Unsatisfied wanderlust looms large as lockdowns continue to hamper leisure travel. While satisfying one’s desire to travel has largely been put on pause, this has not suspended the travel industry’s efforts to create change and adapt in a speedy fashion which has resulted in an increase in consumer confidence and anticipation for post-pandemic travel. With this in mind, now is the perfect time to dream, plan and think ahead. We have the privilege of bringing you insights from some of the leading travel experts, individuals who not only work in travel, but are passionate about travelling themselves, to find out where they’ve been, where they’re dreaming of, and what their top tips are for future travel plans, sharing them with you for inspiration.
Expert Travel Tips
Rebecca Masri, Founder of Little Emperors – A First Hand Account Of Working From The Maldives, Avoiding The Second National Lockdown
“I’ve been staying in the Maldives for the past few weeks now at the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and couldn’t recommend it more. With wide open spaces, large rooms with workstations with a view, around the clock sanitisation of buggies and general surfaces, onsite doctors and covid tests and frequent covid testing for the staff, I’ve never felt so safe. From the moment we arrived our bags were sanitised and all the staff have been wearing masks- all measures which have been put in place are subtle, so you can still enjoy the luxury holiday experience. To make working from holiday a real possibility and as safe as possible, hotels need to be offering these frequent covid tests, temperature checks, implementing social distancing within restaurants and public spaces, and ensuring a regimented sanitisation programme is in place. For a safe post lockdown 2.0 trip I’d definitely recommend countries such as the Maldives and Anguilla which are on the UK’s travel corridor list, have plenty of sunshine and some incredible hotels to enjoy with added benefits and unbeatable value when booking with Little Emperors.”
Dana Dunne, CEO of eDREAMS Odigeo which includes, in the UK, Opodo
Before lockdown, my last trip was to visit the glorious Seville – a wonderful city with a superb history, culture and gastronomy: I recommend it heartily!
Having said that, when we are finally through Covid-restrictions I am planning on combining my two passions – biking and mountains – with a visit to Iceland. It’s good to dream about that country’s incredible landscapes, and to plan my bike routes through its volcanic geography…
Commenting on the impact of lockdown on 2021 bookings, an Opodo Spokesperson says:
“What we know from the past months is that consumers are sensitive to government advice but that the desire to travel remains strong: during lockdown searches indicate that we are planning ahead and, once borders open, bookings follow suit. We see that customers are increasingly likely to book at the last minute, and the demand for flexibility prevails.
Oliver Bell, Co-Founder at Oliver’s Travels – “If you’ve got airmiles then now is a good time to use them as there is much more availability than usual (typically it’s quite hard to find flights that suit on the dates you want to travel). But at the moment the world’s your oyster and most airlines are offering free cancellation if you can’t fly due to covid. So I’m booking Bali with a Singapore stopover for the summer holidays knowing that I can easily cancel at zero cost.”
Oliver’s Travels two Co-Founders Oliver Bell and Ravi Sabharwal
Ravi Sabharwal, Co-Founder at Oliver’s Travels – “I will be visiting France again next year. My family were able to head off for a brilliant week at our exclusive Chateau Le Brun this July. I have confidence we will be able to return to another similarly quirky and wonderful abode at some point next peak season. I would encourage travelling with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle as we were able to travel quickly, safely and observing social distancing measures.”
Owners & designers of Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa in Ostuni, Italy, Pascale Lauber and Ulrike Bauschke
“In 2021 we hope to be able to travel to Asia. We love the Asian culture, food and the quality of accommodation. It is somewhere that we can refuel on design inspiration. The need for quarantine won’t stop us, we will keep travelling as much as the restrictions will allow us and encourage others to do the same where they safely can. We would advise people to consider Puglia as a destination for the year ahead. It offers plenty of space, two amazing seas and so much more. Here and other destinations that are not overcrowded such as Australia or the Alps.”
Edip Ilkbahar, CEO at Hillside Leisure Group, which owns Hillside Beach Club in Fethiye.
Where do you plan to travel in 2021 and why? “I am planning to travel to Puglia in Italy abroad, apart from my local travel plans to the Aegean coast of Turkey, where also our renowned resort Hillside Beach Club is located. I visited Puglia a while ago and want to go back as there is still a lot to discover. I love the atmosphere and the feeling of the pure, undamaged nature and architecture. Being able to fly directly to Bari, my family and I will be able to discover all the areas with a short drive such as from Lecce to Ostuni, from Alberobello to St. Maria de Leuca and Gallipoli. This time, I am going to stay in Borgo Egnazia for a celebration. We look forward to the culinary delights, sightseeing and of course the sea and the secluded beaches.
