In our widely globalised world, the ensuing pandemic has had a lasting effect on all industries, and especially travel. Luxury travel has to adapt to the new post-crisis reality and adopt new safety measures in the coming months. Travel industry’s leading experts are making their predictions for luxury travel in 2021. First of all, travel priorities will shift towards “slower travel” with a focus on local communities and the environment, as well as safety and sustainability. Some experts argue that city weekend breaks may decrease, while long vacations in remote areas will be on the surge, as pressure intensifies for a more sustainable air transport industry. There will also be an increased interest in domestic travel, exploring local areas.
Luxury travelers will most likely prefer remote locations and natural beauty, in search of calmness and peace. It is so much easier and enjoyable practicing social distancing on a remote Carribean island or hiking in the Alps. Small, private group activities such as sightseeing, hiking and trekking will be more attractive options than busy beach clubs or high end restaurants. Experts also predict that travellers will value more their wellness, and will seek to visit places where they can rejuvenate their physical and mental wellbeing.
Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer of Aman shares his view that in the future “people will want to get away from the crowds and find a peaceful sanctuary more than ever.” Learning from the increased interest in villas and private dining opportunities at Aman, Roland says that “privacy is the overarching trend as a result of this pandemic” – with the outcome being that luxury hotels and resorts will have to adapt to this demand. Private resorts and villas may well be the answer for luxury travel after COVID-19, as well as a boost in private aviation, in order to avoid the usual crowds.
Airports and airlines are already installing new safety measures in their protocol, such as mandatory masks for all crew and passengers, frequent temperature checks, removal of in flight magazine and reduced food service. According to Geneva-based air transport communications and IT specialist SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques), whose new paper “A ‘New Normal’: The changing face of air transport post-COVID-19” outlines how aviation can use technology to help cope with the “long and complex” impact of COVID-19, travel will become more and more “touchless” with the help of technologies.
Automation, contactless and self-service technology will create a “social distancing-friendly” passenger experience, such as face recognition for self check and automated baggage sanitisation. Some airlines are considering redesigning their airplanes in order to improve air filtration systems and increase space between passengers. Italian manufacturing firm Aviointeriors shared several renderings on Instagram of new seating concepts that would focus on physical separation among passengers in the same row by using plastic shells custom fit for each seat.
Hospitality industry is also taking increased actions in adjusting to the new safety requirements. Some hotel associations are drawing up new best practice guidelines for hotel staff, daily routines, and deep-cleans of rentals between guests, and these guidelines will be globally formalised in the coming months. Some pool areas will be closed or refurbished into patios, and the beach beds will be 6 feet apart. Breakfast buffets will be removed and only serve a la carte menu, to avoid contamination. Similarly, hotel rooms will undergo a deep clean and keep 24 or 48 hours in between guests.
The Four Seasons in New York has been following an incredibly austere set of temporary protocols since it started hosting health care workers in early April. Some of the changes such as social distancing measures, reduced capacity public spaces and redesigned restaurants, bars and fitness facilities are among those which will probably stay long term. “Once business levels resume, we recognize that the expectations and needs of hotel guests will have changed, and Four Seasons is well-positioned to emerge from this crisis with a new perspective on what luxury means for this new world: embracing technology, enhancing tools and training and strengthening our already stringent health, safety and cleanliness protocols” said Christian Clerc, Four Seasons’ president of global operations, in a statement.
Furthermore, there is an increased interest in companies like Xenex and Pure Room, which offer high-tech solutions for disinfection, air purification, and sanitization that can give guests more peace of mind than the standard housekeeping routine. In order for guests to feel comfortable staying in hotel rooms again, hoteliers will need to step up their cleaning procedures, and these tech-meets-hygiene companies can help.