Featured Post

Showing posts with label Transformational Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Transformational Travel. Show all posts

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Glamping Elevated: The New Wave of Eco-Resorts

What makes an eco-resort, well, “eco”? It’s complicated.

Just because a property is located in a pristine environment, engages in sustainable practices, or buys carbon offsets to compensate for its environmental impact, that doesn’t automatically put it in this increasingly sought-after category. The definition of an eco-resort is a bit more nuanced than that. Europe is leading the charge in the space, not only by showing the world what exactly it can entail, but also in creating lots of properties that fit within its parameters.

One possible definition comes from Steph Curtis-Raleigh, whose Upgrade Publishing company produces International Glamping Business Magazine, along with glamping and eco-resort trade shows. “Eco-resorts are largely outdoorsy hotels where there is an environmental ethos,” she said. “It can be any type of accommodation — tents, individual structures, hotel  —but it’s down to the way it’s run; it’s a hotel with a conscience.” David Levanthal, founder of Regenerative Resorts, agreed that the definition starts with intention. “It goes down to the values of the people behind the resort,” said Levanthal. “How they got to where they are and their concern for the wellness of the entire environment.”

Kimshasa Baldwin ·  Treehouse Suite at Playa Viva Sustainable Boutique Hotel
The Treehouse Suite at Playa Maya, Mexico

In this way, the eco-resort movement has much in common with the transformational travel trend, which Skift has been reporting on. The common threads are consciousness and concern about environmental and societal impacts.

Good old-fashioned marketing matters, too, according to Siniša Topalović, managing partner at Horwath HTL. “There are those resorts which are eco-friendly in terms of sustainability efforts and energy efficiency, but those initiatives are not always marketed to guests,” he said. In other words, if an environmentally conscious resort does not promote itself as such, it may not end up in the specific category of eco-resorts.

Often, eco-resorts are in the upscale and luxury tiers, he added. That’s because delivering seamless service in a calm environment often requires a place to be “individualized and small scale” — hence, toward the luxury end of the spectrum. “It’s not easy to do a three-star eco-resort,” said Topalović.


The idea of a resort located in nature and focused on sustainability started in northern Europe. It’s a particularly strong phenomenon in Scandinavia, according to Topalović, which many consider Europe’s most environmentally focused region. But that comes with a catch. Because Scandinavia is ahead of the curve, properties like Norway’s Juvet Landscape Hotel or PAN Treetop may not classify as eco-resorts, said Curtis-Raleigh. For the Scandinavians, “these properties are just something set in nature — it doesn’t have to be classified, not marketed in that way.”

Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway

In places like the Netherlands, France, and Greece, according to Curtis-Raleigh, many traditional tented camping and glamping sites are now upgrading themselves into eco-resorts, which “are more ambitious projects” often involving built structures, like cabins, treehouses, or containers. In the vast majority of cases, those projects “are accommodations providing eco- and nature-related experiences to guests, which allow guests to connect and immerse in nature,” said Levanthal. “The experience is in direct connection with nature and the environment around you.”

Both Slovenia and Croatia are leaning into the concept in a big way. These countries lost out on a lot of tourism during the war of the 1990s. When the fighting ended, “they had to get back into the game and quickly,” noted Curtis-Raleigh. “Because they had a chance to look at what was happening in the world at the time, they were able to embrace new ways of getting into the game with low environmental impact,” she said.

Growth of eco-resorts in these countries has also followed government policy, Topalović said. Slovenia’s national tourism office has gone all in for nature tourism, and the result has been an increase in specialized eco-resorts. In Croatia, the development of eco-resorts in rural areas is part of the solution to the overtourism problem along the country’s coast. For example, inland in Lovinac, the highly anticipated T-Nest eco-resort is set to open this fall. It incorporates 70 wooden villas in a scenic forest landscape. Green credentials include a natural pool with a self-cleaning system, an elevated tree canopy trail, and organic gardens and greenhouses supplying the on-site restaurants.

Slovenia Eco Resort and Glamping Olimia Adria Village among top 7 ...
Olimia Adria Village Eco-Resort, Slovenia


Your Nature, situated in 700 acres of preserved forestland in western Belgium, is scheduled to open later this year. The eco-resort is designed to preserve the area’s biodiversity and natural resources. It will consist of hundreds of small lodges built from sustainable materials. There will be multiple dining and nightlife concepts and a range of recreational facilities. What’s more, the carbon footprint for getting there will be small. Your Nature is a short train ride from London, Paris, and Brussels.

While the resort is owned by Edouard de Ligne, a member of the Belgian nobility, it’s going to be branded and managed by a notable hotel company: Dream Hotel Group, which recently signed on as the property’s management company. CEO Jay Stein said that even though Dream Hotels hadn’t originally planned to start an eco-resort, a chance encounter with a green-leaning real estate developer offered reason enough to give it a shot. Since the world is heading this way, and the concept fit into de Ligne’s desire to be “progressive and sustainable,” the partnership made sense.

Your Nature, which will be branded under Dream’s Unscripted label, will be a pilot project, according to Stein. “We are trying to get fully immersed in the concept and are learning as we go,” said Stein. “We aren’t bringing a playbook and dropping it in there. That said, we are hoping to bring in elements from existing brands, and vice versa.”

Will other hotel companies follow Dream Hotels in the eco-resort movement? According to Topalović, “While eco-resorts are becoming increasingly popular, they are not mainstream. They are still perceived by investors as niche/boutique,” which, he said, may not be of interest to bigger companies — yet.

But Curtis-Raleigh sees eco-resorts as products that will appeal both to investors specializing in social responsibility and to large hotel companies. That’s because the desire “to seek out experiential travel and discover modern, unique accommodations doesn’t seem to be going away.” Just look at AutoCamp, UnderCanvas, and Getaway, all of which have raised millions of dollars in recent years from venture capital funds, private equity firms, and major hospitality companies.

