8 Travel Experts Share How The Pandemic Has Changed Travel And Where To Go In 2021
A year ago, booking a last-minute holiday to a destination halfway around the world was something you could do in just a few clicks. Today, the idea of even crossing a land border is littered with speed bumps, from ever-changing government regulations (like the air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore that burst before it started) to time-consuming health and safety protocols that will likely be in place even when the vaccine finally arrives.
Being homebound has created an overwhelming sense of nostalgia among avid travellers. Where would you be right now if it weren’t for Covid-19? It’s a question that elicits all types of answers on social media: photos of long, lazy lunches in Tuscany; the glistening waters of the Maldives; a glorious sunset on a safari drive. Instagram is replete with images of past trips coupled with captions that demonstrate our yearning to travel and the significant role it plays in our lives.
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While there is a collective itch to get back on the road, the giant pause brought on by the pandemic has had a silver lining. It has given nature a breather from human activity, resulting in clearer skies and cleaner air in many countries, and allowed wildlife to reclaim habitats. Being stuck in one place has also encouraged many people to think about the nature of travel itself and how it can be made a more sustainable, mindful pursuit.
According to a pre-pandemic study conducted by Design Hotels last year on travel trends for the next decade, there had already been a shift to a more conscious type of travel, values held close by what they call a "promadic traveller". There were also signs of a rise in eco-travel and travel to remote destinations, but the behavioural changes caused by the pandemic will go beyond choosing a less-trodden path for an active, nature-driven holiday.
We are likely to see a return to slow travel, with many people opting for fewer but longer trips, a decision triggered in part by the complications around mobility at the moment. Travellers will aim for a lighter carbon footprint, which will drive greater interest in local destinations, and there will also be an inclination towards immersive wellness experiences.
As we look forward to travelling once again, we asked global tastemakers from various industries how their view on travel has evolved, and where exactly they are dreaming of going in 2021.
Award-winning broadcast journalist and storyteller
One of the best-known news anchors in Indonesia, Andini Effendi has reported from all corners of the world. She covered the Libyan Civil War in 2011 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. After falling in love with Africa during a trip to South Africa and Namibia last year, she hopes to visit Rwanda next.
“I want to see the conservation work there—how nature and good policies can be an asset to a country. I believe Indonesia can learn from it.”
She also wants to head to Guatemala and Chile, the latter for a scheduled marathon that was cancelled due to the pandemic. During lockdown, her travel philosophy has been transformed. “We will be travelling more to accessible places with a lesser impact on the environment where we feel secure about our health.” On that note, with a lot of Indonesia left for her to explore, she says now is the right time to see more of her home country.
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Founder and CEO of Beautiful Destinations and WWF ambassador
Jeremy Jauncey’s creative agency Beautiful Destinations works with governments and travel brands to develop marketing and communications campaigns to encourage tourism around the world, keeping Jauncey in transit two to three weeks per month from his base in New York. “I’ve been in lockdown in the US and seen how quickly the virus has spread. I think it’s best to limit travel and won’t be returning to the level I was before for the foreseeable future,” he says.
While Jauncey’s plans are on hold, it does not change his fundamental belief that travel is a force for good. “Travel inspires and educates us, brings people together and shows the importance of collaboration and understanding,” he says. “On an individual level, you learn more about yourself and give yourself the chance to celebrate cultural differences. On a professional level, our industry is an economic powerhouse, generating billions of dollars of vital income and providing employment for countless communities.”
In 2021, Jauncey’s priority is to come to Asia to work on partnerships forged in the region before the pandemic; another big reason is that his girlfriend Pia Wurtzbach lives in the Philippines. When it comes to leisure, however, the Greek islands is top of mind. “There are so many undiscovered places beyond the traditional tourist spots, so jumping on a little boat and sailing between them would be a dream trip for next year.”
Curatorial Director, Design Miami
As one of the world’s most in-demand architecture and design curators, Aric Chen usually spends most of his time on the road. “It was for all the reasons most curators travel: to give talks, sit on juries, do research, see exhibitions, open exhibitions, attend meetings, biennials, fairs and conferences and, yes, sometimes just for dinner. It was getting a bit excessive,” he says. Right now, Chen is quite happy staying put at home in China. He believes that the pandemic has accelerated trends that were underway. “I already wanted to cut back on travel—it wasn't sustainable in either an environmental or personal sense,” he says.
Chen has a long list of places he dreams of going to in the future, including Sri Lanka, Istanbul, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Iceland and Mexico. In line with his considered approach to travel, though, he hopes to limit his trips to places that meld work and play. “Next year, I’m looking forward to visiting Lisbon; I have an exhibition opening there in February 2021 at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.”