What are these hotels/countries offering that makes it a safe choice? “When I look for a place to stay, I ask my friends and family for their recommendations. Most of the time, the best and safest choice is the one that comes highly recommended by those who have experienced it first-hand. I am a strong believer of feedback and we conduct guest surveys every week at our resort. Not surprisingly, this summer more than 75% of our first – time guests indicate that they chose Hillside Beach Club because it was recommended by a friend, especially with its safety and the “feel good” factor.”
Would you travel should you need to quarantine on your return? “After 2020, I am sure that everyone will be longing to travel and yes, I would travel if I need to quarantine on my return as well. Guests coming from the UK visited Hillside Beach Club despite this too. This year, we have all experienced working from home and some even working from abroad. It makes travelling an easier decision as we all can stay at home and continue our working schedules with good holiday memories in our minds.”
What are your top tips for travel in 2021? “My usual travel rituals are as follows: Firstly, for me travelling is all about discovering local gems, therefore I always meticulously plan my itinerary in advance. Do research on the internet, ask friends, read magazines and guides, so that I know what the must-do’s and must-sees are. I always make sure that I have some extra time for some spontaneous adventures too. However, there have been many times that I changed my travel plans last minute and enjoyed a more surprising holiday. Travelling for me is also a source of inspiration and learning about different ways of life. To be able to do that, you need to meet people, befriend locals and spend time with them. With sustainability a hot topic and ever-more important, environmentally responsible and eco-friendly destinations are also my preference. Most importantly for 2021, we need to follow the regulations for the health and wellbeing of the global community and ourselves. Under today’s circumstances, it is not a tip, but a must.”
Onur Takmak, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ONEE Luxury Travel, a new state of the art B2B booking platform.
Where do you plan to travel in 2021 and why? “While travel will likely continue to look different in 2021, I am steadfastly optimistic that we will see a re-insurgence of personal travel in the coming months. When looking at where to travel in 2021, a huge factor is considering how to minimise the risks of exposure. Like many, this coming year I find myself opting for more isolated escapes that are lesser known or populated and can promise comfort, security and safety. For me, private stand-alone villas, estates and private islands promise tranquillity and peace of mind, all the while guaranteeing high quality standards, service and safety measures. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to Greece, Barbados & Scandinavia with a handful of close family and friends.”
What are these hotels/countries offering that makes it a safe choice? Would you travel should you need to quarantine on your return? “There are several considerations that travelling will require for the foreseeable future, including methods of travel and which destinations have kept cases down, have good healthcare systems and measures in place for testing. Obviously, it is important to continue to follow government announcements around new travel restrictions and corridors. That said, as telecommuting becomes the norm, working from abroad has never been so appealing (or easy). We have already seen a huge uptick in extended vacations – particularly long-term villa rental holidays – made even easier in some countries with the introductions of new short-term working visas. Frankly, if I can go to Mexico for a month and continue to work, why not? Regardless of whether or not there is a 14-day quarantine upon return to the UK.”
What are your top tips for travel in 2021? “I would advise that when planning your next trip for 2021, you seek advisory assistance. Tailor-made stays organised by industry experts promise luxurious escapes in high-end accommodation with plenty of amenities, high-quality standards, and safety. Well-advised travel has never been so important in my opinion and working with an agent or tour operator helps assure that your bases are covered in the event of an emergency on the ground or cancellations need to be made prior to departure.”
Phil Aird-Mash, CEO of Inspiring Travel Company
Where do you plan to travel in 2021 and why? The Maldives at Easter, and then Antigua in the autumn, in October.
What are these hotels/countries offering that makes it a safe choice? I’m very confident that with advances in testing and treatment (plus all the excellent airline and hotel hygiene policies that we’ve already seen), we will be able to return to widespread travel in 2021 and do so confidently to a wide range of destinations. For me, the Maldives is the ultimate social distancing destination! It’s luxurious isolation, and nothing represents idyllic holiday recuperation and relaxation more than sharing a water villa with your nearest and dearest. The villa having a slide right into the Indian Ocean – like at Soneva Fushi, for example – is a highlight… for the kids, of course! The Caribbean, like so many destinations, relies heavily on tourism for their local economy so I can’t wait to get out and start supporting our partners and friends again. ITC has a deep heritage in the Caribbean, and so getting out to Antigua and visiting our wonderful team and suppliers is incredibly important. Enjoying the hotels, beaches and hospitality again is something I can’t wait to do – it’s also where I honeymooned, so holds a bit of a special place in my heart.
What are your top tips for travel in 2021? I think after repeated lockdowns, there’s going to be a huge desire to travel in 2021. Finding availability for your dream destinations, experiences and hotels will be tricky, with everyone looking to escape their sofas all at once! My top tip would be to book with tour operators who can provide the flexibility and reassurance needed most in these times, and also get the best deals and guaranteed availability thanks to industry contacts. Make sure you don’t miss out on experiencing all the things we love about travel that we’ve all been dreaming of for so long!
