Post Covid19 travel; why Staycations are going to be the next big thing

By Daniel Manley, founder & co-owner of Big Blue Adventures.

With so much time available for self-reflection during lockdown, (as well as binge watching Netflix – Tiger King anybody?) we had the chance to really see the impact we all have on each other and our planet through our lust for travel. The travel landscape has obviously changed drastically, with many in the travel industry claiming it was destined for something big to shake it up sooner rather than later as it just wasn’t sustainable. Something big indeed has hit the industry with the world coming to grinding halt due to the Covid-19 outbreak. While the optimists, myself included, are hoping for a quick return to the “norm”, many travel organisations such as easyjet are expressing they do not expect to see things returning to 2019 normalities until 2023. That’s not to say that we’ll stop travelling, that is just impossible. Exploring and adventure is part of human nature, so we are all chomping at the bit to get back out there. Singing happy birthday while washing our hands, giving air hugs to loved ones and living on zoom calls are not how humans should be spending their time. Travel is that opportunity to reconnect offline, get the feel-good factor back and create special memories together – that’s what life is all about. How we create those magical travel moments though could be different for a while as Chris Torres, Founder & Director of the Tourism Marketing Agency suggests:

 “Staycations are set to become the biggest market for tourism businesses for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021, due to the uncertainty of international travel. As human beings we will wish to escape the restrictions that have been placed on us all during the lockdowns and reconnect with our family, our friends and with the wider world. “All indications point to a strong staycation market for UK tourism businesses, partly because this may be the only option available to us. As Brits we love our 2 week holiday, if that means we can’t go abroad and have to do it closer to home, that will not stop us.”

With numerous travel factors in place such as the current 14 day self-quarantine on your return home, social distancing and limitations on tours and activity experiences, the worry of a possible second wave’s impact on your booking, to just the idea of catching Covid-19, it’s easy to see why many of us would be put off jumping on a plane for their next getaway. However, the show must go on and the flight industry is understandably very eager to get us back in the air with statista reporting a global industry loss of $315bn USD due to the pandemic. With borders creaking back open across Europe and signs of air travel regaining ‘some’ life (the UK and Portugal for example are due to open an air bridge in July with no quarantines required), I asked Lisa Minot, a Travel Editor at The Sun, who on the 15th June was onboard the 1st easyjet domestic flight in 3 months between London & Glasgow, how she she sees air travel going in the foreseeable future. “I think it is going to take time for many to be reassured enough to start travelling in any great numbers – the government needs to consider quarantine and FCO advice before many will feel safe enough to travel. There is still a long way to go, I think.”

Support Local

It makes sense that staying local will be the new pattern to immediate post-lockdown travel, at least in the shorter term as the industry adapts and buyer confidence increases. Staying local though does present so many awesome benefits, such as:

  • Benefiting the local economy: knowing that your travel funds, which will likely be a little lower after lockdown, are supporting your local economy will likely feel a bit sweeter. Where you can please do support local independent micro and SME companies who have no doubt been hit the worst during Covid-19
  • Appreciating what we have on our doorstep: Dan Swygart, CEO & Founder of Travel App Alpacr (really suggest downloading this app travel fans!) says “We are lucky enough to live in a world full of natural beauty and wonder, and it’s right here on our very doorsteps. During times of quarantine it made me think that there is a great opportunity to really see the beauty that your local area has to offer.” Coming from north Wales with Snowdonia on his doorstep Dan’s words could not be any truer! So, don’t dwell on missing those flights for now at least, as domestic travel is a great investment. And how wonderful will it feel to just get out there and explore after all of this, wherever you end up on your adventures in beautiful Britain!
  • Being Greener: importantly cutting down on those carbon footprints by avoiding air travel is only a positive thing for mother nature. Sure, the reduction in flights alone may not stop the world’s global warming issue alone, but it’s the change in mindset to more responsible and meaningful travel that has been refreshing to hear people talk of during lockdown. Using that forced downtime has been a refreshing time for reflection for us at Big Blue Adventures as well, as we have started to offset our own emissions by working with the fantastic team at Mossy Earth. From now on each month we are committed to helping trees being planted and supporting rewilding projects, thanks to their awesome efforts.
The birchwoods of Glen Mor in the fall
The Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland – one of Mossy Earth’s amazing projects.

