In this first in a series of articles, I talk to travel experts about how we will travel next year and beyond. Insider experts, some of the industry’s leading companies and prestigious. hotel brands reveal their insights as to the growing travel trends on the horizon and what travellers want from exploring the world.
Today, I look at the rising trend of looking for a feeling of familiarity when travelling, and the quest to follow a path less travelled.
- FINDING FAMILIARITY
The best journeys bring the warmest memories and when we think of booking a holiday, our thoughts often turn to previous experiences which have formed ‘iconic’ status in our minds. Trying to recapture those good times leads many of us to rebook the same place – whether it is the exact same hotel or maybe just the same destination – time and time again.
Going back to what we know not only brings a sense of comfort and familiarity but, on a practical level, it means we know what we are getting for our money – a vital consideration especially when the world’s economic status is unstable.
Whether they are the seaside memories of childhood or the adventures of our youth, some of the best experiences we have had when travelling are the basis for trying to recapture the very best of times.
Aman resorts are among the most celebrated properties in the world, found in some of the globe’s most breath-taking locations. So wondrous are their curated hotels and immersive experiences that the brand famously has its own collection of discerning guests who call themselves ‘Aman Junkies’ – a group who only holiday in a given destination if there is an Aman resort.
As well as properties in London and the Maldives, Baglioni Hotels & Resorts is renowned for its archetypal Italian hospitality found across its properties in Venice, Florence, Rome, the Tuscan Maremma and Sardinia, as well as a new property due to open next year in Milan. Guido Polito, CEO for Baglioni Hotel & Resorts, reports a high returning number of guests and explains it by saying:
“Our guests enjoy returning to our properties every year as they’re located in the world’s finest destinations, exemplary service is always guaranteed and the Italian spirit and culture is ever present. Baglioni brings fine Italian luxury and the Italian way of life to the world. We ensure all guests are in their element, authentic Italian hospitality is key to everything we do.”
Meanwhile, Sascha Hemmann, managing director at Rosewood Bermuda says that many of his guests return to the hotel not only because of its luxury interiors.
“Rosewood Bermuda has remained a favourite among many returning guests, offering an understated refinement and elegance, while continuing to evolve into the impressive property guests have come to know and love,” he says.
“But Rosewood Bermuda is more than just a hotel, it is an integral part of the island community and reveals the overall essence of Bermuda. Being a timeless destination, rooted in history and culture, without compromising on the latest trends, it keeps travellers coming back to the island, year after year. The majority of returning guests at Rosewood Bermuda are families and couples who see Bermuda as their second home.”
One&Only Resorts are found in some of the most glorious corner of the globe and the brand has a strong loyal customer base. Brett Armitage, chief commercial officer for Kerzner International, which owns One&Only, reveals more:
“At One&Only, we have a very high percentage of guests who return to our resorts time and time again. Many of them have been known to book their next stay before they have even checked out. There a number of reasons for this, over and above the beautiful destinations in which our resorts are located. At centre stage is our guest experience and supreme levels of personalised service, brought to life by the colleagues at our resort who go above and beyond every time. In addition, the fact that many of our colleagues have been with us for many years, decades in some cases, has meant that our guests have established relationships with these colleagues – another reason why many return each year.”
He continues: “We keep our offerings fresh and constantly deliver experiences that are going to excite our guests and provide unparalleled access and insight into the destination. From pop-ups from Michelin-starred chefs, such as Anne-Sophie Pic at One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius, and vibrant New Year’s Eve parties with world-acclaimed performers at One&Only Reethi Rah, to innovative and life altering wellness experiences with Chenot at our resorts in Montenegro and Desaru Coast, and spiritual journeys unlike any other at One&Only Mandarina in Mexico.”
Hillside Beach Club in Turke guests who have visited every year for 20 years. “Some of the reasons for this include our long sunny season from April-November, “ says the hotel. “And the tranquil setting of the resort, in its private bay. We also pride ourselves on the variety of activities we offer – from wakeboarding lessons to treks around the nearby Kayakoy Ghost town. Every year we try to offer something a little different, whether it’s our filmmaking workshops with the British Film Institute or Jazz Yoga and concerts with the EFG London Jazz Festival. Our repeat guest rate has risen every year in the last decade, we expect it to rise again for 2023.”
In the UK, Stephen Fearnley, general manager of Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa in Warwickshire, says that by treating guests “like family” they return to what is familiar. “We know that we are a real retreat destination for pure rest and relaxation that is second to none. Why risk it elsewhere when you know that Billesley has everything under one roof…or terrace?” he says.
Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer for Brand USA, says that repeat visitors to the USA “are looking for fresh perspectives on familiar destinations”, while those booking one of the luxury homes with The Greek Villas often seek a connection to the local culture.
Co-founder of The Greek Villas, Vasilis Pandis comments: “We have 40% of our guests who return each year. They revisit a destination because they identify with the culture and have a relationship with a place. Guests who share a positive experience in a destination can also serve as ‘location ambassadors’ who will educate and inform other potential travellers to the destinations.”
