The post-pandemic future of travel

category - covid-19
category - future city
sector - health & wellness
sector - travel & hospitality
type - opinion
Opinion
type - future of
Future of
The permanent adoption of new working structures post-pandemic will transform the world of travel. Welcome to the age of the Slowmad – a future when travel occurs at a deliberately decelerated pace to enable collective and individual wellbeing

Over the next few months, as the UK and much of the world begins to open up once again, we’re set to find out whether society will acquiesce to a New Normal or build back better and embrace the New Extra-ordinary.

The questions on people’s lips seem to revolve around the workplace. Will the ability to work from home endure post-pandemic? Will we even return to the office at all? With research from Gartner revealing that 74% of global companies are planning to shift at least some of their workforce permanently to more remote working, the answers for many are yes, but only if you want to. 
 
What’s most interesting about the answers to these questions, however, isn’t just the impact on our working lives. It’s how this shift will fundamentally transform other sectors too – and travel is key among them. 

‘WFH’ may be the most zeitgeisty acronym of the past year – non-medical, at least – but it’s not entirely accurate. Really, we should be speaking about ‘WFA’ – working from anywhere. When we view the future of work this way, a new, exciting and considered future for travel also comes into focus. 

It’s a future facilitated by the new-found ability for consumers to embark on longer stays, as they WFA and fit work around their own activities rather than the other way round. As Markus Schreyer, senior vice-president of Design Hotels, says: ‘Moving forward, we will be more in control of our time. New-found freedom at work and in education will disrupt traditional landscapes and ensure we can live and work from anywhere in the world. Travellers will not be limited, and the currency for hospitality brands in the future will be how much time travellers will spend with them.’

Published by:

21 April 2021

Author: Adam Steel

Image: The Future Laboratory

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Sea Stem by Mathieu Collos, France

Working with Design Hotels last year, we identified the emergence of the Promadic Traveller – an evolution of the digital nomad, newly driven by a fresh, self-actualising impulse, seeking purpose and progress when travelling. Promadic Travellers are increasingly intentional, responsible and want to leave a positive impact on the destinations they visit.

For Schreyer, the pandemic has accelerated their emergence. ‘The pandemic has given us an opportunity to pause and reflect. Travellers will make conscious decisions when embarking on trips, with travel increasingly about learning, sharing, contributing to the community and a cause. As a result, travellers want to understand how hotels, experiences and destinations are contributing to a purpose and how they can contribute.’

But the impact of the pandemic will also serve to reveal a new kind of Promadic Traveller – the Slowmad. Looking for residences that are at once office, hotel and community hub, the Slowmads will be working remotely and highly connected, but travelling at a deliberately decelerated pace to allow them to embrace collective and individual wellbeing. Unlike their entrepreneurial predecessors, Slowmads may be supported by an employer and hail from professions that were not traditionally allowed such freedom from the office – those in finance, law or tech. As such, a new market for older, professional travellers seeking to explore longer stays could arise.

This counter-movement of slow tourism was already gathering pace pre-pandemic, and now working conditions are such for enough people that it can be embraced en masse. It should also be recognised that continuing travel restrictions may temporarily restrict this future to limited destinations – but nonetheless it still represents a fundamental transformation, and a more hopeful and considered future for travel too – one that gives back to destinations, rather than takes.

As the prescient Holly Friend, senior foresight writer at The Future Laboratory, wrote in these pages a year ago: ‘When we come through [the pandemic], let’s hope that humankind will nurture a greater appreciation of the travel experience, stripping back their holidays to basic, slower, more meaningful, purposeful trips that empower the local economy.’ We are almost there, and brands should act now to harness this opportunity, ensuring that when the time does come, they can deliver the New Extra-ordinary to travellers with new expectations.

‘Travellers will make conscious decisions when embarking on trips, with travel increasingly about learning, sharing, contributing to the community and a cause’
Markus Shreyer, senior vice-president, Design Hotels

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