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  • Writer's pictureMme Vanessa Williamson

France Slow Tourism & Boutique travel; the way forward post COVID19

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Slow tourism and boutique stays are the way forward for post COVID19 travel

There is light ahead for the travel industry – slow touring and eco-tourism will be the keys.

2018 saw the start of trend to slower eco tourism and low tech tourism. Burnt out executives, professionals and baby boomers led an evolving market looking for a more holistic way to escape. Greener, slower, low tech holidays started to become much more attractive than crowded cities, tourist hotspots and high speed sight seeing.

As local and international travel slowly re-opens in Autumn 2020, I predict we will see a rise in this trend, and a rebirth of a more conscious style of touring - as it was before the advent of city sized cruise ships and crowded bus tours, visiting 30 cities in 30 days. Throbbing resorts – now silent - may become a thing of the past, evolving to meet the needs of a new breed of aware traveller.

The post COVID19 world of travel will look entirely different, and has the potential to set the pattern for travel into the future. Fear of infection will drive the choices of those who still have the desire to travel and feel the need to escape the oppression of lockdown in homes and cities.

Early indicators suggest travellers will book regional locations, will stay longer, move about less, and avoid large groups and busy tourism sites. I predict too, an increased demand for social distancing on flights, with growth in demand for Premium Economy & business class seats. If they emerge in their prior format, packed cattle class flights to Europe will be avoided.

This newly enlightened breed of traveller will return to independent travel, favouring quality, boutique accommodation and locally led private tours and experiences.

Travellers will be willing to drive further to escape. Lockdown has reset the desire for outdoor private space and nature, low crowds, clean and green. A new age of self-drive holidays, Bed and Breakfast , Self-Catering cottage accommodation will be in demand, “glamping” will be the new growth market for camping. Holidays at home or abroad will be based on visiting local attractions and enjoying local experiences, day trips, and staying in simply beautiful locations! All in all, a return to quiet and simple old-fashioned countryside holidays which emerged after WW2.

This is great news for private tourism operators. Quality, bespoke accommodation, with regional tour offerings and a diverse range of services, will be the new winners and will be in high demand

France, the most popular tourism destination in the world, still abounds with these holiday options.

French regional holidays are still a well-kept secret, with most inbound tourism operators delivering travellers to hot spot destinations and packed hotels. Yet France abounds with beautiful countryside , unique destinations and culturally authentic experiences, offering accommodation in Chateaux or farmhouse barn conversions, and everything from language, cooking or art classes, yoga retreats, Loire Valley Winery tours, to sport fishing holidays – all of which can be explored on tailored, private tours.

Then there is Europe’s award-winning cycling holiday routes, featuring hand picked accommodation en route. For the history enthusiast, popular independent days tours include military history sites of WW1 in northern France and WW2 sites of Normandy.

The old-fashioned nature of self-catering holiday cottages, B&B stays, and Camper Van touring across Europe have been popular since the 1960s. A google search reveals just how many small operators there are.

With the benefit of Apps, like Michelin Touring & Maps your GPS you can now self-guide to local sites of interest, dining, and accommodation. Most local accommodation operators have websites with direct booking, cutting commissions paid to OTAs, putting more holidays euros back in your pocket.

Travel Agents stopped selling small holidays stays in favour of big touring packages, loading travel with commissions and additional charges. Now travellers and private destinations are fighting back, self-guided holidays never having been easier. Travel professionals will be scrambling to rediscover these offerings if they want to keep their clients.

The COVID19 crisis halted global travel in a way not experienced since WW2, and certainly not for several generations. Airlines and global booking platforms like Bookingdotcom and AirBnB have been hit the hardest, falling as rapidly as they rose, with staff layoffs and business restructuring for their very survival.

Traveller demand will reset the travel market over the next 2 years, the industry will be reduced, a new global recession will hit. Travellers not big business will dictate how and where people will travel

The jigsaw puzzle that makes up the travel industry has been scrambled and some of the pieces, especially the big ones, may never fit back together. The survivors in this new tourism marketplace will be the small, quality operators running businesses they love.

Thank you for reading

Vanessa Williamson 7th May 2020

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