Continuing my travel trend series, today I bring you part three, in which I unveil two trends likely to be big in 2021. In Part 1 of my forecast, I wrote about the new focus on wellness retreats and the rise in demand for privacy and space. In Part 2, I looked at how Africa’s travel scene is burgeoning and revealed the new fashion for boutique cruises. In today’s feature, it is all about the UK scene, which offers safety and beauty on our doorstep and also promises to have a flurry of new openings next year, and I also reveal the hidden side of Europe, and some destinations expecting a rise in interest in 2021.
THE THRIVING UK SCENE
When we suddenly became grounded back in March, the possibility of far-flung travel became a thing of the past. Once summer rolled around, and we could venture out again, many of us decided to stay put – revisiting beloved corners of our country or discovering interesting, new destinations in the UK – without the need to fly anywhere.
One big trend was the rise of the luxury home rental, booked through boutique companies such as Fish&Pips. Holly Chandler, co-founder of Fish&Pips, says: “Homestays are the perfect way to disconnect to reconnect. Demand for UK hideaways this summer was unprecedented and we have seen this continuing into autumn. As a consequence, we are now encouraging clients to book their vacations for 2021 to avoid disappointment.”
“The staycation is definitely here to stay,” she continues. “Staying in a cosy bolthole is the perfect way to embrace our raw and rugged countryside, hunker down in front of a cosy fire, discover the quieter corners, enjoy the beauty of our beaches and taste the amazing flavours from our incredible country.”
The company is currently seeing a “significant increase in couples looking for seclusion and privacy this winter, where they can reconnect and embrace the beautiful British countryside in the safety of their own bubbles”.
Luxury home-from-home rental company Crabtree & Crabtree – which focuses on the north of England – also reports that it saw an increase in bookings in 2020, cementing the idea that people are increasingly seeking out luxury staycations, especially if they are secluded and feel safe and secure.
“So far in 2020, Crabtree & Crabtree has added a significant amount of new holiday cottages to its carefully curated collection in the south of Scotland and north of England. We’ve seen an increase of 152% of new holiday cottages, year on year,” says founder Emma Crabtree.
Emma expects this to continue for a little while yet, saying: “The staycation has never been more popular and our bookings for 2021 and beyond show that it is certainly here to stay. The regions we cover are a bit more undiscovered and therefore are appealing to those looking for hidden beaches, stunning remote countryside and areas rich in nature and history… people are starting to unearth the secrets of the north.”
She also adds that the company has seen a surge in demand for smaller properties along the Northumberland Coast, in particular Bamburgh, for late spring 2021, which coincides with the time when you can see the puffins on the Farne Islands.
“Properties in beautiful Bamburgh have always been some of C&C’s best sellers, but 2021 is booking up even faster than normal – in fact, bookings for April to July are up by 118% in 2021, compared to previous years.”
Herefordshire is another area that flies under the radar, in comparison to tourist spots such as Devon, Cornwall or Norfolk, but is nonetheless bursting with attractions. Bordering Wales, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Shropshire; it is easily accessible from many parts of the country, making it a great weekend or short break destination for those looking for an escape in 2021. It is also home to some of the UK’s most stunning rural landscapes, which has in turn inspired a thriving community of entrepreneurs, with home-grown brands such as Bulmers, Tyrells, Chase, Willy’s Apple Cider Vinegar and Westons Cider, to name just a few.
Recently launched is a new Orchard Cycling Trail, showcasing Herefordshire’s apple heritage, and taking in cider tastings and special apple-themed menus at local restaurants.
Domestic travel was also one of the top five trends revealed in Booking.com’s Future of Travel report for 2021. Its ‘Familiarists not Tourists’ prediction looks at how local travel has risen to the fore – “as local travel remains easier, safer and – happily – often more sustainable’.
“Looking ahead, staying closer to home and becoming familiarists, rather than tourists, will continue to be at the forefront of travel agendas,” says the report. “We’ve learnt that 47% of people still plan to travel within their own country in the medium term (7-12 months’ time), with 38% planning to do so in the longer term (in over a year’s time). When it comes to local travel, 43% plan to explore a new destination within their home region/country and 46% will take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of their home country, while – locally or not – 50% intend to travel somewhere they’ve already been previously for its familiarity.”
Echoing this is Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List 2020 in which the UK scores 34 spots in the top 500 best places in the world, securing more than any other country. The Lake District National Park is named the UK’s top experience while Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is the highest new entry.
