The Future of Travel: Less for Longer
With the wide adoption of remote work and the technology to facilitate it, we believe that people will be able to have more enriching experiences - travelling less but for longer. This provides the hospitality industry with an exciting opportunity to better accommodate long term stays, ‘work from anywhere’ solutions and provide a ‘live-work-play’ experience.
Why is the future of travel about less but longer and how can brands pioneer solutions and innovations that appeal to this new working model? Let’s break it down.
Remember when nowhere in the world was off limits and last-minute travel was as easy as grabbing your passport and breezing through automated check-in just 45 minutes before a flight? Today is different. Admin mountains, shifting government advice and the prohibitive expense associated with travel today – think multiple PCR tests, potential quarantine, specialist insurance – mean extended stays are now both more time and cost effective. No wonder then that people who are travelling are now staying put for longer.
The beauty of this development is multifaceted. Fewer trips reduce stress for tourists and benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions. Meanwhile, extended stays encourage journeys that champion self-reflection and personal engagement – key attributes that destinations are looking to foster in their quest for ‘quality’ tourism and ‘slow travel’.
While this signals the end of budget travel (for now), the industry is tempting travellers with a range of innovative incentives designed to take the sting out of the pocket – and the process.
The Eurotunnel is joining airlines such as Easyjet and Finnair in offering its customers discounts on pre-departure and arrival PCR tests, meanwhile members of Hawaiian Airlines loyalty programme can now swap air miles for pre-travel Covid-19 tests. On the same theme, the Maldives has become the first destination to launch its own loyalty scheme, whereby members earn points each time they holiday in the archipelago.
Unless usurped by vaccine passports, PCR tests are here to stay. Rocco Forte Hotels is one of a number of resorts responding to traveller anxiety with a discounted “Fit to Travel” pre-flight testing service.
But incentivising isn’t just about discounts, it’s also about ease and convenience. The hotel industry is experimenting with in-room Covid tests, as seen at MGM Resorts Las Vegas, and via operators including Nemo Travel, which is arranging foreign access to PCR tests (in some far-flung and remote locations) and promising to cover the costs.
Once an irritating but very much optional expense, travel insurance is getting a makeover too. Now non-negotiable and expected to become a requirement for every trip, savvy travel insurance providers, destinations, airlines and hotel programmes are now offering Covid-specific insurance – some of it even for free.
Shangri-La will offer comprehensive travel insurance free of charge to its guests of its four hotels in Singapore including medical cover valued up to £138,250 if a guest is diagnosed with Covid-19 during their stay, plus round-the-clock support and emergency travel assistance.
Further examples include the Canary Islands, which became the first region in Spain to offer free travel insurance for overseas visitors, and the airlines Virgin Atlantic and Finnair, which are now offering international passengers free worldwide cover for expenses related to Covid-19.
Staying longer and working abroad means government sign off, now supported by myriad destinations launching specialist remote work visas. Caribbean nations including Bermuda, Barbados, Aruba, Domenica and Anguilla have all implemented extended visa schemes, joining the likes of the ‘Remotely from Georgia’ visa-free year-long programme and Estonia’s dedicated digital nomad visa for those earning €3,504 or more a month.
Helping travellers make the most of a workation in Saint Lucia is the island’s free “Live it” programme, which twins visitors with a local or “Live it Island Specialist” (provided by a Saint Lucian tour operator) who will act as a personal guide and concierge before and during a stay of up to six weeks.
So, what’s in it for brands?
Booking policies, discounts and brand interactions address the inevitable uncertainty of planning during a pandemic and encouraging hesitant travellers to take the plunge.
Those that choose slow travel are likely to be high-quality, long-term visitors that are looking for a second home rather than an escape from home – make sure to create spaces and incentives that cater to this tribe.
While extended visa programmes make remote working easily actionable, hotels can support workers with amenities that engage visitors, stimulate curiosity and keep money circulating in the community. How can you encourage travellers to jump into local life and support local businesses and the local economy?
It’s a Lifestyle
Championing a Live Work Play ethos means so much more than speedy wifi and communal desk space. As the remote work space becomes more sophisticated, smart providers are building communities that offer everything from business counselling to wine tastings in locations all around the world. So how do you choose the workation destination that’s right for you?
UK telecoms provider CircleLoop launched the Digital Nomad Index in January this year to help answer this question. The index ranks 85 countries based on factors such as cost of internet speed and rental apartments, search statistics for remote jobs and ranking on the World Happiness Report.
The results are in – and they might surprise you. Canada takes the top spot, followed by the UK, Romania, Sweden, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and, finally, Germany.
While the weather is clearly not a factor in this index, it’s a huge motivator for many in the ‘techpat’ community and part of the reason why many dedicated hubs are springing up in warmer parts of the world.
Now open in Belize is Umaya Village, a beachside utopia for remote workers and the first designated community of its kind in the Caribbean. The former hotel offers all the tech and toys necessary for a next level workation as well as weekly business seminars, “mentorship matching” and community meals that bring residents together. Plans for the Umaya Academy, a residential business school that teaches the skills needed to earn a remote income, are also underway.
Europe’s first digital nomad village opened on Madeira in February this year, offering remote workers a free wifi and work space plus access to a dedicated Slack community, meanwhile iLand is Estonia’s first coworking and co-living space, with a special focus on community, diversity and creativity.
In Germany, Coconat, “a space for anyone to be inspired, concentrate, work, and play in the countryside”, joins Spain’s PANDORAHUB – an incubator for people craving the rural lifestyle enabled by remote working – that runs month-long safaris to digital nomad-friendly villages.
Fancy starting the working day with a massage or a “life-enhancing” workshop? Balance Holidays is running a series of curated wellbeing workations that include all meals, wifi and a private space to work, plus access to gym equipment, activities and even babysitting services
For a truly off-grid experience, just hike into one of Japan’s national parks and set up shop: thanks to a government initiative, they now feature designated workstations available for digital nomads to rent.
What’s in it for brands?
As we embrace digital nomadism, it’s vital that brands create a world that caters to this burgeoning tribe of remote workers. While providing stable wifi and a place to get down to business are non-negotiable (a coworking space is a worthy investment) there’s so much more to providing guests with a truly enriching experience.
Think about how to create an air of affordable luxury: already have an existing workspace – how can you make it more inspiring? In order to maximise value, get to know your market: identify what techpats are willing to do without and implement cost-effective solutions that focus on value innovation – think innovative amenities and off-site experiences.
The best thing about an office is often a team – even those allergic to organised fun appreciate having a community on call to interact with. It's worth thinking about how you can foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and implement collaborative networks – or invest in tech – think Slack et al – that does the hard work for you.
There’s an angle here for eCommerce brands, too. As people move away from urban centres they will become increasingly reliant on online shopping – this provides an opportunity for online sales geared specifically towards the remote work community.
The Bottom Line
With budget travel now largely off the cards and spontaneous stays on pause for now, the way we travel is being turned upside down. But instead of a threat, it’s imperative that hospitality brands see this shift as an opportunity for growth and development: adopting strategies that speak to this new era will help you build resilience for the future while engaging and inspiring another breed of traveller.
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