Our Luxury Accommodations in California | AutoCamp
An Autocamp Resort in California

As big money comes into the picture, however, there is a danger that the concept could end up getting misappropriated. There is certainly potential for greenwashing, which is when an organization falsely presents itself as environmentally responsible. According to Curtis-Raleigh, the industry “would like to come up with some standards as to what an eco-resort is to avoid greenwashing.” That said, “We don’t want to impose these standards, but we do want to ensure that eco-resorts always serve to improve the lives of the people who live around them and the environment.”

This article also appeared in Skift in February.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Travel 2020: Transformational Travel Set to Alter the Landscape

As the year — and decade — turns, travel journalists are bombarded with client-serving PR pitches about the newest/hottest/splashiest trends. But given that change is an evolution without a clear starting date, it’s wise to employ 2020 hindsight before looking forward to how travel will unfold in 2020.
Conveniently, the recently released 18th annual Bain & Company Luxury Study, produced in conjunction with Altagamma, provides some guidance.
The pool at Ritz Carlton Bacara in
Santa Barbara, California

According to the study, the overall luxury market, encompassing both luxury goods and experiences, grew by four percent at constant exchange rates to an estimated 1.3 trillion euros globally in 2019. The growth is coming largely from Asia and from younger generations, according to the study, which was authored by Bain partners Federica Levato and Claudia D’Arpizio.

The report says that while millennials accounted for 35 percent of the luxury market in 2019, by 2025, that will rise to 45 percent. It’s members of Generation Z, however, who are poised to reshape the industry. By 2035, Gen Zers could comprise up to 40 percent of luxury buyers.

"Gen Z customers are the new frontiers of tomorrow's luxury market — and they already represent a growing portion of luxury consumption in Asia,” said D’Arpizio. They are also already showing specific consumption habits differentiating them from millennials. Therefore, going into the new decade, "luxury brands will need to connect with customers in an increasingly personal way," said D'Arpizio. "The products, experiences, and ideas that they deliver will need to flow together to appeal to the emotions of younger customers, who are diverse, global, and opinionated, and also more pragmatic than millennials."

She predicted experiential travel will progressively evolve into “achievement travel” for Gen Z, with an emphasis on travel experiences that allow them to align with community. Those experiences will need to be designed to be more sensitive to ethical and environmental standards, as Generation Z "will be more committed to social responsibility than prior generations." Moreover, the relevance of social responsibility is aligning among nationalities, with Asia catching up with the West.

The Travel Landscape Transforms

Global consultancy Euromonitor suggested that experiential luxury is set to outpace all other categories of luxury spending: “Luxury is becoming more than just a price point but a state of mind that luxury brands embody as consumers continue to seek truly authentic and transformational experiences.”

Transformational travel seems to be the term on everyone’s tongue as we enter the New Year. It’s defined by the Transformational Travel Council as “intentionally traveling to stretch, learn, and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.”

Currently, transformational travel is mainly linked to the wellness arena. And, in fact, a new survey of Virtuoso travel advisors specializing in wellness named meditation and mindfulness as the top travel activity their clients are seeking. That’s because clients “are looking to wellness trips to restore balance and transform mind, spirit, and body. They are seeking skills to help maintain that calm and support their mental, spiritual, and physical health once they return home.”

But in 2020, transformation is likely to break free of its wellness yoke. According to Philippe Brown, founder of luxury travel advisory Brown + Hudson, a 2020 vision of transformation includes insight, memorability, knowledge, purpose, and timeliness, all of which can permeate all levels and types of travel. 

“As travelers harness nature, culture, and social activities to connect with their inner self and to promote qualitative life changes,” said Brown, “travel won’t be so much about the where, but the why.”
Anse Cafard Slave Memorial in Martinique

Brown + Hudson has coined the term "meta travel," suggesting, Brown said, “both ‘beyond travel’ and a self-referential idea of travel that teaches you how to travel. It’s getting consumers to think about why they are traveling in the first place.”

For families looking to bond, for example, Brown + Hudson is designing trips as compelling games, like “a 14-day in-country escape room that helps families to discover themselves and wherever they are almost peripherally — and addictively,” said Brown. These are tailored journeys that include challenges, puzzles, and mysterious encounters. By turning a trip into a game, Brown said, “Serendipity and shared experiences allow families to discover places with a heightened multi-sensory awareness.” 

Providing tourists with a means of experiencing different cultures is another type of transformational travel that is gaining traction. In Luang Prabang, Laos, Amantaka has launched the Buddhist Learning Centre designed to educate guests about the principles of Buddhism. Guests can receive private daily teaching from an abbot, or they can witness monks and novices at sunrise accepting alms.

In terms of travel to remote and unfamiliar destinations, Brown noted that it's easier for Western travelers to experience transformation when they are comfortable. Providing the luxuries needed to make challenges achievable in difficult environments is key to allowing nature help the mind switch off, focus, rebalance and potentially transform, noted Brown.

Piers Schmidt, founder of London-based Luxury Branding Services, applauded forward-thinking companies like Brown's that continually eyeball trends, rather than waiting for a date on the calendar. "In the real world, consumers and the companies and brands that seek to serve them continue to adapt to the beat of a drum that has little to do with the pronouncements of forecasters and more to do with evolving commercial contexts and consumer preferences.”

“The eagle-eyed will always be able to spot interesting new things that are gaining traction in the less well-documented nooks and crannies," added Schmidt. "The trick, however, is not to seize on these willy-nilly and lazily badge them as a trend with a pithy headline, but to have the wit and imagination to interpret what such early indicators mean for you and your business and execute on them accordingly.”