“The UK provides a delicious mix of open-air experiences and cultural highlights,” says Tom Hall at Lonely Planet. “Home to England’s deepest lake and highest peak, the beautiful Lake District topped the list of UK experiences, ranking at No. 40, and natural attractions, including the long-distance Wales Coast Path, which traces the Celtic country’s entire coastline, scored the UK’s highest new entry on the list polling at No. 82.”
Leading travel communications and PR agency Mason Rose also lists ‘Local Travel’ as one of its top ten trends for next year. “It’s no surprise that this year so many of us enjoyed the opportunity to simply jump in the car or camper van and discover the myriad natural gems, hidden hideaways and memorable experiences waiting for us across the British Isles,” says the agency.
“And this revelation isn’t going anywhere soon. In Abercrombie & Kent’s Luxury Consumer Travel Trends: More Insights Revealed (October 2020) report,” cites the agency, “an overwhelming 70% of respondents, for example, said they would be focusing on domestic trips throughout winter and into spring 2021.”
Mason Rose’s top picks, to make the most of the UK, includes Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Perthshire’s Kinloch Rannoch – found between the better-known areas of Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms. It has launched a ‘Kids Go Free’ offer, from November 2020 to March 2021, to invite more families to discover the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Another recommendation is Grantley Hall in Ripon, North Yorkshire. It has launched a new ‘Four Nights For Three’ package, to encourage longer stays so that guests can get under the skin of ‘God’s Own Country’ – from taking in the neighbouring National Trust-run Fountain’s Abbey and the Yorkshire Dales as well as the wild North York Moors Park and The Peak District.
Gordon Campbell Gray, founder of The Wee Hotel Company, also champions the beauty found across our island. The company includes the award-winning The Three Chimneys on Skye and The Pierhouse Hotel and Seafood Restaurant at Port Appin in Argyll.
“Passport-free holidays have become the norm in 2020, and I expect this will continue into next year and beyond as we grow to appreciate the wonders on our doorsteps,” he says. “We have all been inclined to stop and look at what is right in front of us and luckily the UK has plenty of culture, coastline, conservation parks and countryside to discover. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, but, at the end of the day, few places can rival the sheer magnificence of Scotland.”
He continues: “I am optimistic that we have seen, if not the end, then certainly the cutting back of what I call ‘wanton travel’ – a weekend in Prague followed by a weekend in Barcelona, for example. I think that people will see the magic of exploring the UK, while at the same time supporting local businesses, and all the often unseen support industries, which employ so many people and maintain so many crafts.”
Gordon says: “When I created The Wee Hotel Company, I wanted to champion the small, the sustainable and the local. I believe these are the key elements that will receive much more consideration in the future of the hospitality industry. Many people are looking for something that is slower, more thoughtful, and much more personal. Both The Pierhouse and The Three Chimneys use ingredients sourced nearby or made in-house, waste is minimised and the environment is considered. They celebrate the finest Scotland has to offer and provide a real sense of place.”
“When you live in a country like Scotland, where the local produce is so spectacular, it seems so pointless and upsetting when food is flown from far-flung parts of the world. For example, at The Pierhouse when the chef needs more lobster, he goes to the end of the jetty which is just outside and picks up a creel. I feel this is real luxury in today’s world.”
Having opened in October 2020, Buxton Crescent is found on the edge of The Peak District National Park, and is a gateway to this area of outstanding natural beauty. Here, rolling farmland is contrasted with forests and deep valleys with high stony plateaus. It is is the first UK property from the Ensana Hotels brand, which is a custodian of European thermal spas which utilise powerful natural resources. Thanks to the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, who developed the town with grand architecture, the 19th century was a golden age for Buxton, when ‘taking the waters’ was a fashionable pastime for notable high-society visitors.
Now, guests can experience the therapeutic qualities of the water for themselves as ‘water wellness’ is at the forefront of Buxton Crescent’s spa offering. Following a multi-million-pound renovation and an extensive refurbishment of one of England’s most significant Georgian architectural buildings, it blends the outstanding history of the 18th-century exterior and original features, such as chandeliers, painted ceilings and stained-glass windows, complemented with stylish furniture and modern comforts.
Opening in Spring 2021, meanwhile, The Farmyard will be the newest addition at the outstanding The Newt in Somerset. Hidden in a secluded corner of the estate and accessed through traditional cyder orchards, The Farmyard offers 17 bedrooms and suites. These are housed within historic buildings, such as a Farm House, Cyder Mill, Apple Loft and Cheese Barns. Owner Karen Roos has added touches of modern luxury to rustic buildings made of Hadpsen limestone, the colour of burnt orange, oak beams silver-grey with age, and blue lias flagstones. The Farmyard includes an indoor swimming pool, bar and games room and an authentic farm-to-table culinary experience. The Farmyard will also offer guest access to the Newt’s wider estate – including the main restaurant, spa, gardens, Cyder Cellar and The Story of Gardening experience centre.
