations.”
Leading travel PR and media agency Mason Rose, which counts a line-up of global luxury clients under its belt, has also identified ‘regenerative travel’ as one of the trends which it believes will be big in 2021.
“Regenerative travel is the latest evolution of sustainable travel and eco-tourism, and highlights the importance, not just of avoiding damaging destinations we visit, but of making positive contributions to leave them better than when we arrived,” says the company. “It is particularly important in the wake of the economic disaster that the pandemic has wrought on communities around the world.”
One example of how this is carried out in reality is at Joali Maldives, which invites guests to help its Marine Biology Team with their pioneering Reef Restoration Project. The team are dedicated to nurturing what they call their ‘fragments of hope’ – tiny corals that they hope will eventually transplant onto the existing house reef to help it regenerate after 2016 extreme El Niño event, in which 95% of the Maldives corals were bleached due to elevated ocean temperatures. Guests can scuba-dive down to the coral nursery to attach new coral fragments and take measurements to monitor existing fragments’ growth.
We’re all aware of the devastating impact that Covid has had on the aviation industry. But signalling a tiny green shoot of hope is the fact that Virgin Atlantic has announced a new route between London Heathrow and the island of St Vincent, starting in June 2021, with flights on sale now.
“St Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as the Caribbean region as a whole, represent an extremely exciting opportunity for us,” says Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer Juha Jarvine. “With many islands implementing rigorous COVID-19 protocols, including testing before arrival and a short quarantine period for visitors, the islands are open for tourism and are a haven for travellers in search of sun.”
It means that the airline now flies to the following islands in the region: Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Tobago, Jamaica’s Montego Bay and Havana in Cuba.
Hospitality companies are also forging ahead with exciting new openings for later this year. Among the notable openings are the two new OKU Hotels – set to open this summer in Kos, Greece and Ibiza. The brand will offer laid-back luxury with a focus on local dining, good design and wellness.
Promising a ground-breaking design and vision, the Xigera Safari Lodge, opens this month in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Every aspect has been handcrafted to “beguile guests’ senses and stir their souls” – from the evocative interiors to one-of-a-kind encounters on offer to guests.
Also flinging open its doors for the first time this month is Paradero Todos Santos in Baja California Sur. The new hotel brand – Paradero Hotels – is being touted as Mexico’s first ‘luxury experience-inclusive’ brand, meaning that while guests stay in beautifully-desgined suites, it will focus on life-changing experiences which “elevate communities, promote authentic encounters, and minimize environmental impact”.
Meanwhile Six Senses looks set to open two new hotels this year. Six Senses Shaharut, in the Arava Valley of the Negev Desert, Israel, will open in March, and will have 58 ultra-luxe and sustainable suites and villas. The on-site activity center will include an Earth Lab, camel stables, Senses Spa, authentic Bedouin dining experience and more. Six Senses Papagayo in Costa Rica, on the other hand (still a work in progress) will have a forested beachfront dotted with 41 secluded pool villas. At its heart will be the archetypal Six Senses wellness programme plus an organic farm located in the centre of the property, inspiring the chef’s menus and signature spa treatments.
Rosewood Hotels is another brand showing no signs of slowing down and has announced its reopening of the iconic Rosewood Le Guanahani, St Barth after its major overhaul, the new Rosewood Sao Paulo in Brazil – which features a striking vertical garden tower, designed by Jean Nouvel with rooms designed by Philippe Starck – and Rosewood Villa Magna in Madrid, Spain.
Finally, Campbell GRAY Hotels has announced its new Palácio de Canavezes property opening in Porto, Portugal, in May. This will be followed up by its new boutique hotel and clubhouse project at Kings Polo Academy in Cairo, Egypt due to open in early 2022.
Spencer Yeo, development & commercial director at Campbell GRAY Hotels, says: “Travel has always had intrinsic value, but from now on it will hold even more importance. As soon as it’s possible to get away, everyone will be rebooking their missed trips from 2020, and looking for the dream holidays they have been thinking about whilst quarantined at home. Family holidays, bucket-list trips, adventure travel and wellness retreats are likely to be particularly popular. With airlines, hotels and cruise lines offering enticing offers to encourage customers back, 2021 will be the springboard to record travel numbers.”
*Coming up later this month, I reveal some more leading hotel openings for 2021