virtuoso global august 2020 This Year’s Biggest Travel Trends … Take Two

This Year’s Biggest Travel Trends … Take Two

The long drive, currently more popular than the long haul.
The long drive, currently more popular than the long haul.
Photo by Getty Images
Rethinking our predictions from January.  

Eight months ago (which, if we’re being honest, feels like eight years ago), we dedicated the January issue of Virtuoso Life to a bright new decade of travel. We were celebrating 20 years of the magazine by looking ahead, and predicting which trends we’d be seeing more of in the future. And while we still wholeheartedly believe in travel’s future, the global coronavirus pandemic has definitely altered our immediate outlook. Instead of winetasting in Tuscany, beach-hopping in Mexico, and taking a family cruise to Alaska right now, we’re at home, gearing up for a socially distanced late-summer road trip and making big plans for what we hope will be a much more well-traveled 2021. We took another look at the travel trends we were excited about in January, and decided that we needed to add a few more.

Travelers can now swap working from home with working from Barbados.
Travelers can now swap working from home with working from Barbados.
Photo by Getty Images

Then: The weekend getaway
Now: The weeks-long getaway
 
The “microcation” – a trip that’s less than five nights – had a moment last year, especially among millennials, who preferred getting away for several smaller trips rather than one lengthy one. Now, with remote work the norm, Virtuoso travel advisors have seen an uptick in clients seeking private villa rentals for longer getaways, in destinations where they can safely social distance with their families and continue working. Taking it even a step further, Barbados recently announced its Welcome Stamp, a new visa that lets foreign citizens live and work remotely on the Caribbean island for up to one year.   
 
Then: High-touch service
Now: Zero-contact check-in
 
Then: Multigenerational travel
Now: Multi-family travel
 
Not to be confused with a travel bubble – an agreed area between countries that its residents are allowed to travel between – a travel pod is a group of two or more households whose members have been following coronavirus quarantine and social-distancing guidelines who make plans to vacation together. In a recent flash poll on our Instagram page, 79 percent of respondents said they’d take part in a travel pod. This year is giving new meaning to group travel.
 
Then: The tasting menu
Now: The takeout menu
 
Then: Jet-setting
Now: Road-tripping
 
The beginning of 2020 felt like prime time for the long-haul: Several airlines were jockeying for the title of world’s longest flight (the current one belongs to Singapore Airlines and its 18.5-hour Singapore-to-Newark leg.) Airport lounges were in the spotlight too, having become way more than just spaces for good Wi-Fi and pre-flight snacks. (We’re talking partnerships with Michelin-starred restaurants and Zenlike yoga studios.) Until more travelers feel comfortable flying, we’ve seen this summer reignite the love for the road trip: Eighty-seven percent of our Instagram followers want to take one this summer. We rounded up a few of our favorite drives in the U.S. for some inspiration.
 
Then: Reef-safe sun protection
Now: Purell me, please
 
Then: Urban wellness
Now: Wellness, period
 
Then: Turndown service
Now: Turning down service
 
Virtuoso hotels and resorts around the world are welcoming travelers back, and they’re doing so with an array of comprehensive new health and safety protocols in place. Turndown service is on pause at many properties, and upon check-in, some hotels are asking guests if they’d like to forgo housekeeping services all together.
 
Then: Bar-hopping
Now: At-home cocktail kits
 
Then: DIY might be fun…
Now: Never DIYing again
 
We’ve been lauding the benefits of working with a Virtuoso travel advisor for years, but there’s nothing like a global pandemic to really put that in perspective. Over the past several months, Virtuoso advisors have helped clients get home as countries began closing their borders, worked with travel companies to help smoothly postpone vacations, and have dispensed sage, “What would you do?”-style advice, helping travelers make the right decisions for them. As we plan our future adventures, that peace of mind is priceless.
 
Then: Status = Loyalty
Now: The empty middle seat = Loyalty
 
Then: Uber everywhere
Now: Walk everywhere
 
Then: Hotel lobbies that feel like living rooms
Now: Making your living room feel like a hotel lobby
 
(We’re all about making our homes feel like hotel spas, too.)
 
Then: Global Entry
Now: Immunity passports
 
While nothing is officially in the works, advisors are already speculating on whether or not countries will request immunity passports from foreign citizens in the future … especially once an effective Covid-19 vaccine has been approved and is in use. Many destinations that are currently allowing visitors – including Tahiti, Saint Bart’s, and Saint Lucia – are already requiring proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Venice’s Piazza San Marco – usually packed with tourists – empty earlier this year while Italy was in lockdown.
Venice’s Piazza San Marco – usually packed with tourists – empty earlier this year while Italy was in lockdown.
Photo by Getty Images

Then: Combatting overtourism
Now: Reviving undertourism  
 
We love this thought from Luca Perfetto, the co-founder and CEO of Florencetown, a Virtuoso on-site tour connection in Italy, who we chatted with last month: “Nature is taking back the world, but we must be careful because once we start moving again – that could end. We have to be aware that a new equilibrium is needed. We must begin to respect nature, our cities, our friends, our families, and ourselves much more. We should treat this world with white gloves, and it will treat us right too.”
 
Then: Cold is hot
Now: Close-to-home is hot
 
Then: Country-coupling
Now: Single all the way
 
U.S. travelers can’t visit many global destinations at the moment, so those ambitious, globe-spanning, and country-hopping adventures may not be practical right now – as we collectively work to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s for good reason. As we begin to explore again, Virtuoso advisors predict that travel will be largely domestic and focused on one single destination to start, from road trips in the U.S. to small-ship circumnavigations of a single country. (SeaDream Yacht Club is currently welcoming passengers on itineraries along the Norwegian coast, for example, and AmaWaterways is relaunching its river ships in Germany for European residents.)
 
Then: Air-kissing hello
Now: Smiling from behind your mask
 
Then: Sustainable travel
Now: Sustainable travel
 
Some things never change.