As we stagger through this latest wave and the travel restrictions subside, we are starting to have thoughts of movement again. And yes, Cancelled-Holiday Fatigue is causing caution but, as we do every time it’s possible to travel with fewer than 13 documents, our thoughts turn again to What The New Normal Will Be.
As humans, y’see, it’s not possible to think of the future without also hoping to control it, or at least plan for it. It’s what sets us apart from the animals, although roast a chicken one Sunday and you teach a dog that there is hope of roast chicken every Sunday.
What we are starting to hear muttered about is a new type of seasonality. Live events which are being promoted this year lie between May and September, times when the virus is usually more under control, or at least having a more manageable impact. There are now periods in the calendar where it is more likely that you will be able to cross borders, get on ‘planes and generally exotic it up than others.
This will have an impact on business travel as well as leisure travel and domestic markets are likely to see, if not the booms of recent years, then some padding for their shoulder seasons. Cornwall has a great beauty in the winter, if you give up on the idea of paddling and think instead of hot booze by the fire as the waves crash.
We are constantly being told by Greta that we need to be more seasonal. No more strawberries all year round. Only what can be found within 30 miles. Respect the ebbs and flows of the season. All very fine unless you live in an environment where the only thing which grows with ease is a turnip, but we can all appreciate the obscenity of flying soft fruits around the world. Will the pandemic and its own seasons encourage us to see ourselves as the new soft fruits of travel?
All those dolphins in the Venice Lagoon which we enjoyed in Lockdown 1.0, finally freed as we were from relentless office partying, caused many to think that when travel returned we’d all be more thoughtful of our impact on the planet. This has yet to be played out, but then the repressed travel demand has yet to be fully spent.
At last week’s Whitebridge Hospitality NY summit, Philip Camble, partner, speculated that billionaires might have got their own repressed travel demand out of their system now that they’ve been shot into space and might like to divert some of their billions into planet-saving investments.
What does all this mean for everyone’s pet pandemic travel theories? Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, announced that he was going to “live on Airbnb”, commenting that “more people will start living abroad, others will travel for the entire summer, and some will even give up their leases and become digital nomads”. It was, he said “kind of like a decentralization of living, and it’s changing the identity of travel”.
What that last comment was about, who can say, although it’s fair to say that Germany has benefitted greatly from a federal setup, so we’re not against a bit of decentralisation. What the centralisation is in our lives is, presumably, Chesky’s guess. Our homes? As for the identity of travel, can we just say it has a flexible luggage system with effective waterproofing and leave it at that?
A move towards seasonal travel would bring back that which most of us grew up with. Only the very wealthy could travel with the summer, the rest of us took the season on offer. A more nomadic way of life may not fit with this, depending on your nomadic motivation. All who wander are not lost, after all.