Finally, among the other new openings slated for 2021 and worth putting on your radar, is the new Bodmin Jail Hotel in Cornwall, set to open in February 2021. The hotel is carved out of an 18th-century prison and guests can also tap into its heritage with the new £8.5 million immersive visitor attraction, including a ‘Dark Walk’ experience.
The Harper, meanwhile, due to open in March 2021, in north Norfolk, an area of Outstanding National Beauty, is a much anticipated 32-bedroom boutique hotel. Set in a former glass blowing factory, in the pretty village of Langham, The Harper has embraced its history with bespoke glass features and natural materials, with no two bedrooms having the same design.
When it opens next summer, The Pig in the South Downs will be the eighth Pig property in the UK. Found along the coast in West Sussex, the hotel will be carved out of the Grade II-listed Madehurst Lodge near Arundel and will be the first in the collection to have its own vineyard. As with every Pig hotel, the kitchen gardens and restaurants will be the beating heart of these new properties.
When three leading travel companies turn their attention to one area of the world – in this case Europe – you know you have a legitimate trend on your hands.
Better known for their far-flung and remote adventures rooted in local communities, G Adventures has just launched a collection of new European trips, which show travellers a different side to mainstream European destinations. The idea, says the brand, is that you don’t necessarily have to go long-haul to give back to local people. The company is inviting travellers to ‘look again’ at destinations closer to home, by simply avoiding the mainstream tourism hotspots and visiting more remote, local areas.
The new G Adventure trips include: Hiking Ibiza – a six day hiking tour, which shows travellers the natural side of ‘the White Isle’. Visitors will be able to hike the rugged coastline and dense pine forests of the island’s north and western regions. Based in the eastern town of Santa Eularia des Rua, travellers will visit local villages, explore the sleepy backstreets and have the option to spend the day cycling on nearby Formentera.
Hiking East Greenland, on the other hand, is also perfect for those wanting to discover somewhere remote where they can reconnect with the great outdoors. Avoiding the western side of the island, which is popular with cruising, this active adventure takes travellers to the lesser-inhabited eastern region of Ammassalik, where they will journey by boat and foot to remote islands, past glaciers, through fjords and across mountains. Nights will be spent camping under the stars, while days will include challenging hikes and visits to small hunting villages.
Original Travel, meanwhile, has announced the launch of its new ‘Near Frontiers’ collection to showcase Europe’s wilderness. In response to a growing appetite for short-haul, yet crowd-free destinations, the company is launching a new collection of itineraries that focus on hidden Europe. From Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands to Italy’s hinterland, Original Travel’s new ‘Near Frontiers’ collection will take people so near yet so far out.
The collection was launched after the luxury tour operator saw a renewed interest in Europe in its current bookings and predicts this will only grow as we gradually emerge from the shadow of coronavirus and take the first tentative steps back into travel. “However, this doesn’t mean sacrificing what we love most about travel – seeing new sights, enjoying new food, immersing oneself in an entirely different culture, even going on a wildlife safari – it is all entirely possible within Europe, as long as you know the best spots (or know someone who does…),” says the brand.
Original Travel’s own client research showed that 48% of clients plan to visit somewhere outdoorsy to enjoy some wide-open spaces on their first trip away and there are plenty of places on our doorstep that fit that brief.
Tom Barber, co-founder of Original Travel, adds: “Everything I’m hearing from clients and industry research leads to the emergence of two themes: the instinct to stay relatively close to home, rather than take hugely long-haul flights, at least for the first few months of 2021, and a similar desire to spend time away but also away from too many other people. Put these two desires together and for UK clients that means looking at remote destinations within Europe. The good news is that we are the undisputed experts in all things Europe, and we know the tucked away corners of European wilderness where you can feel true solitude, often in the company of some spectacular wildlife. Interestingly, some of these places aren’t even in the far extremities of the continent, but just well-managed and longstanding national parks, and that means you can often reach them by train, which is obviously another major plus point.”
The third company setting its sights on Europe is adventure tour operator, Wild Frontiers, which has launched brand new itineraries in western Europe, in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal.
These new itineraries, which will be available from spring 2021, are designed to show different sides to popular destinations while retaining the Wild Frontiers ethos of challenging perceptions and inspiring connections. The tours also give travellers the chance to get away flight-free, by booking rail or ferry travel, to reach their starting point if they would prefer not to fly, be that for sustainability or health and safety reasons in the current climate.
