Bawah Reserve, Anambas Islands, Indonesia

Luxury travel trends, 2021:
Calculated moves

It is without a doubt that the events of 2020 changed the way that OutThere travellers will approach getting out into the world in the future – both in the physical and logistical sense, but also in the way we think. While effectively navigating a pandemic-stricken world is going to be the dominant factor in our choices as travellers this year, there is also a heightened level of consciousness of what it really means to be a responsible, world citizen in this age; coupled with a pent-up desire to make this year’s travels count and make up for lost time. We dive into five notable shifts in the landscape of luxury and experiential travel – from OutThere’s recently published luxury travel trends report – that has come directly from the year the earth stood still and we discuss some tried-and-tested travel treats to inspire those of you who may be plotting your next great escape.

Private eyes are smiling

Topping the list of our luxury travel trends is privacy … the ultimate luxury for 2021 and our desire for seclusion has us seeking out stand-out experiences and low-human interaction stays, away from the madding crowd. Of course, we’ve always known the benefits of private travel – the security, discretion, access to otherwise hard-to-reach experiences and the wonder of seeing a part of the world entirely to ourselves and our nearest and dearest. Travel advisors Scott Dunn has recently launched ‘Scott Dunn Private’ for that very reason. This membership-based, ultra-luxury club provides access to some sublime experiences, like Sheldon Chalet, in deepest darkest Alaska.

There are merits to travelling as a small group (or bubble) too. Beyond being away strangers, private group travel allows us to deepen connections and reconnections with friends and family. For diverse travellers, group travel gives us the opportunity to explore destinations that may be perceived as more conservative, safely, in numbers. Doing so is also value savvy. It brings down the per-head cost of a more luxurious holiday. Five Star Greece offer sublime villas in locations that some of the best situated hotels will struggle to rival, not to mention access to private yachts for a taste of the rich and famous.

You can expect some fabulous new products to meet the demand when we rebound. When we visited Bawah Reserve, we already experienced their six private islands, three lagoons and thirteen beaches pretty much to ourselves. But now they’ve created their own private villa on its own island and we just can’t wait to try it out.

Scott Dunn Private – Sheldon Chalet
Scott Dunn Private offers journeys to secluded one-of-a-kind locations.
Villa in Tinos, Five Star Greece
Five Star Greece has stunning villas in equally stunning places.
Bawah Reserve, Anambas Islands, Indonesia
Bawah Reserves six islands is an escapist playground.

People, planet and purpose

As OutThere travellers, we’ve always been very aware of our impact when we travel; but this year, our luxury travel trends report shows that we should pay it far more attention and put our money where our values lie. New hotel portfolio, Beyond Green, is pushing the boundaries of sustainability. Members have to go through a rigorous vetting process to meet over 50 sustainability indicators that align with global sustainable tourism standards – including human-rights and community benchmarks – and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

We should also make 2021 the year we stop talking about transformative travel and actually make journeys that will help us change our outlook on the world and enable us to get a better handle on the challenging structures that still shape our society today. When we visited Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town, we gained a crucial and much deeper understanding of our privilege and that we have a responsibility to share it in whatever way we can.

It is also important that we look to destinations and brands that can demonstrate inclusivity in their outlook, deliver good social responsibility and ones that value diversity and difference. There are many that have long welcomed our community of travellers, but a handful that go the distance to develop products that are transformative for us. Behold Retreats is an example of one that has created experiences specifically with our needs in mind.

Beyond Green - Preferred Hotels
Beyond Green seeks out the world’s most sustainable stays.
Khayelitsha Cape Town South Africa photography by Martin Perry
Juma Art Tours immerses travellers into local communities.
behold retreats costa rica
Behold Retreats takes mindful adventurers to new highs. Literally.

The old familiar

It’s easy to understand why there will be an inclination to stick to what we know when we head back out into the world again. Our luxury travel trends report shows that many of us will make our first grand outing to an old favourite, or rediscover a place that we have visited before. Beyond the heightened desire for safety, it’s natural that we’ll want to optimise the enjoyment of our first holiday of 2021. We think back to when we rediscovered Mallorca having not visited for a while. It was nice to be surprised by new things in a place that we otherwise knew well.

