At the beginning of the first confinement I went for a bike ride. The sun was shining, spring was breaking everywhere, and the Cummings affair hadn’t happened yet.
I had only traveled a few miles when I saw the first Go Home sign. Another soon followed. I saw many people outside, many working around the house or in the garden. Nobody looked up. There were no vehicles except two police cars. After each one passed, I took the next available turn, just in case they decided to stop and question me, an old habit from years living in dictatorial countries. They do not.
I began to feel invisible, the world at once idyllic and post-apocalyptic. As someone who had traveled incessantly for the previous three decades, this flightless flock to a small world where the next village was a mystery, possibly hostile, was both shocking and exciting.
A year after that first confinement, like many people, I wonder what the trip has become. The last time I went anywhere was cycling through the Outer Hebrides last summer with my son, Conor. Most nights we camped wildly and on the ferries we used to stand out on deck with masks on.
Inside, someone had taped most of the seats and the cafes were closed. I have not been in a confined space with strangers since we took refuge in the passenger lounge on the ferry from the Isle of Harris to Skye on August 4. It was half empty.
The last time in a very crowded space was on my last pre-Covid assignment, when I went by train to Austria in February 2020. Somewhere in Germany my camera bag and laptop were stolen from the luggage rack right above it. of my head. One of my memories is staring at a monitor at the Frankfurt police station, desperately examining CCTV footage of the crowd leaving the train I was on. The high angle offered a vivid picture of the density of the crowd, the hundreds of faces rushing past. That image now seems historic, like watching newscasts of huge football crowds in the 1930s, an impossible and unrepeatable mass of human beings.
It is the psychological effects of this type of experience that, I believe, will develop in the post-Covid world of travel and tourism. People talk about “things going back to normal”, forgetting that they themselves are what is no longer normal. Can you imagine yourself surrounded by people on the plane?
Of course, some will challenge you, even get used to it again. But many will not. For them, the joy of traveling now means peaceful empty spaces, fresh air, and a notable lack of other people. There are those who feel that they have been through a storm, others a great silence. And there are gulfs between generations: locked up youth who dream of escape are waiting to explode outward, while older people, more wary of disease and having made many pre-pandemic trips, have different priorities.
The future of travel and tourism will hold many surprises, but some patterns are already emerging.
United Kingdom – the adventure destination
The pandemic fueled an existing trend towards more active holidays in the UK. Where once a UK holiday meant a country house and a beach, now it could mean Pony Treks in Cumbria Pack (from the new tour op Natural Britain, which was launched in the middle of the pandemic); approach New Cornwall Via Ferrata; a swimming vacation on the Lizard Peninsula, the most south-western point of the UK (new for 2021); or join a mobile hostel in Scotland (The Bonnie Camper is new for this summer).
There has been an understanding, which has been in the making for some time, that the kind of adventure associated with faraway destinations can be had closer to home, and for a fraction of the cost, both in money and carbon. For example, free diving with sharks in the Irish Sea (Celtic deep), cliff climbs in Wales (Climb Pembroke), and pack whitewater rivers (Tirio Y Secret compass). The latest warnings about the risks of resuming vacations abroad too soon will encourage more of us to seek adventure on our doorstep.
Interests established over the past year, such as bird watching, seem fine, with many new trips available (Wildlife around the world, Yorkshire coast and nature Y Naturetrek). Running, yoga, biking, and hiking, in various combinations, are the makings of women’s-only trips in the Brecon Beacons (Active element).
Travel companies that were successful in the UK before the pandemic are expanding, with new trips from Wilderness Scotland (which also launched England desert in February), Inntravel, Walking Y Collett’s. To add to this list, companies that used to direct all their attention abroad, often to wonderfully exotic destinations, have turned their energies to the UK, bringing great experience and enthusiasm. Wild Frontiers begins with a hike through Northumberland.
Virtual tours are here to stay
Pre-pandemic virtual travel was seen as a gimmick, a surrogate substitute designed to give a mere whiff of the real thing. However, in trying virtual travel, many of us have seen its potential. A art course In the virtual Galapagos it gave me the feeling of being in another place, but by concentrating intensely on drawing and painting it helped to rekindle my interest in these subjects, in a more efficient and economical way than going to those islands. The company involved, Art Safari, is expanding its range of virtual destinations to places like Cambodia and New Zealand.
Post-Covid, virtual travel is likely to become more than just a quirky add-on, with increasingly sophisticated experiences. Now there are interactive shopping trips in Morocco, online African safaris, yoga vacations and much more. Museums around the world have partnered with Google to produce increasingly sophisticated Virtual tours of its collections, while national parks such as Yosemite they are also producing impressive virtual experiences. In addition to video and Zoom, there is also the world of virtual reality through headsets waiting for an improvement. You can even experience the virtual reality of being in a plane at the Somerset House game festival, Now play this, from March 25 to 28.
Will cities prevent a return to over-tourism?
A year without tourism was a mixed blessing: The locals loved taking back their cities, but the economic impact was brutal. The “big pause” has given cities more time to figure out how to manage overtourism. The mayor of Amsterdam wants to get rid of “low-value” tourists and make the city more luxurious by banning visitors from cannabis cafes and relocating the red light district.
Will other destinations like Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik also solve the problem? It may be that visitors avoid those places anyway, fear of overcrowding and proximity to strangers prompts a flight to less-discovered destinations. A slow recovery in Barcelona could mean benefits for other Catalan cities Girona, Sitges and Tarragona. Regent Holidays runs tours of lesser known cities such as Lviv in Ukraine (where you can read Philippe Sands East West Street, one of my blockade favorites), Zagreb, and Tirana, among others.
A side effect in cities has been an explosion in cycling and cycling infrastructure around Europe. More than € 1 billion have been spent and 1,400 km of lanes have been established, with France, Italy, Finland and the UK leading the way. Even cities like Milan, where the pre-pandemic car reigned, have installed 35 km of cycle lanes.
Will we go back to railways and ferries and embrace electric travel?
Byway, a new travel company, clearly believes that the future is the railroad. It launched last fall offering flightless travel in the UK and France with the promise of avoiding the crowds. New company Savage europe It also offers train rides on high-end custom tours to see Europe’s wilderness areas and visit rebuilding projects like the one in Slovakia. Poloniny National Park, where wolves, lynxes, bison and bears are found. Before the pandemic there was much talk of new rail links in Europe and there are new services for routes such as Amsterdam to Vienna and Tyrol. If travelers want to avoid flying, ferry services will also be vital. Irish ferries offers package tours for UK drivers.
Regent Holidays is starting a new fly-drive option which only uses electric cars in Slovenia and Scandinavia, while the holiday rental agent in Wales Quality cabins has started a list offering electrical hookups. By the way, the leading countries in electric vehicle charging points are Holland and Germany. Renting a car here could be a good opportunity to take a break and test drive an electric car.
After the big pause, the slowdown
What does someone want from a post-pandemic vacation? Eat different food and not wash the dishes? To drink cold beer or read a good book in the warm sun and then dive into the sea without suffering a thermal shock? Watching children play outside instead of on screens? In many ways, a vacation is a simple thing. Slow travel was an emerging trend before the pandemic – vacations from the hustle and bustle with time to laze in a meadow, bake bread, read books, etc. A reaction to everything that is packaged, Instagramed and shallow, there has been a rapid increase in vacations that offer, among other things, life off the grid, mindfulness and walking. The idea is to relax, paying attention to the local food, culture and language. It is a message that companies like Responsible travel Y Original They’ve been connecting for a while, but now the time may have come.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism