It’s a challenging time for those of us who love to travel. With many of the world’s borders closed to us; and the constantly changing and oftentimes confusing policies that govern the now and future of tourism, it’s hard to understand what lies ahead for those of us with itchy feet. Despite the uncertainties, I urge you to continue to book your travel and never to stop planning, and dreaming.
After almost a year of restricted travel, last week, the British government’s transport secretary advised not to book your travel or holidays – even domestic staycations – for the forseeable future. This fait acompli lacks any roadmap for recovery, let alone direction or consultation with the industry – one that is already on its knees – that has been gut-punched as a result. And for OutThere travelphiles, the news came as a deafening blow.
I’m utterly disappointed, not just for the obvious reasons – but at the government’s lack of understanding of the difference between planning and booking a holiday; and actually travelling on holiday. What those in power should be asking people to do is not to physically travel (rightly) until it deems it safe, but they shouldn’t have asked people not to book travel. They’ve shattered the hopes and dreams of so many in their misworded statement, people who have had a very challenging year and continue to face trying times. Add to that, this continues to be devastating to an industry that is valued at around 7% of the country’s GDP (inbound tourism to the UK alone fell nearly a 100% during 2020, according to Office of National Statistics), let alone its contribution to the world’s economy.
It’s a very British value to “Keep Calm and Carry On” and an OutThere value to #KeepYourMindTravelling. Let me start by qualifying that I’m no anarchist – my first instinct is always to adhere to rules and regulations wherever possible. But to me, asking you not to plan and book your travel or vacation just doesn’t make sense. I’m not advocating for anyone to ignore the government … do not travel on holiday at this time, until you are told it is safe to do so. But what I am saying is that you shouldn’t stop dreaming and planning ahead.
Primarily for positive mental health. Planning travel allows us to take control – to the greatest extent possible – of a situation that is uncertain. Conversely, multiple studies have shown that the “shit happens” attitude has proven to create anxiety, the main ingredient of depression.
So whether it be researching gorgeous hotels or adventurous expeditions, planning travel empowers us to bring the future into the present. Remember, plans are never supposed to be final: they can have options, mean different eventualities; and lead to varying paths and results. But by setting them, you’re building mental confidence, setting a vision for your own future and (as “new-age” as this might sound) be masters of your own destinies.
My point is, things may change, but with a plan in place, you’ll be better ready to deal with whatever the future may throw you. It helps you become proactive – rather than reactive – in responding to the uncertainty.
There’s power in anticipation
Scheduling things for the future and booking them in is important in times of crises. It’s called ‘proactive coping’ (a core theological rationale behind why many religions exist). Basically, it is extremely powerful for our brains to acknowledge that there is actually a future. So you should do as many things that reassure your mind that you’ll be engaging in something fabulous when that future comes.
You will have heard a million stories about wellbeing, mindfulness and self-care at this time. Putting travel plans in the diary and discussing them with a family member, friend or better still,a travel consultant, will reward you with some potent emotional benefits. Discussing and knowing that you’ll be out on a once-in-a-lifetime safari, or relaxing in warm sunshine with a view of an azure ocean is in itself soothing. Just thinking about it can bring you half or more of the joy.
In the travel industry, we often talk about recognising the importance of reconnection, when the pandemic subsides. If you book your travel, you’re taking a great first step to achieving that.
Having time to plan a holiday means ‘happy-spending’
I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. So I believe that we’re in a very unique position to be able to have more time to consider our travels. Our lives are usually so busy and complex that it’s hard to make plans for tomorrow, let alone months ahead. We spend our money, lots of it, without sometimes understanding why we do it, thinking that it’ll make us content.
We live in a world of immediacy; and this is no different in travel. In a jet-set age, people have become more complacent about their trips, deriving less value from them. In 2019, there were significant conversations about the dangers of ‘bucket-listing’ and ‘over-tourism’ – travel so frequent, that tourism became about checking off lists and queuing for Instagram pictures, rather than active cultural immersion in a destination, or positive impact on the socio-economics of local communities.
My hope is that the current lack of opportunities to get out into the world will replenish our love for travel, make us question why we do so and that we’ll make every coming journey count. Trends are already showing that when we do return, we will do so less frequently, but spend longer in the destinations we choose. This corroborates with the science of “happier spending,” making financial choices that are no longer just material, but ones that also feed our soul.