Nigel Franklyn, Spa Whisperer and Co-Founder of Moss Wellness Consultancy – his next project is the holistic wellness retreat, King’s Mansion, Goa
Where do you plan to travel in 2021 and why?
Most of my travel will be for work – to India and SE Asia. I just flew home to San Francisco from Europe, and I don’t think the long-haul travel process right now is particularly vacation friendly. Now I am back in Europe, I will keep my vacations local: Italy, France, Portugal, Greece and Spain.
What are these hotels/countries offering that makes it a safe choice?
I think Europe generally has a more clear and manageable path to controlling the pandemic and making visitors feel more at ease. Greece, for example, has a 17 page government regulation mandate issued by the Tourism Ministry that has so far managed to keep C19 numbers down and tourists safe., and I think that same kind of controlled response is clear throughout Europe. When you are on vacation, you should have faith that the hotel has the information and tools it needs for regulatory safety management, and that information and those tools come from a well organized governmental response.
What are your top tips for travel in 2021?
Key travel drivers have changed now. People are asking themselves if long-haul travel is essential. Medical Wellness destinations are seeing a gradual positive response from international guests because they tend to favor positively on the side of essential travel. Travelling with a purpose – especially work or wellness – is less affected by the general anxiety of going too far from home, so I think these trips are the ones to prioritise. From a purely practical perspective, my best piece of advice is to understand the pandemic climate, in the country you’re departing from and arriving in – you might be able to travel to a particular destination, but will you be able to get back home? I’ve had a few experiences this year where I’ve had to cut my trip short for fear of not being able to get home without quarantine, or at all – I think this is going to continue to be a question mark over the next months, so preparation is key.
Ivaylo Lefterov, Development Director, Svart
Where do you plan to travel in 2021 and why?
It goes without saying that we all are itching for the day when we can get on a plane to explore and enjoy different adventures and destinations. On my bucket list for sure would be rediscovering the old continent. Europe, in many ways, still has plenty of interesting and undiscovered corners and safe destinations. In a world where cancellations happen and travel restrictions change all the time, choosing a short-haul destination makes it easier to find a way back home if necessary! For me, South Africa is top of the list for a long haul adventure. The diversity of the country, the nature, the people and the food all make the longer journey worth it.
What are these hotels/countries offering that makes it a safe choice?
Living in Portugal has made me appreciate the small, quaint fincas and pousadas even more during the pandemic. The beaches are spectacular and laid back – the slower pace of life suits me well. Six Senses Douro Valley or the Craveiral Farmhouse in Alentejo are both great choices.
Italy is always a must – there are some spectacular places, like Capri, Amalfi, Puglia and Taormina. Spending some time there this summer was incredible, life felt somewhat normal. The hotels and the staff were incredible, especially at Villa Carlotta in Taormina. They were prepared and everything was spectacularly clean and the staff made you feel safe and appreciated all the time. Other favourites include the beautiful art hotel Asmundo di Gisira in Catania or Casa Angelica, my long time favourite in Amalfi.
Equally, less discovered destinations like Bulgaria, which was one of the countries with the lowest covid cases. When I visited this Summer, life really felt normal with very low infections during the summer and with less restrictions you can really enjoy the beautiful beaches, the incredible spas and the great food and wine. Once you remove yourself from the stereotypical mass all-inclusive locations there is an abundance of unspoiled nature, beaches, thermal baths and beautiful hotels. At The Cliff Obzor Bay, Sevtopolis Rose Valley and St Konstantin and Elena you get to experience a very different and pleasant holiday.
And of course there are the Nordics; exploring the Fjords of Norway and the buzzing streets of Stockholm and Copenhagen. My favourite spot in Stockholm is the AtSix hotel. In Copenhagen, the new Copenhagen Villa is a great choice and in Oslo, Americanlijenen is fantastic.
What are your top tips for travel in 2021?
Being an urban junkie, I have had to adapt my travel habits and discover some more remote and safe places! As we don’t know when we will be able to fully enjoy travel again I suggest traveling by car, which is a safer option and gives you that road trip experience. Pick hotels that have lots of outdoor space and terraces, with great spa facilities.
My choice for 2021 will be oriented on wellness and wellbeing. Covid gave us an opportunity to rethink the way we do things and how we holiday so I will be looking at places with my wellness programme in mind and at places where I can work remotely and stay longer, taking advantage of the staycation. Why not go out of one’s comfort zone and explore something different? Give wine and spa tourism a go! I would personally choose smaller, boutique hotels and places with exceptional personalised service.