Founder of Champalimaud Design New York-based interior designer
Alexandra Champalimaud’s worldly outlook translates to the interiors her company, Champalimaud Design, creates for iconic hotels such as Raffles Hotel Singapore and The Carlyle in New York. Normally, half of her travel is business-related, taking her to project sites in locations such as Kuala Lumpur and Okinawa, while personal trips are spent at her holiday home in Portugal or on nature-centric holidays like salmon fishing in Canada.
Now she plans to be choosier on which trips to take. “When I’m able and willing to travel long distances again, I know I will be searching for meaningful experiences and longer stays to reduce the impact of travel time,” she says. Her ultimate escape in 2021, however, is a long flight away. “I would very much like to get back to Kenya next year—the wilderness, wildlife, people and beaches always lift my soul.”
Founder of The Ski Project and The Beach Project
The fashion week circuit is intense—just ask Sandy Ip, who did the rounds for 12 years while working as brand manager of Christian Louboutin Asia and international business development director of 3.1 Phillip Lim. “I used to do at least eight long-haul trips a year, four times each to New York and Paris for buying appointments and fashion week. On top of that, I managed businesses in Singapore, Jakarta and Taiwan, so I often had to visit these cities for work,” she notes.
Three years ago, Ip left corporate fashion to establish The Ski Project, a pop-up store focused on luxury skiwear. Recently, she also launched its summer edition, The Beach Project, which sells refined swim, resort and tennis wear. The latter is currently open at the Landmark in Hong Kong.
One thing Ip won’t compromise on is indulging in her favourite pastime of skiing. “I’m definitely planning to go back to the slopes this winter. Niseko is a must, and we are opening the season with a brand-new concept at the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono,” she says. If travel to Europe is feasible, she dreams of heading to Gstaad, Switzerland. “I try to explore a new ski resort every year and I heard that the viewpoint from Glacier 3000 is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in the observatory designed by Mario Botta.”
Chef-owner of Odette in Singapore and Louise in Hong Kong
For the chef-owner of Odette—whose restaurant topped Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List 2020 for the second year running— work-related commitments fill the bulk of his travel calendar. “Last year I travelled a lot to Hong Kong to set up my restaurant Louise, but I also went to India, Spain, Japan, Indonesia, Germany and the Maldives to promote my work. If my schedule permits, I also try to attend culinary events like the annual Les Grandes Tables du Monde and Asia and World’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremonies.” Most of the events Royer was invited to were inevitably cancelled due to the pandemic, and he says he sees a broader slowing down of the “insane pace” of the culinary world.
He still, however, has dreams of going to far-flung places, but more to unwind and gather inspiration than to work. “In 2021, I want to go to Peru with my wife and see Machu Picchu and perhaps cook with my friend Virgilio Martinez. I would also love to do a road trip in California, which was supposed to be our anniversary trip this year, and definitely visit New Zealand.”
RICKY TOLEDO AND CHITO VIJANDRE
Founders of Firma, a design boutique in the Philippines
Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre run Firma, one of the most popular furniture and design boutiques in the Philippines. They normally spend the first half of the year visiting craft centres and antique dealers in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, while the latter half sees them in Europe for design and lifestyle shows.
“During lockdown, we did a lot of virtual travelling, seeing new and old places online and through books. We visited Waddesdon Manor last summer but discovered that the prized pieces from the cabinet of curiosities were donated to the British Museum. It turns out there was an excellent book on the collection, which we enjoyed reading to complete the experience,” says Toledo.
Learning more about the paintings and objects they acquired on previous trips also worked to satiate their wanderlust. “Reading up on them and watching related documentaries made us appreciate them more and look at them with a fresh eye.”
In 2021, the duo hopes to visit Turin and Puglia. “Italy has always been a second home for us. We worked with an Italian company in the past and we have kept the ties through the years. We plan to visit the newly opened villa of the reclusive Italian collector Francesco Federico Cerruti in Turin.
"In Puglia, we look forward to relishing nonna’s five-hour-long Sunday lunches with an endless array of antipasti and continue to see new towns in this amazing region.”
Founder and CEO of Suján
As the head of Suján, a conservation-led hotel brand based in India, Jaisal Singh is constantly on the move. He says he has taken a flight on average every 4.5 days over the past eight years. “Rarely have I been in one place for longer than a week, unless I am on safari,” says Singh.
“We will appreciate the wilderness more than we did before and ensure every trip we take is one that is never taken for granted,” Singh says of the future. “I’m dreaming of being back in a mobile tented camp in Kenya organised by Ker & Downey Safaris, and riding through the Masai Mara with the Tristan Voorspuy’s Offbeat Riding Safaris.” He also hopes to be able to reschedule his cancelled safaris for next year. “We had an exciting experience to see the gorillas in Rwanda lined up, and had it not been for the pandemic, my family and I would be in South Luangwa, Zambia right now.”