Patience is a virtue
There was a time, many (many!) moons ago when I was growing up, where a holiday wasn’t something you’d book today and fly tomorrow. My parents would pour over a catalogue for hours and discuss the ins and outs of a trip with a travel advisor. Inspiration would be printed magazines like ours, or less-appealingly, coming via an overzealous, show-off aunt or family friend just back from her own trip, desperate to share pages upon pages of unedited photos. They’d be in a plastic-sheet album just back from the processors, often with overexposed smudges, or a wonky palm tree, or of strappy swimsuits falling off the shoulder, revealing unappealing lobster-burn bikini-lines. Anyway, I digress…
And when we finally made the booking, it was for months – sometimes even a year, or more – ahead. But I will always remember the anticipation, the excitement, the joy of something to look forward to.
I will admit that I’ve grown up not to be the most patient of people. But this time in lockdown has made me look at waiting from a renewed perspective. I’ve learnt that patience is something worth cultivating.
The benefits of being patient are that it helps you focus on longer-term outcomes, rather than shooting-from-the-hip in the travel decisions we make. Having time to decide helps us make better choices, rather than impulsive ones. It means that you can also build a stronger relationship with your travel consultant and essentially the people on the ground that will be fulfilling your holiday. It could also mean you end up with a better deal, or achieve greater value from the holiday you’ve booked.
Booking something in the future and being able to ‘look forward to it’ helps us gain even more value from a holiday. I believe that travelling starts way before the actual act of travel. Having travel booked-in builds positive expectations and by giving ourselves enough time to wait – to anticipate the holiday – we can tap into a whole new source of pleasure.
Booking travel gives hope not just to you, but to others
Travel coming to a pause has impacted countless communities out in the world, particularly those who directly depend on it for a living. But there are also knock-on effects for people, wildlife and the environments around them. In Africa, when travel locked down, poaching increased. In some countries, endangered species are being secretly relocated – with the help of finite, private philanthropy – to protect them. Decades of conservation hang dangerously in the balance as hunting for bushmeat is on the up because more and more people are losing their jobs as a result of a decline in tourism.
In parts of Asia, illegal logging is happening again. Children are no longer been sent to school and youths are disregarding their higher-education or tourism-college because they face uncertainties about the industry’s future. Moreover, their families require them to work to survive. It’s a sad state of affairs.
This underlines why it is vital that you continue to book your travel whenever you can. Tourism not only provides a financial incentive to protect the environment but also its communities. The promise of a booking means that tourism employers can be more confident to retain their team-members and carry-on their much-needed social-responsibility projects.
Booking travel now could make economical sense
Travel companies are starting to report potential logistical complications in the future when it comes to availability. Many of the holidays cancelled last year are being rebooked into late 2021 and beyond. This means that the supply of travel could be reduced when the time comes for us to get back out into the world again.
We saw this in our 2021 trends report, particularly for those who like to ski, with many resorts reporting low-capacity and high-demand for next season. With rebookings and deferrals taking priority; as well as savvy travellers pre-booking their places; and those with increased budgets from the savings they made upgrading across all affordabilities … the holiday you’re craving may not be available, or at least for the price you want, when you want it.
The theory of economics, combined with the industry-standard of demand-based pricing will come into play … high demand + low supply = higher prices. So book your travel now on flexible terms. It could mean securing your place and perhaps your price as well.
But most importantly, by booking now – or soon – you’ll be helping the travel industry recover. These are hundreds of thousands of people, organisations and companies that have gone the distance in the past to bring you the very best experiences; people passionate about getting you out in the world safely and securely, whose own lives have been put on hold and whose jobs are at risk.
I’ve often said that the greatest relationship you should have in your life, beyond your lover, doctor and accountant, should be with your travel consultant. They could do with your help.
Booking travel is good for humanity
The last but not least reason – but perhaps the most holistic – for planning and booking travel is that it is good for humanity. My greatest concern and anxiety about our travel ban is that it is breeding insularism.
Travel is a force for good and it is no accident that for the most part, we are at our most inclusive and diverse as a human society because of travel and its democratisation.
Learning about others and understanding the paths they (and we) walk, is enriching for the mind and soul, and important to forming open perspectives on the world, crucial to our development as humans.
Travel beyond being big and beautiful can be humbling and centring. Plus, our exposure to others can also help them in their own journeys – which is why at OutThere we truly believe in boundless travel. For me, this is probaby the most important reason why you mustn’t stop – despite what those in politics may tell you – to dream, plan and book your travel.
Featured photography by Leo Morgan at Torfhus Retreat. Other photography courtesy of respective partners
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