There's been a lot of buzz about regenerative travel and the future of tourism here in New Zealand. For many, we will be on the top of the 'dream' travel list, now more so than ever before.
We have a prime minister who's shone a light brightly on us for the world to look to, and we have much to be grateful for and proud of when looking at how as a country we've handled the pandemic.
Here's a few predictions for what travel will look like in a post-pandemic world.
Travel with a conscious
The year the earth stood still will be a pivotal moment that goes down in history. The biggest international airports and airlines grounded, borders closed, whole industries creaking to an almighty holt over a matter of weeks.
One silver lining of the pandemic? Future travellers will have increased expectations around sustainability. We had so much more time to read and ponder issues like climate change in the last year. Travellers will be looking to align themselves with companies and operators with responsible and sustainable policies. They'll also be able to better see through any 'green washing' or companies simply paying lip service. The deep questions travellers will be asking before committing to any trip will centre around "what is this company doing to make their corner of the world a better place".
A spin-off from the conscious travel movement will be a focus on more meaningful travel. A trend away from the cookie-cutter tourist attractions and away from the crowds, to find those real-life experiences that shape who we are as humans. Finding pockets of less-explored territory and connecting with local communities on a micro-level.
We crave social connection with other people. How special is it to be able to get to know your fellow group of travellers, guide or your accommodation hosts and keep in touch with them for years afterwards? As Kiwi's we will have a very unique take on our experience of living through the pandemic, and our natural openness and manaakitanga (hospitality and kindness) will see us opening our doors and hearts to the rest of the world when they start to come back.
Nature will be a key theme
Most of us intuitively know the healing power of nature. The last 18 months has thrown mental health and wellbeing front and centre. The science also backs up the benefits of time spent in nature, and the list is long and in some cases surprising. Lowered cortisol levels (the 'stress' hormone), improved mood and mental clarity are some of the more widely known benefits, but did you know that spending time immersed in nature can improve sleep quality, boost your immunity and make you more creative?
The pandemic has had a profound effect on how people view our special nature places. They want to feel safe and reconnect with the natural rhythms of nature in a calm, peaceful, mindful and low impact way. Many people, especially those in the urban centres have been starved of access to nature and wilderness areas for a long time. They are aware of how lucky we are to have these places and acutely aware of the importance of prioritising their health and wellbeing.
Reconnect with friends and family
This is a big one. Spending so much time apart from family and friends will see people look to be smarter about the way they travel. Planning a holiday alongside a visit to family and friends will become much more common and in many cases, we will see multi-generational families and groups of friends plan big trips together.
Rather than saving up for that one big annual trip, travellers will start to look at shorter trips, closer to home and organising these more frequently. Three to five mini-escapes each year will sound like a much more attractive option. As well as the practicality and relative ease of organising shorter trips, it will feel like a safer option psychologically and financially until things really return to the 'new normal'. Consider having your one, big dream trip cancelled for the year and having nothing to look forward to, vs having a short four day break cancelled and only having to wait a few months before you can go on your next break.