Beyond physical points

The pandemic has presented This is Beyond with an opportunity to change the way it connects and inspires its communities, says CEO Serge Dive.

Just two years old, Further East has made positive waves in Asia’s luxury travel arena with its unique approach to integrating stakeholders and inspiring travel ideas. Now, with the pandemic disrupting travel and tourism as well as tradeshows, how are you maintaining connections with and among the luxury travel community?
From the earliest days of the pandemic, our show teams – for PURE Life Experiences, L.E/Miami, We Are Africa and Further East – have been in constant communication with our communities. We are known for our human-to-human approach and saw no reason why this should not continue during Covid-19, just because we were unable to meet in person. For many in our communities, there has never been a more difficult year than 2020, and it was vital for us to check in with our members frequently by phone, strengthening the close relationships we have spent 12 years building. We further responded to their needs with a programme of digital content throughout the summer, including masterclass webinars and virtual social events.

For many years, we have wanted to allow our communities to connect 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, rather than just during one week per year, at one of our events. That’s why I’m so excited to launch The House of Beyond this December – a private members’ club for high-end hospitality, designed to bring our communities more connections, more exposure and more business, every day of the year.

How will this influence This is Beyond’s plans for 2021?
We’ve been bringing people together since 2009, creating events that reshape the high-end travel industry into inspired communities. Our mission at The House of Beyond is to make a global world truly local, 365 days a year. The House of Beyond will put humanity at the heart of business to connect like-minded leaders in different niches of high-end travel, wherever they are in the world.

We’ve always wanted to provide our communities with a place to interact year-round. Now, our network is not limited to attending one or two flagship events each year; rather, they’re part of a wider inspired community, able to interact and do business with anyone in the This is Beyond ecosystem, whenever they like.

We believe membership in The House of Beyond is an exceptional opportunity for anyone in high-end hospitality, particularly now, when forming connections and forging a path forward for our industry is critical.

Many business and consumer events have chosen to go virtual, or adopt an online/offline format where possible. Will The House of Beyond be taking a similar approach for its industry engagements?
Yes, but we are also very conscious of the digital fatigue many are feeling. That’s why The House of Beyond will offer hybrid events – both virtual and real-life activities – to ensure members can meet and interact in person, if it is safe for them to do so.

For example, we might hold a sustainability masterclass for 10 people in Singapore, while simultaneously live-streaming the content for members around the world to watch at their leisure.

And there will be no sages on a stage or Zoom either; all sessions will be highly interactive and engaging. We’re big proponents of active participation and this will be a key tenet of all content we create.

We know how keen people in our industry are to reconnect in person, so we want to give them every opportunity to do so, while relying on the benefits of technology to unite everyone virtually.

The pandemic has emphasised that travel is a privilege. When borders begin to reopen, travel will be restricted to those who can afford to fulfill the many layers of travel security demanded by governments. So, how do you foresee luxury travel to rebound in 2021?
I think the most important thing for people to remember is that for travel, we are starting again from zero. In the past, we may have experienced a blip, but never a hard stop. During the pandemic, we went from 1,000 miles an hour to almost zero.

With that said, I expect a strong and fast rebound for luxury travel; I think the speed and acceleration of recovery will take everybody by surprise.

We don’t know when or if there will be a vaccine, but I’m confident we will see improvements by 2Q2021 due to rapid testing, which more and more travel companies like British Airways are now adopting. For travellers, rapid tests will be a huge confidence driver and a modest price to pay in
order to travel freely again.

As we’ve observed in China, there will be a huge pent-up demand for travel – revenge travel, if you will. I predict two waves of recovery: one where the desire to travel will trickle down slowly, followed by a Wild West period where travellers will go wild and want to go everywhere.

This is why travel brands must be wary of discounting or reducing their prices, as price is a critical factor in profitability. In terms of how consumer mindsets will evolve, I predict the resurgence of a Jack Kerouac-style, on-the-road mentality. More than ever, consumers will see travel not as a break, but as an opportunity to expand their minds and transform themselves after months of lockdown and restricted movement.

So in many ways, I’m optimistic. Yes, 2019 was an exceptional year. But I predict that 2022 and 2023 may be even better.

What specific post-lockdown travel trends excite you most today?
This January, travel’s biggest trend was flygskam – flight shaming. Climate change remains one of the biggest threats to our future. However, I am confident that the pandemic will have a positive effect on the environment and bolster sustainable travel, which I predict will define the way we explore the world post-pandemic.

Firstly, overcrowded resorts will be a thing of the past – people will seek remote, open spaces that are far from other travellers, which will mitigate overtourism. More than seeking out these remote places, travellers will also have a greater desire to protect them, inspired by the enormous environmental benefits we have seen during the pandemic.

Secondly, restorative travel will surge. Covid-19 has put a premium on our health, proving it is the only capital that truly matters. Whereas previously, many of us took this for granted, it now feels more important than ever to lead a balanced life and stay connected to nature – and we will seek out wellness experiences that meet this need. We will be more caring not only of the planet, but of ourselves.

If there had to be one positive outcome from the pandemic, what would it be – and what would the implications be for travel and tourism?
Pre-Covid-19, it was clear that some travellers were taking trips for the wrong reasons, without taking any value from them – for bragging rights or a cheap photo opportunity – a trend largely driven by Instagram.

Travel was increasingly viewed as a birthright, not a privilege. But the pandemic has drastically changed our perspective and given the world some much-needed humility. Now, we’ve discovered what truly matters: to be social animals, to see and hug loved ones, to have real, tangible experiences for which social media is no substitute.

I think people will desire transformational journeys once restrictions are lifted, meaning the act of travel will be more important than ever before.

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