While familiar, these journeys will still need to be fabulous and flawless. We want to revisit destinations and return to brands that we’ve had an affinity with, or ones that have clearly demonstrated support for the community, but we’re still looking for wow-factor. For us, that’s a brand like Belmond. The brand has worked hard to be part of the OutThere community for a long time and its properties and journeys are effortlessly experiential, but with that familiar sense of joie de vivre that we’re all craving at this time.

We won’t blame you if your priority on returning to the world is to fulfil postponed 2020 plans. According to our luxury travel trends report, a majority of OutThere travellers are with you. We’re also aware that many of these trips will be cancelled milestone celebrations – a big birthday or anniversary, a honeymoon perhaps – marking a momentous occasion is high up there in the reasons why we travel. But even if you weren’t celebrating something on your trip, why not treat yourself in 2021 and make out like you are?

Palacio Can Marques, Palma, Mallorca, Spain
If you think you’ve discovered all there is to know about Mallorca, think again.
Belmond Cap Juluca, Anguilla
Belmond may have experiential outposts all over the world, but each still feels like coming home.

Holiday, celebrate!

As many of our upcoming trips will be rebookings from last year, why not achieve better value from your holiday by topping up last year’s plan with some of this year’s holiday budget? You can upgrade your ‘try-again-trip’ to make more of the experience: go up a class in your airline cabin, or even fly private; or nudge your accommodation category up a notch; or add on some unique experiences. Firstly, you deserve it, and secondly, there are some great deals out there.

Bensley Collection properties – the ultra-luxe offerings of Shinta Mani Hotels in Cambodia show just how much more you’d get by going up a tier. If you’ve had your grand ski-trip cancel, perhaps you should see if the resort will be open in the summer instead. Top resorts like Schloss Elmau put on some amazing wellness and cultural programming in the summer, and you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck than in ski season.

What we’re also hearing is that people are extending the duration of their trips, so they fly-less-stay-longer. With added time on your hands, you can perhaps do something a little different to what you usually would, like experience life on a ranch at Wildcatter, in Texas, if you already happen to be travelling to the United States.

The Bensley Collection, Shinta Mani Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Bensley Collection offers uniquely luxurious upgrades.
Bavaria, Germany
Schloss Elmau is as spectacular in the summer as it is in winter.
WildCatter Ranch
Save a horse, ride a cowboy at the luxurious Wildcatter Ranch.

Travel with an expert

The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of travel advisors and tour operators. Beyond crisis management, processing rebookings and issuing refunds when due, 2021 will see travel agents as oracles when it comes to understanding the complicated landscape of travel in an uncertain age – from what is open and what is not, to varying health and safety protocols, to helping us vet destinations and brands based on our values. It can really work in your favour, even in destinations that you think would be easy to navigate. Thanks to Abercrombie & Kent, our trip to Scotland was made all the less challenging as Scotland moved into new Covid-tiers overnight during our trip.

Working with experts will also maximise our upcoming holidays with new experiences that only insiders in the industry have access to. On a recent trip to Israel, ‘out of the box’ operator Touring Israel showed us a part of the country that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, in a way we would never have never undertaken if we travelled there on our own. Culinary tour operator Zen Kimchi took us on a belly-busting insider foodie journey through the hidden alleys of Seoul, South Korea to search out the very best in local cuisine and streetfood.

Abercrombie & Kent helped us navigate changing lockdown rules in Scotland.
Akko or Acre, Israel doors
Touring Israel helped us open the doors to Acre (Akko).
Seoul Korean BBQ
Zen Kimchi took us through the back alleys of Seoul to hunt out the best food.

These luxury travel trends are based on OutThere’s annual reader survey of just under 2,500 of our readers, fans and followers.

Featured photography courtesy of Bawah Reserve