From the rise in eco-friendly hotels to the search for authentic experiences, the world of travel has never been so ‘woke’. In a series of articles looking at what’s new and what’s coming up on the horizon, I reveal what’s happening in travel for 2020.
1. Green, green grass of home
Make no mistake – with the effects of climate change starting to hit home – the travel industry – along with many travellers – are starting to think responsibly. From the introduction of vegan hotels – yes, they are a thing! (Saorsa 1875 in Perthshire, Scotland is, in fact, the UK’s first vegan hotel) – to a plethora of sustainable initiatives across an increasing number of eco-aware hotels (such as eliminating plastics, introducing ‘give-back’ activities and using local produce and communities in hotels) – it has become easier to travel more ethically.
Amadeus, one of the world’s leading travel tech companies, has included ‘sustainable travel’ as one of its top ten trends for 2020, saying that: “Sustainability has become a deciding factor for individuals purchasing travel and accommodation, and travel companies are adapting their offers to reflect this. From reducing plastic in hotels, to the creation of sustainably-focused package holidays, consumers are offered a wide choice when it comes to an eco-stay and are starting to hold companies accountable if they don’t meet requirements. Holidaymakers are keen to ensure that their trips will have a positive impact on the globe and there is an increased interest in understanding how tourism negatively impacts or benefits a local economy.”
Positive Travel, an eco tour operator, is one such company which can advise on how to travel as sustainably as possible, and, importantly, how to navigate the tendency among the industry to ‘greenwash’ trips.
“We aim to take the uncertainty out of booking an ethical trip, by sourcing genuinely responsible lodging, guides and destinations. If flying is a must, offsetting can’t hurt,” the company says. Its recommendations, for those who still want to take off to the skies, include the Bali Eco Village in Indonesia, EcoCamp Patagonia in Chile and the Orion Treehouses in Saint-Paul de Vence, South of France.
With the rise in ‘flygskam’ (or ‘flight shaming’) coupled with ‘tagskyrt’ (or ‘train-bragging’) – two Swedish terms which seem to capture the zeitgeist and which are all the rage on social media – conscious travellers are also turning to alternative modes of transport as opposed to flying. As a response, tour operator Original Travel, has collated a collection of train-only itineraries for the likes of Italy, Canada and Japan, and is developing a new range of trips that are entirely train-based, starting from London St Pancras and travelling deep into Southern Europe and even Scandinavia.
Hawai’i, on the other hand, is promoting an awareness for visitors to ‘travel in harmony with the people and environment’. Its just-launched ‘Share the Aloha’ initiative forms part of the destination’s sustainable tourism drive and includes a new educational website, and ‘pono pledge’ video inviting visitors to adopt an ‘aloha’ mindset when travelling to the Islands, respect their surroundings and ensure they travel in a responsible (pono) way.
Finally, in London, Treehouse – the little ‘brother’ of eco-luxury 1 Hotels brand – has recently opened its doors in Langham Place, Marylebone. Described as playful, witty and rustic, it has been designed to ‘inspire joy’ with a strong sense of community. Highlights include resident horticulturalists who give tours of local gardens and Backyard, a coffee/wine bar that feels like an actual treehouse, with exposed reclaimed wood and branches.
What’s more, the hotel also offers a long-list of sustainable initiatives. “Treehouse London has developed a robust composting and recycling program, and is committed to reducing single-use plastics throughout all its operations,” says the brand. “Every guest room is outfitted with organic cotton sheets, as well as locally-sourced bath and other products.”
2. So close, yet so far away
From searching for the darkest skies to uncovering an ‘undiscovered’ destination, many travellers want to feel they are getting away from it all, but not too far as to be completely out of touch. As a consequence, on the rise are astro-tourism, forest-bathing and remote mindful wellness experiences, which all offer this sense of ‘getting lost’ but are not too daunting to undertake.
However, taking this to a new level, and billed as the ‘ultimate adventure’, Black Tomato’s Get Lost service is an experience to help people disconnect, engage in the moment and push themselves to achieve a truly wonderful sense of satisfaction. Like rolling a dice and finding out where it takes you, the service works by you being taking to unknown, uncharted destinations and then charges you with exploring your way through them.
“By starting with the feeling of being genuinely lost, you will set out (under the distant watch of a dedicated support team) to find your inner steel, beliefs and passion to lead yourself to their journey’s end,” says Black Tomato. “All you’ll know is to show up at the airport and find out what’s next.”
Meanwhile, Scott Dunn is offering tailormade tours to lesser-known parts of Finnish and Swedish Lapland as a response to an increasing demand for alternative and boundary-pushing wellness practices. On the cards is cold therapy, breathing retreats and Arctic cocooning in Finnish forest-lands – all of which leave guests feeling de-stressed and motivated.
“As areas of Finnish Lapland become overrun with tourists, Scott Dunn’s travel experts have identified new off-the-grid locations such as Inari, in northern Finnish Lapland,” says the company. “This remote destination is one of the best spots in the world to view the Northern Lights and guests can explore a pristine winter wilderness, experiencing Sami culture by cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or husky safari.”
