How we will travel in 2021

From sustainable stays to new holistic retreats, here's what’s ahead for travel next year, as we hope for better travel prospects


After spending much of this year ‘grounded’, you’d forgive people for simply wanting to get away once it’s possible again.

But the big trends for 2021 travel are showing that we’re also being more thoughtful about our future trips, with sustainability and wellness high on the list — here’s how globetrotting is set to change.

Long-stay travel

While the thought of a carefree holiday is appealing, we’re less enamoured with the process of actually getting there. Travel bans, enhanced security, and quarantine procedures will no doubt make the process of air travel tricky for some time yet.

The idea of staying for longer in one single destination, to enjoy more of an immersive experience, is a natural response to the pandemic.

Research from agrees that it’s no longer about flying in and flying out. “Over a third of travellers have already considered booking somewhere to stay in order to work from a different destination, while 40 per cent would be willing to quarantine if they could work remotely.”

As a consequence, a flurry of countries — including Barbados, Mauritius and Anguilla — have now launched new visa programmes to encourage visitors to stay longer, with hotels and resorts in the destinations quick to respond.

Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, has launched a Work from Paradise package: the special offer means you can stay for a minimum of 21 days on this private island in the Maldives and can work (and relax) in a secluded beach villa.

In Antigua, the island’s new Nomad Digital Residence visa has inspired offers like Curtain Bluff’s Extended Stay package with substantial discounts for stays of 21 days or more, until 31 May 2021.

It’s not limited to tropical islands either. With 15 properties across Europe and the USA, Generator Hostels’ Stay Longer Save More initiative is packed with incentives for those staying seven nights or more, with discounts increasing the longer you stay. Motorhome rental has seen a huge popularity boost too.

Love your planet

The days of low-cost short breaks could be numbered, with 2020 prompting us to think about new, less damaging ways of seeing the world. As air travel decreased by 70%, we’ve not only used the opportunity to try alternative means of transportation, but put tourism’s impact in the spotlight.

“Over-tourism was the biggest concern facing travellers in 2020, and this has been one bright spot in a bleak year,” reports “We’ve seen places like the Great Barrier Reef recovering, and Venetians enjoying their city for the first time in years.”

Eco-conscious G Adventures has long encouraged authentic and sustainable travel, offering innovative expeditions and community projects, such as to Colombia’s Lost City of Teyuna — an ancient indigenous site in the Sierra Nevada region.

As the first company to work with local tribes, their self-started Wiwa Tours company gives visitors a unique insight into this way of life.

Red Carnation Hotels is another brand responding to the new mood. It has launched a five-year sustainability commitment to encompass minimising food waste, eliminating single use plastic, investing in sustainable cleaning and clean energy.

Meanwhile, Lindos Hotels in Rhodes, Greece has joined a new Forest Ambassador enterprise, which aims to plant, water and protect new trees in burned forests. “It links to the growing trend of ‘regenerative’ travel,” says the company, “whereby we actively improve and regenerate an environment to make it better for future generations.”

The group, which is due to open the new adults-only Lindos Grand Resort & Spa in May 2021, is also committed to minimising food waste, cutting palm oil and reducing its carbon footprint by increasing vegan and vegetarian offerings.

Healthy eating

There’s been a steady shift towards plant-based diets in everyday life, from the increasing popularity of Veganuary to more inventive vegetarian dishes in restaurants. And that trend is crossing over to the hospitality industry, as part of the rise in consciousness around sustainability.

Brands such as Ovolo Hotels are leading the way. After opening Alibi Bar & Kitchen, at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Australia, in 2018 as the country’s first vegan hotel-restaurant, it has embraced the trend further by announcing its ‘Year of the Veg’, with all Ovolo restaurants across Australia and Hong Kong going vegetarian for 365 days until October 2021.

Kimpton Hotels has also proclaimed that “health food will reign supreme” in its Culinary Trends Forecast for 2021 — and it’s far from the unpalatable health food of decades past. “Expect tasty grains, like bulgur or farro, with roasted vegetables and punchy, herbal dressings.”

At the new Maison Ila Spa in France’s Languedoc Roussillon region, organic, vegetarian meals will form part of the property’s bespoke holistic retreats. The dreamy-sounding ‘soul garden’ will supply the healing herbs and plants: think St John’s Wort, Roman Camomile and Geranium in both the restaurant and treatments.

Covid has put paid to the humble hotel buffet too, with new innovations such as moving conveyor belts trialled at Four Seasons Hotel New York and individually-wrapped offerings.

Health and safety

In a post-Covid world, staying safe will be the big priority for travellers like never before. For many, the idea of spending time with loved ones and embracing the freedom to travel is key, so it’s down to travel companies to reassure.

To keep in the game, travel brands have had to refocus on the minutiae of running their businesses — bringing their previously unheralded procedures out of the shadows and into the spotlight, with new hygiene standards drawn up across the industry to boost traveller confidence.

The Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) certificate given for impeccable cleaning standards has been awarded to Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa, the first resort to gain this in the Maldives.

The airline industry is following suit, with Qatar Airways as the first global carrier to clean its plane cabins with a special ultraviolet system.

Four Seasons recently announced a collaboration with the eminent Johns Hopkins Medicines International to advise on its health and safety programme; special room disinfection, air purification methods and on-site hygiene officers are part of the approach.

Medics are also being consulted for the new protocols at luxury wellness-inspired Equinox Hotels. Led by the Mount Sinai Medical System, guests will find a new immunity-boosting RoomBar, stocked with nutrient-packed snacks and supplements to buy.

Cleaning, meanwhile, has gone state-of-the-art with medical-grade sanitisers and touchless disinfection.

Addressing these new concerns is vital, says Derek Banks, managing director of luxury barge specialist European Waterways, which has introduced new bespoke tours for ‘bubbles’, allowing families to charter an entire vessel for themselves and avoid contact with others.

Embrace mind over matter

We will all need some TLC in 2021, and demand for targeted wellness breaks is expected to surge. One trend on the rise is sound experiences, like the Shreyas Silent Retreat in India, and finding for peaceful escapes — Yangmingshan National Park in Taiwan has become the world’s first Urban Quiet Park.

“Sound experiences are going to redefine wellness travel in 2021,” says Paul Joseph, founder of Health and Fitness Travel. “Sound meditation and music therapies are invaluable in easing the side-effects of a variety of physical and mental conditions.”

After months indoors, people are also more aware of how vital it is to our wellbeing to get outdoors, whether that’s to national parks, wild countryside or specific retreats. “We have seen a growth in demand for new immunity-boosting wellness retreats, which embrace nature and give the mind and body a much-needed reboot,” he adds.

Gleneagles’ Wild Wellness Retreat is one such example, with a nature-based programme to harness the healing powers of the Perthshire landscape, including hill walking, fishing, foraging and forest bathing.

Or acclaimed spa resort Chablé Maroma in Mexico has devised new immune-boosting treatments. Cinthya Alva, wellness director, explains: “There’s a shift away from pampering treatments to a more serious evidence-based approach.

As a result, we are developing tailored wellness programmes, which give bodies the best possible chance to fight off illness and combat stress.”


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