UK Staycation Destinations & New Travel Goals

Lockdown as we all know, has been tough. I’ve been longing for a surf and relaxing at the beach for some time now. Being in the water and adventuring in general are my main coping mechanisms from those daily stresses and anxieties – so having that taken out of my life for months in lockdown has been immensely tough. Researching and talking with my travel connections has shown that our mindset towards the type of travel experience we want has changed because of the pandemic. Travellers are naturally wanting to get out there and feel healthy and alive again. A recent research I ran on LinkedIn has shown that 40% of holiday seekers are seeking outdoor activities and adventure, equally 40% are seeking health, wellness & relaxation as the key factor on their next trip, whereas 16% feel that their travel needs to be clean & safe with good social distancing measures in place and finally 5% see their carbon footprint as the most important factor. So, despite recent images of packed out anti-socially distant beaches, escaping the crowds and venturing into nature is high on our travel goals and we can expect to see a rise in outdoor activities and wellness experiences. Enjoying a detox in nature while truly escaping the busy life is so good for mind, body and soul, and in the UK we are very blessed with some world-class destinations for adventure and wellness travel. So, where to go next within the UK? Kaye Holland, a British based Travel Journalist told me of her longing to return to Scotland after lockdown:

“After a lengthy lockdown, I am more than ready for an adventure. As soon as I am able to, I’ll be headed to the Isle of Arran, where a welcome as warm as a bowl of Scots porridge is guaranteed. Arran – aka Scotland in miniature – is an easy two hour trip from Glasgow so why more people don’t make the journey remains a mystery. All you need to do is take the train from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan Harbour and from there the ferry to Brodick, Arran’s charming capital. There are few places on earth yet to be ‘Starbuck-ised’ but Arran is one of them. Stepping off the ferry is akin to stepping back in time: forget MacDonald’s and monstrous shopping malls, on this fair-trade island you’ll find quirky little shops selling wares made in Arran – think sugary tablet and toiletries by Arran Aromatics – cosy cafes and an amazingly diverse range of scenery for such a small space. But it’s the people that really make this place. Locals will go out of their way to help from the bus driver who happily deviates from his route to drop tourists off wherever they desire, to the guest house owner who, within five minutes of meeting me, had handed over the keys to her car so that I could hit the road and “get a real feel for the island. Don’t just take my word for it though: why not let the train take the strain after this is all over and discover what is on your doorstep because, let’s face it, domestic travel is likely to recover first as the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.”

Pic: Visit Arran (Mike Boyes).

Sounds amazing hey guys and girls? Criminally though I haven never made it to Scotland as usually warmer climates overseas have come calling, but who knows with staycations in mind this year could finally be the time. I have explored the rest of the UK in some detail, however. So, in addition to Kaye’s love for the Isle of Arran, here are my choices of places to escape to across the UK post lockdown:

Wales, The Gower Peninsula

With easy access off the M4, Gower and its award-winning beaches such as Rhossili Bay and Three Cliffs are just British beach heaven. Some of my best experiences adventuring with friends, family and guests have been here in Gower. Consistent with nice surf and a bit of an under the radar spot compared to Cornwall. But it doesn’t stop at surf, with so many activities to choose from including stretching the legs on the Wales Coast Path to top notch coasteering. Our yoga instructor Rose is also on hand for relaxing times of beach yoga and meditation with Gower providing the perfect backdrop for times of zen or adventure.

Stunning views of Three Cliffs Bay in Gower, south Wales

England, St Martins, Isles of Scilly (Cornwall)

As a lover of watersports and days spent relaxing away from the crowds on golden sands listening to the sounds of nature – it doesn’t get much better than St Martins. Grab your tent or stay in luxury, however you rest at night, by day you’ll be treated to the true feeling of escapism from the busy world. It takes a ferry from the mainland and a smaller boat ride from the main island of St Mary’s to reach this slice of peaceful heaven at St Martins. My favourite choice of activity here is sea kayaking or swimming with seals. And to complete the journey you must enjoy a drink with coastal views from The Seven Stones Inn.

A picture I took on arriving at St Martins back in 2016
Birds-eye view of St Martins. Pic: Visit Isles of Scilly

NI (Norn Iron), Giants Causeway and The Ulster Way Coastline

What an impressive coastline, not just for the scenes from Games of Thrones. While it screams history, myths and legends, it is also very easy on the eyes and a wonderful area to soak up nature, feel the elements and absorb the nice local culture. Grab your hiking shoes and camera and explore dramatic coastal walks and cute fishing villages such as Ballintoy Harbour and the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Finish that off with a Guinness – what a day! You can get ferries to Northern Ireland easily from ferry ports such as Liverpool who are operating albeit with measures in place.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Pic: The Guardian

North Wales, Snowdonia National Park

If you are more of a lover of the mountains over the coast then escaping to the beautiful national park in Snowdonia is the perfect staycation holiday for you in 2020. I have heard many guests calling it a mini New Zealand in terms of the dramatic scenery, lot’s of sheep of course and world-class outdoor activities. Activities range from many amazing hiking routes, canyoning, mountain biking to a zen lake SUP with mountain views. The main mount Snowdon hike is breathtaking and although the summit can be busy, you will find true escapism along the way. For a taste of local culture and a gentler hike you could also stop in Aber Falls distillery to taste some of the local Welsh gin and take a stroll to the lovely Aber Falls waterfall.

Hiking up the pyg trail to the summit of mount Snowdon
Canyoning in Snowdonia is the perfect outdoor adventure in stunning nature