With the new decade underway, I can’t help but reflect on the forces that are set to shake up the luxury travel industry in the years to come. As I see it, the biggest threat is technology: its pernicious effects on the way we apprehend our lives and perceive time will, I believe, affect the travel industry in a deeper, more structural way than the 2008 global financial crisis.
Technology has seeped into every facet of our lives, distorting and corrupting our relationship with others and our surroundings. Today, as a result of technology, we have lost faith in our mental capacities, including our critical thinking skills and our ability to solve even the simplest deliberation. We have also lost our instincts and natural intuition: no longer can we read an old-fashioned map, for example, or discern between north or west, or predict the weather based on the formations of the clouds in the sky, without the help of our smartphones and other devices. Instead of sharpening and augmenting our human capabilities—as technology was ostensibly designed to do—it has dulled and diminished these skills.
Image: Anni Pratt
The same innovations that are supposed to help us cope with the pace of life—work anniversaries on LinkedIn, for example, or running apps that allow you to track your workout and monitor your progress alongside your friends—have thrown us into a mode of acceleration wherein we prize instant external gratification as opposed to self-fulfillment over time, above all. Gradually, I believe, this vicious cycle reconfigures our brains to undermine our internal “hardware.”
As we continue to embrace and adopt technology for even the most mundane tasks, I expect the luxury travel industry to take on a different role: to bring people back to a balanced state via “rewilding” efforts, if you will. Rewilding, a word commonly used in the sphere of conservation biology, restores natural processes, revives degraded habitats, and reintroduces elements that are either missing or depleted, according to The Ecologist. Then, following these interventions, the ecosystem slowly returns to its natural, uncultivated state, which is defined by flux, growth, and dynamism.
Rewilding, as it applies to people, would involve learning from the land, wild plants, and animals and encouraging the adoption of traditional lifestyles, as found in indigenous or ancestral cultures. Ultimately, this re-education and re-immersion in nature would transform the luxury traveler so that he is more in touch with his interior life and his surroundings—fertile ground for self-exploration and discovery.
Image: Richard Tam
For the luxury travel industry, this rewilding process is not a matter of if or when, but how. In my opinion, the how might look like this: travel brands becoming active stakeholders in conservation and regeneration projects where low impact outdoor activities, such as walking, trekking, botany, geology, wildlife observation, and other activities, can be carried out. This would, in turn, lead to the creation of new protected wilderness areas and habitat corridors where wildlife can thrive and humans can restore themselves while being immersed in natural surroundings. I’m optimistic that this symbiosis could spark ideas for conservation efforts and environmental programs that could mitigate the effects of climate change.
Whereas rewilding in the pure ecological sense can reverse the damage humans have inflicted on our planet, rewilding the luxury traveler is not necessarily about a total return to nature but rather freeing ourselves from the tyranny of technology. Travel companies that can see the correlation between the demands of modern life and the traveler´s need to rewild will have an edge in this decade and beyond.