Travel is changing, this we know. To be fair, everything these days is changing, but as we move into the latter part of summer and destinations across the globe continue to cautiously reopen, the idea of vacationing again doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did even a month or two ago. But how we do that now is a completely new experience.
“The ironic thing about all of these trends that we’re seeing is that if you look at what, especially the bigger brands are doing, they’re designing these protocols for effectively, the most anal, most suspicious, most worried traveler. But that’s actually not who’s traveling right now,” Paul Tumpowsky, founder and CEO of Skylark, said at Worth’s latest session of The Next Normal, which also featured Kerry Bergen, senior director of leisure and entertainment at the Baccarat Hotel New York; Genora Boykins, owner of La Maison in Midtown; and Kathleen Entwistle, private wealth advisor at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management.
“Now, what we’re seeing effectively…is a trend away from elevators,” Tumpowsky says. “The more likely a hotel has to have an elevator, the less likely it is to be booked right now. So, it gets you out of cities. It gets you more to open stuff. It gets you more to separate residence-type situations.”
And when Worth spoke with Nicola Shepherd, owner and director of The Explorations Company, a couple of months ago, she also shared the notion that vacationing now and in the near future favors far-flung locales, saying that people are now going to be looking to avoid crowds in their travels. “All of those people who were going to be getting to Rome or Paris historically, or something like that, are now all going to be looking at countrysides,” she says. “And so, it’s harder for countries like India specifically because people all flock to Rajasthan. Whereas now, there’s going to be a complete sea-change, I think, for the next 18 months most certainly, where everyone will be moving toward the Indian countryside.”
When it comes to traveling now, in pre-vaccine times, Shepherd recommends keeping everything private, from flights to accommodations, something the Explorations Company specializes in, while also planning philanthropically motivated trips.
“There’s been a definite sense of moving toward altruism. Having the United States, New York specifically, obviously as an epicenter, the UK and Italy have been too, and it’s been incredible to witness the amount of kindness and solidarity that has come through all of this. So, I think that definitely people are more aware from an altruistic perspective,” Shepherd said. “People are now looking to actually make a difference and not just travel for travel’s sake.”
So, in what destinations is this achievable right now?
“In Africa, Kenya certainly has the most extraordinary villas,” Shepherd says. Villas such as Laragai House on the Borana Conservancy or Ol Jogi in the Laikipia District serve as luxe villas that also support local communities, as well as aid in the conservation and preservation of African wildlife.
“Those with more of a sense of adventure, certainly they could consider Mongolia, if you want just absolutely nobody there. It tends to be less luxurious, but you can have these yurts completely to yourself,” Shepherd says.
If you wish to be on the water, there are options for that, too.
“There’s the most incredible sailing around on these private catamarans in Madagascar and in Mozambique, where you just don’t see another soul,” Shepherd says. “You’ve got magnificent islands to yourself. You’ve got the ocean to yourself, you can go scuba diving or sailing, snorkeling with whale sharks and swimming with dolphins and things like that but all completely privately.”
And in the new age of vacationing, Tumpowksy explains that trends are leaning toward longer trips with stops in multiple places within a country, making far-flung locales perfect destinations for your vacation right now.
Luckily, there is no shortage of beautiful, far-flung destinations you could visit in the world and still be away from throngs of people. So where is Shepherd excited to visit?
“All of Africa pretty much,” she says. “As standalones, I would say Kenya and Botswana over and above everywhere else. I think that those countries just offer the most extraordinary experiences, as well as luxury of accommodation. And also, specifically with Kenya, or Kenya and Tanzania, you can add the coast onto it as well. So either you can do something by private jet, but if you weren’t doing that and you were just trying to consolidate it and perhaps keep costs down, then you can just keep into the one country and…then stay in a villa on the Tanzanian coast. Or you could hire a catamaran boat and be taken around or a yacht or whatever the case may be. So, it complements each other really well.”
If you’re ready to take a vacation within the next year, Entwistle recommends you look into booking it now.
“In March—when we all realized we were going to be home—we all tried to order exercise equipment at home. Sold out. In the summertime, people with families tried to order the blow-up pools. Sold out. I’ve heard through some colleagues that the campers to drive around the country sold out,” Entwistle says. “I would argue that if you want to travel next year, you should start thinking about it now. If you wait until it’s time to go ahead and do it. You will not be able to book what you want to book. I would encourage individuals and clients to think ahead and book now for next year, for sure.”
“For sure,” Tumpowsky echoes. “This is an area that we’re spending a lot of focus on because we have some clients that had always had a desire to do something big for this summer, family vacations, safaris, South America, Galapagos, big trips that take a lot of planning. If you are not focused on planning this stuff for next summer now, you will not have the opportunity to do this stuff for two reasons. The first of which is there’s a lot of pent up demand…but more importantly, everyone that already had things booked for this year slotted into next year very easily with very flexible cancellations. So, they’re sitting on a lot of different inventory, and the one thing that the hotels really have done in addition to the cleanliness standards is they’ve recognized all of the uncertainty, so they’ve provided a huge amount of flexibility.”
And when it comes to health and safety, the travel industry is doing its best to provide a safe and comfortable experience.
“We’ve had clients traveling and none of them have come back sick,” Tumpowksy said. “I think the client who is traveling now is a little bit more flexible, willing to not worry about some of the minor things that have been going wrong. They’re making sure they’re following the protocols whether they want to, or the airlines or hotels are insisting they do.”
“I feel extremely safe,” Bergen mentions, noting that she has been traveling domestically recently. “I feel like every measure has been taken. I didn’t talk to one person from when I arrived at the hotel…They weren’t all over you… I personally think all my colleagues are taking every measure to make sure that their hotels are safe and ready for the guests.”
Boykins echoes this sentiment. “I think what it always boils down to is the way that we treat people and treat our guests,” she said. “I think it’s very important to us that we treat people the way that we would want to be treated. We’re very understanding. We try to show compassion and empathy to everyone who comes to us because we’re really thankful for their support and their business.”
Travel is changing, and with that so are the rules and ideals behind how and why we’re traveling. Luckily, Shepherd has a few tips for what you should be looking out for once you’re ready to travel again.
“Be aware [of] where your money is going,” Shepherd says. “Start looking more closely, pay more attention to where the funding actually goes toward. And I am quite emphatic about that because biggest is not always best. And so that’s the one thing, and I would say support places which support their own local community. Support places where the direct area is directly enriched, knowing that you’re doing so much more good.”
“I would want to know wherever I was traveling, just how are the lodgers? What are they doing in relation to the WHO regulations? What do they have in place for staff as well as for clientele, for their customers?” Shepherd continues. “And my other recommendation obviously is to do everything privately…And if you do that, you can most certainly achieve the most incredible holiday whilst also achieving your social distancing.”
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