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As the world juggles between fighting the pandemic and accepting the norms of a ‘new normal’, a part of it is also dreaming of travelling again soon after the chaos is over. And that’s what the global travel industry is striving to do right now. In the second session of #TnlOutreach series, editors from the global Travel + Leisure team came together for the very first time to answer every possible question that comes to mind regarding luxury travel in a post-Covid world.
Travel and content related to travel need to evolve in a world ravaged but slowly recovering from the novel Coronavirus. Anticipating post-Corona travel trends and keeping abreast with the mood of the readers who aspire to travel but are cooped up inside homes are the challenges travel publications are currently facing. Moderated by Sumeet Keswani, Deputy Editor at Travel + Leisure India & South Asia, the second session of #TnlOutreach webinar series saw the editors of five international editions of Travel+Leisure coming together to discuss and decipher the changing face of luxury travel and the role of travel publications in a post-pandemic world. Here are the key takeaways.
The New Face Of Luxury Travel
Apart from seeking destinations that lay emphasis on sanitation and health, people will also look for immersive experiences, according to Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-Chief of Travel+Leisure. “The average T+L reader was taking seven extensive trips in a year. In the new normal, people might decide to take fewer but longer trips, and really immerse themselves in the destination and get to know it better, rather than hop on planes all the time,” she says.
Another aspect of luxury travel that will see a lot of interest in the post-Coronavirus world will be wellness experiences. “I think once travel gears up again, people will want to go to places that will help them cope with stress and mental health issues. Eating well, sleeping well, mindfulness, and connecting with nature will become the priority,” says Alejandro Ortiz “Matu”, Editor-in-Chief of Travel+Leisure Mexico.
The Evolution Of Travel Content
Creating travel content during a time when people have been advised to stay put is no mean feat. But the idea is to give people hope, all the editors agree. Aindrila Mitra, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure India & South Asia, says travel is not going to stop. “It is the innate human nature of curiosity and wanting to explore the unknown,” she says.
“We discovered armchair travel. We launched #TnlVirtualTrips and #DreamEscapes. The content in the last few weeks has been around inspiration, satiating that travel itch through virtual travel, and giving people the confidence and arming them with the information to explore the world when the time is right,” she adds.
Gifford says people love the content they have put together during these times, and as long as the content is relatable, it doesn’t matter if there is no one out on the field. “I have been getting notes about how the readers love the content,” she says, adding, “we changed some things in our line-up, like this beautiful essay about learning to love where you are, a photo portfolio of Art Deco signage in Porto, and so on. We don’t have people out in the field, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative with illustrations, photography, and beautiful essays.”
To this, Matu says that while the content revolved around the crisis and its management in the initial months, now it has moved to ‘good news’. “Feel-good inspiring stories are working great among the readers. So, our travel articles now are basically focussed on inspiration and service information, including safety measures, reopening of restaurants, hotels, leisure destinations, and beaches in Mexico,” he says.
“We think road trips will see a lot of interest in the coming months and so, our June issue is dedicated to it,” says Mitra. “It is all about the mode of travel that is more in the control of individuals and road trips fall in that category,” she adds.
Luxury hotels are also influencing travel content, according to Amber Li, Senior Editor at Travel+Leisure China. “Since China is doing fine now, this year, people will be going on vacations in the country to minimise risk, but they are putting their money in packages offered by luxury hotel brands around the world, that they can redeem next year,” she says.
Is Digital Content The Way To Go?
Another challenge that COVID-19 has created for travel content creators is the rapidly changing news and laws of the travel world. It is here that digital content plays a huge role. As Chris Kucway, Editor, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia observes, “Online content helps with the quickly changing policies and it also means instant feedback from readers.” But he doesn’t think this surge of online content will harm the print medium. “Rather than taking away from the magazine, I think, online platforms will only help the print side get stronger in the long run,” he explains.
Mitra echoes this thought, “Our website numbers have seen over a 100 per cent spike in the last few weeks. But I don’t think print is going anywhere. As long as you have a title that is passionate and relevant, it is always going to be there,” she says.
Travel Trends To Look Out For
There have been many debates and discussions on where people will head to once the possibility of travel is on the horizon again. Will travel priorities change? Kucway thinks the Asian trend of opting for remote places will see a spike. “Every one of us would want to just go away for few days to a beach or mountain top, and spend some time doing nothing, just breathing fresh air and clearing our heads,” he says.
Li says island holidays are going to be big in China. “We are all looking for freshwater and air, along with calm and quiet.”
Gifford is of the opinion that travel to support local businesses and stakeholders will be ideal. “Some people might not be able to afford a lot after this. There’s nobody who hasn’t been impacted. So even if you decide to support a local business like a restaurant or take a staycation in your town, that is also a form of travel and it contributes to that supply chain,” she says.
And until borders open, short trips will reign, adds Gifford. “Some states are starting to re-open for business. People are starting to return to the national parks but a lot of travel is going to be regional. So, if you live in Georgia, you’ll go to a beach in your own state or a neighbouring state.” Staying close to home is the mantra for now.