- AWAY FROM THE CROWDS
Veering off the path well-travelled has always been an integral raison d’être for any seasoned travel. But the desire to find the planet’s more remote places and destinations of intrigue is growing with leading tour operators predicting a rise in travel to more off-the-beaten-track places.
Experts in tailor-made travel, Audley Travel reports that it is partly a side-effect of emerging from the pandemic – as borders reopened gradually, travellers have experienced the unprecedented luxury of being able to explore some destinations away from the crowds. “These opportunities are quickly passing in many popular spots, but can still be found in other, off-the-beaten track destinations,” it says.
Among its predictions for 2023, is hiking in Japan, particularly tackling the Pilgrimage route Kumano Kodo in Honshu. “Despite its UNESCO World Heritage status, the route is very rural and takes clients away from crowds. The route follows in the footsteps of people from all levels of Japanese society who, for more than 1,000 years, have walked to the three Grand Shrines on the Kii Peninsula.
“The Nakahechi route from Takijiri-oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the Grand Shrines, was typically used by the Imperial Family and is lined with Oji shrines where pilgrims can make offerings and perform purification rituals. The trail covers 24 miles over two days and is clearly marked so clients don’t need a guide. The route takes hikers through thick forest, with occasional hamlets of houses where the owners welcome hikers for tea.”
Audley’s specialists also recommend trips to Bhutan and Sri Lanka, countries only recently available again to travellers and, therefore, receiving lower visitor numbers.
“One of the final destinations to reopen its borders following the pandemic, the Kingdom of Bhutan is pursuing a low impact tourism model, with a focus on its remote hiking trails,” Audley says. “Fortresses, called Dzongs, (such as the giant Punakha Dzong), and chortens (shrines) dot the hillsides, and clients can gain an insight into Buddhist life by visiting tiny villages and staying in lodges tucked into the valleys. Clients will climb up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched over a cliff near Paro and explore the Kingdom’s other remote hiking trails with a local expert guide.”
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is now open again for tourists, following a challenging couple of years. Audley says its clients can choose to visit the cultural triangle, explore tea estates and relax on the beaches. They can admire the cave frescoes of Dambulla and climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock’s fortress, or explore the ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Wildlife lovers can look for elephants, birdlife and, if they are lucky, a leopard, in the Yala National Park.
Renowned for its curated travel itineraries and immersive experiences, Black Tomato has released its ‘Where to Go’ report for 2023 and says: “At Black Tomato, an inherent curiosity and drive to pioneer new ways to experience destinations, support local economies and protect the natural world drive us continually forward. For our ‘Where to Go’ report for 2023, what connects each place is a sense of discovery, compelling cultural connectivity, and an unabashed spirit of adventure.”
Chile’s Patagonia National Park is on the radar, says Tom Marchant, founder of Black Tomato, due to “its genuine remoteness and isolation.”
“It feels like you are being let in on a secret, and the only keepers of this secret are the flora and fauna themselves. To celebrate this spirit of exploration, we are developing an exclusive new Chilean itinerary that will explore newly protected Patagonian wilderness, starting at the just-opened Explora Patagonia, and will also include experiences in Santiago and the Atacama.”
Marchant adds: “Patagonia National Park is an internationally-acclaimed example of grassland conservation, and the itinerary will include a host of experiences designed to showcase first-hand how Chile has successfully reversed centuries of livestock-induced desertification, and reintroduced key plant and animal species, that now thrive under the watchful eye of conservationists.”
Another region of note for 2023, says Black Tomato’s Tom Marchant, is Canada’s Northwest Territories and The Yukon.
“Stemming from a desire of our travellers to experience more off-the-beaten track discoveries, and also lifeways, Canada’s Northwest Territories and The Yukon serve as a reminder of why we travel,” he says. “It offers the thrill of the unexpected, the joy of an epic adventure, and the desire to experience lifeways that we are unaccustomed to.”
Marchant continues: “The Northwest Territories are teeming with wildlife, indigenous-owned lodging, and exceptional positioning to, season-dependent, witness the majesty of the Northern Lights; while The Yukon is marked by historic landmarks, rich culture and dazzling landscapes. What makes it most special, however, are the native peoples you will meet along the way.”
Meanwhile, Original Travel, renowned for its unique, crated itineraries which adhere to the company ethos that ‘Life is in the Detail’ predicts that Guyana, in South America, is a prime destination for next year.
“Travel has changed since the pandemic, and mostly for the better,” the company says. “No longer taken for granted, holidays have become more meaningful and the appetite to be out in the big wide world, visiting new places and trying new things is greater than ever.
“The most exciting new flight route to launch next year (in our humble opinion) is British Airways’ Gatwick to Georgetown, Guyana service, taking off from March 2023,” says Original Travel. “This opens up one of our favourite destinations, which is not only fantastic for wildlife (85% of the country is still pristine rainforest), but is also an exemplary destination for one of our predictions for why we’ll be travelling – Community-Based Tourism (CBT). CBT is all about choosing accommodation and experiences run and owned by the local community, so your visit directly benefits local people.”