WTM: ‘The weekend getaway has become the month-long getaway’

Less frequent and longer trips are set to become one of the key trends in the wake of the pandemic, according to the boss of Virtuoso.

Speaking at a virtual WTM session on the future of sustainable tourism, the luxury agency’s chief executive Matthew Upchurch said: “There’s no question that the weekend getaway has become the month-long getaway, with villas, private accommodation and pods of families travelling together all key trends.

“After 9/11 we saw the rise of multigenerational travel and now we’re seeing multiple families taking over a small property and creating small bubbles. What that feeds into is a deeper understanding of the destination, a more immersive experience and intentional type of travel.”

Intrepid Travel chief executive James Thornton agreed travellers were looking for longer, more immersive, trips that weren’t just about ticking off bucket-list sights.

“One of the things we’re seeing is that people want to get out into the wild more,” he said. “People have been cooped up at home – they want active trips and wellness experiences; people want to go deeper.

“They won’t necessarily want to tick off 15 spots in a two-week holiday but to really immerse themselves in a destination and support a local community.”

Upchurch said Virtuoso had noticed a correlation, during the pandemic, between companies taking sustainability seriously and their perception for overall safety.

“What’s really powerful, that we’re seeing right now during the pandemic, is a correlation between sustainability credibility, and the customer’s belief that [those companies] are safer – that they are going to take care of their customers’ health and wellness better because they are sustainably focused, more than those companies that aren’t.”

He said the pandemic had created an opportunity for a “conscious comeback”, adding: “We need to focus on what the effects are to all of the communities around the world. And then how do we come back? How do we make sure that when we come back, we come back in a way that isn’t driven by the desperation of making up for lost time? And hopefully, we can come back with a with a better framework.”

Brett Tollman, chief executive of The Travel Corporation, said turning around negative perceptions of travel would be crucial in making that comeback happen. “I hope the world will pay more attention to the benefits and importance of travel and tourism – to the fact that we’re not just a carbon contributor, but an incredible contributor to a quality of life around the world for so many people,” he said.

“It’s an incredible industry that does care, but I think we all need to do better at telling sustainable stories and educating more people.”

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