Black Tomato, meanwhile, has named the Westman Islands as one of its top destinations to visit for 2020. The remote islands, off the south coast of Iceland, are largely uninhabited, except for the largest – Heimaey, which has a population of 4,135, most of whom live in the archipelago’s main town, Vestmannaeyjabær. Six of the other islands have hunting cabins, where you can dine, while spotting the wildlife, which includes puffins, whales and a new colony of belugas. Heimaey is, in fact, home to a number of innovative eateries, such as Slippurinn, a family-run restaurant in an old shipyard which evokes a sense of nostalgia, and which serves seasonal dishes which rely on foraged herbs and produce.
3. Latino love
With a whole host of exciting openings for Latin America next year, the region is set to remain firmly on the radar with curious travellers.
Luxury tour company, Kuoni is featuring Colombia in its programme for the first time, signalling its arrival among well-heeled travellers. Its escorted touring collection has a focus on sustainable, community-oriented excursions and its new 12-night tour of Colombia takes in the country’s coffee-growing region and the UNESCO-listed old town of Cartagena.
Scott Dunn also has Colombia in its sights, calling it South America’s ‘rising star’, and with direct flights from London to Bogota, it is now easier to reach than ever. For those seeking adventure, it offers tailor-made journeys to the plains of Los Llanos – the savannahs and wetlands extending from eastern Colombia over the border into Venezuela. Here guests can stay in new tented camps, Corocora Camp and experience the culture of the Llaneros, the traditional herdsmen or cowboys of this region.
New for Cartagena, is the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Cartagena, which is scheduled to open in 2021. While the two existing Four Seasons properties in Colombia Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota and Four Seasons Hotel Bogotá have both started to offer cultural and graffiti tours that provide unique insights into the city’s creative underworld.
Meanwhile, the opening of the new Rosewood São Paulo next year will mark the first South American property for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. Located in the heart of São Paulo’s Cidade Matarazzo, a complex of elegant buildings dating back to the 20th century, the new hotel will be situated in a former hospital. Architecture and design for the new property will be led by figures including the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the designer Philippe Starck, as well as the renowned Brazilian artists Vik Muniz and Saint-Clair Cemin.
To the Mexican state of Baja California, next, and a flurry of new openings for Los Cabos, that confirm the destination as one of the most popular among luxury travellers. Following the recent opening of the new Nobu Hotel Los Cabos (which includes a golf course designed by Tiger Woods, a sprawling destination spa and, of course, a Nobu restaurant, along with an outpost of California’s highly popular Malibu Farm), the Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos has also opened its doors. Also on the horizon is a new, and much-anticipated Aman offering – Amanvari – found on the East Cape of the Baja Peninsula and due to open in 2021, followed by Park Hyatt at the end of 2020.
Most anticipated, perhaps, is a new Panama opening – with the new Islas Secas, a privately-owned archipelago of 14 beautiful islands in the Gulf of Chiriquí, which welcomes its first guests next month. Described as a ‘celebration of conservation, Panamanian culture and simple, elegant adventure hospitality’, the resort has a natural, bohemian-luxury feel. A Tented Spa, immersed in the islands’ tropical forest, will offer holistic wellness experiences with an ethical slant, taking inspiration from plants endemic to the island, such as coconuts, wild jasmine and ylang ylang.
Set off-the-grid, 33 nautical miles from the nearest town, Islas Secas is currently home to four individually-designed Casita sites, sleeping up to a total of just 18 guests on one of the islands – with more to open by Spring next year. Each Casita has been built to feel like its own private sanctuary, embraced by the island’s lush tropical forest and offering ocean views, complete with an outdoor deck, plunge pool and thatched-roof cabana.
The resort also boast strong eco-reserve credentials, powered by and in harmony with its surrounding environment. The property’s energy is solar-generated; food waste is recycled; wastewater is re-used for irrigation; and three-quarters of the archipelago has been left untouched and undeveloped by the human hand. “A sincere commitment to sustainability is at the core of Islas Secas’s ethos, infrastructure, operation and heritage every day,” says the hotel.
Finally, taking travellers in a whole new direction (literally) is the new Virgin Galactic Spaceport, which is found in New Mexico and which plans to launch Virgin’s first space flight next year. The interiors of the terminal, designed by the London-based Viewport Studio have been intended to wow tourists before they travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere. The Gateway to Space building, meanwhile, was designed by Foster & Partners and forms part of Spaceport America – the ‘world’s first’ commercial spaceport, occupying an 18,000-acre plot of land at the basin of New Mexico’s Jorndada del Meurto Desert.
This landscape was the inspiration behind the building’s interior scheme, developed by Viewport Studio. Founded by Singaporean-born, London-based designer and architect, Voon Wong, Viewport has previously collaborated with Virgin on the design of its Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircrafts.
On the ground floor – which has been named Gaia, after the Greek goddess that represents Earth – are a variety of sitting areas where staff and customers can relax or grab something to eat during the day. Furnishings and fittings in earthy desert-inspired hues, such as sunny yellows, rusty reds and green tones reminiscent of desert vegetation, represent departure to, and return from space, while the use of natural materials aims to bring in the stunning surroundings. It’s out of this world.
To be continued…