“Our clients have been asking us to bring the Wild Frontiers immersive travel experience closer to home for some time now, and this year we have been given the unique opportunity and the time to make this a reality,” says Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers.
He continues: “Our guests will discover some wonderful locations – including hidden cultural sites, great walking, delicious wine and local cuisine – all well away from the busy tourist sites, offering a truly immersive travel experience. Often operating at a slower pace than other tours, they concentrate on the detail of a place rather than just the big hitting highlights these more popular destinations have to offer.”
Wild Frontiers is also working on developing further European itineraries, with more destinations set to be added to the portfolio in early 2021, including Iceland, Poland and Slovakia.
Also celebrating hidden corners of Europe, is a cluster of new hotels opening their doors next year. First up, OKU Hotels launches its collection of soulful five-star hideaways with the opening of OKU Ibiza in April. Set to be the flagship property of the new lifestyle brand, it will be an understated hideaway on the west coast of the island.
Located on the fringe of Cala Gracio Bay, the hotel will have a focus on slower living and enriching experiences for the curious traveller. With boho-chic interiors, two restaurants and an intimate spa, the concept is derived from the Japanese spiritual and architectural concept meaning ‘inner space’.
“OKU prides itself on offering understated luxury in destinations that captivate, with wellbeing practices that revive, and dining and music experiences that awaken the senses,” says the brand. The debut of OKU Ibiza will join OKU Kos, which soft-launched for a short season this year, and will open with its full offering in April 2021.
Also putting the spotlight on Ibiza – this time on the northern tip of the island is the new Six Senses Ibiza. This is a village-like, family friendly year-round hideaway which captures the authentic essence of the Balearic island both in look and feel.
The resort will be home to a unique spiritual learning centre and spa with an ethos that is all about optimising health, tackling fitness, nutrition, education, yoga, sleep and mindfulness. When it comes to dining, guests can enjoy local dishes on long communal tables at The Market, try a variety of treats from the raw food organic bar with accompanying cocktails and organic beer by the pool, or head to El Chiringuito for tapas and barbecue, accompanied by live acoustic guitar performances and late night DJ.
Away from the crowds in Mallorca, meanwhile, is the new Hotel Can Ferrereta – found in the quaint rural town of Santanyí, in the south east of the Spanish island. It is the first luxury hotel to open in the area and has been carved out of restored historic 17th century building, with 32 individually-designed rooms and suites, set in lush gardens.
Santanyí is situated in one of the most authentic and historic locations in south east Mallorca and is found next to the second-largest nature park in the Balearics, Mondragó Natural Park, a paradise for hiking and nature lovers. It also offers easy access to some of Mallorca’s most beautiful and unspoilt beaches. Over the years, Santanyí has attracted many international artists and, today, art plays a central role in the area. Guests will stumble upon various galleries and workshops in the narrow alleys of this quiet country town.
Finally, putting the car-free island of Lopud Island, Croatia, on the map is the new Lopud 1483 hotel – which is found inside a 15th-century monastery. The second largest of the Elaphiti Islands, situated between Koločep and Šipan, Lopud has a rich heritage. Many of the boats used in the Spanish Armada, for instance, were built on this island and nearly all the buildings on the island date back to the Renaissance times.
Old Villas, small palaces, numerous chapels, and ancient farmhouses dot the hills behind the Monastery, lending themselves to the authenticity of the whole island, which is planted with orange, lemon and olive trees. Today, it is fêted for its sandy beaches and quiet pace of life. The island’s natural beauty is preserved by its car free policy and visitors can follow the island paths through lush vegetation, either by foot or bicycles.
Lopud 1483 is located on the northern tip of Lopud, in a Franciscan monastery that has been overlooking the island for centuries. The property has been lovingly restored over the past 20 years by creative director Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza – a famous art collector – and her family. She worked with the Arhitektri Studio in Zagreb to ensure that every aspect was carefully designed, in order to preserve the incredible history of the building.
Lopud 1483 operates as an exclusive-use property, as well as per suite, on a seasonal basis. The 13 original cells have been transformed into five luxury suites, with views onto the sea or medicinal garden. Each room features a unique combination of Renaissance furniture from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (TBA21), as well as bespoke new pieces by Italian designer Paola Lenti and contemporary art from the TBA21 collection.
The undiscovered island sanctuary has been designed as a place where history, art and botanical exploration ignite the senses. The property is also home to a ‘Sacred Garden’, with nine stations designed for meditation and contemplation, and a traditional Franciscan pharmacy. It’s the perfect combination of seclusion, privacy and nature.