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Travel is headed the slow, sustainable way

Travel became a bit of a competitive sport in the last 10 years, but is starting to loosen up now

Rohit Sharma has become the first man to score as many as five centuries in a World Cup.
Rohit Sharma has become the first man to score as many as five centuries in a World Cup. (Photo: AP)

The 2010s were the decade when travel became easier. The arrival of short-term lodging services, the embrace of “second cities", and the rapid growth of budget airlines both shrunk our globe and made it more intriguing. And the siren song of social media sent us to far-flung corners in search of “authentic", “local", and “undiscovered" places, or (contrarily) to recreate influencers’ brilliant snaps.

But if travel became something of a competitive sport in the last 10 years, it’s starting to loosen up. As it turns out, trying to visit every country in the world before turning age 40—or simply checking off three bucket-list cities in a weeklong trip—is exhausting. The overwhelming number of booking channels and sources of inspiration has left travellers confused, too.

That’s why “slow travel", which lets you get under the skin of a place by simply staying put there for a little longer, is gaining traction. The idea doesn’t just make for more restful time off, it’s also more environmentally sustainable and fulfilling. It underscores the majority of the trends that will reshape the way we think about our adventures in 2020 and beyond.


We’ve already told you about carbon offsets and how it’s getting easier to properly offset your flights. But in 2020 that trend will go much further.

Cool Effect, the company we like best for carbon offsets, will release tools to help you offset the carbon footprints of your cruise vacations. Several airlines, including EasyJet, are setting goals to offset their entire fleets’ emissions. And tour operators are getting in on the act, making sure that our footprint on the ground nets out, too. Leading the pack is Natural Habitats, which in 2019 began offering zero-footprint itineraries. Now the company is one-upping that idea by offsetting travellers’ entire lives for a full year if they book one of its Climate Change & Our Wild World trips. (The offset calculations are based on home size, electricity bills, monthly expenses, and air and driving miles.) Led by experts from the World Wildlife Foundation, travellers can venture to see such spectacles as the whale migration in Cabo, the Amazon rainforest, or polar bears in the Arctic.


These days, travel clubs might be one of the most sophisticated ways to book travel.

Take Inspirato Pass, a subscription that acts like an all-you-can-travel buffet. It starts at $2,500 per month, which includes as many nights as you wish in the company’s partner hotels, luxury homes, or even on cruise ships. Certain exclusive experiences, like VIP access to marquee sporting events, are also included.

And then there’s Prior, a membership club for the culturally curious. In its second year, the company is continuing to expand its “Nomadic Clubhouse" events, similar to intimate, members-only parties in spectacular settings. One will celebrate Holi at the invitation of the Maharaja of Jaipur; another will spend a long weekend in Uruguay eating fire-cooked meals prepared by the legendary chef Francis Mallmann.


Somadomes, Bod Pods, virtual reality wellness—if you have no idea what these things mean, you will soon. The latter has just debuted at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Hawaii, where a spaceship-like device called Sensync claims to “reset" spagoers’ brains by manipulating all five senses. During the 20- to 80-minute journey, a virtual reality headset “takes" guests to deep space, ocean coves, or zen gardens, while the machine pumps out related sounds and smells, and simulates things like wind and temperature.

Other spa offerings will be more medical in nature. Gstaad Palace has joined with Cellgym to help clients adjust to Alpine altitudes before their first ski day; treatments involve breathing oxygen-reduced air through a mask, as submarine crews and top athletes sometimes do while training. At the Dolder Grand in Zurich and Four Seasons New York Downtown, aestheticians use confocal miscroscopes to learn about the pigmentation and elasticity of your skin, then send data to a dedicated research centre to create a “prescription" of products customized to your needs.


When the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection launches next summer on its maiden voyage, it will be one of several new companies trying to overhaul the way we think about cruising. Across the world, small ships, designed more like boutique residences than floating chunks of Vegas, will make it easier and sexier to see remote coastal places. And no, we’re not talking about those 200-passenger vessels. These are largely independent, such as the “floating ryokan" Guntu in Japan, which offers contemplative views of the Seto Inland Sea from its sushi bar and 19 suites. There’s also HMS Gåssten, a former Swedish minesweeper (bookable through Red Savannah) that’s been restored and turned into a luxe base for skiing and biking trips in Norway’s Sunmore Alps. bloomberg

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