Travel + Leisure magazine: armchair trips provide escapism from lockdown


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Travel + Leisure India webinar ()


Hosted by Sumeet Keswani, Deputy Editor, Travel + Leisure India and SA, the second in T+L’s new series of webinars also included input from: 

– Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure US

– Aindrila Mitra, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure India and South Asia

– Chris Kucway, Editor, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

– Alejandro Ortiz “Matu”, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure Mexico

– Amber Li, Senior Editor, Travel + Leisure China

The team examined the effects of Covid-19 on the luxury travel sector, and explained how the various incarnations of the publication were tailoring their content to meet different audience needs around the world.

“Domestic travel is going to be the first thing to bounce back in the US, and likely many places in the world,” says Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure US. “People are craving nature, and outdoor spaces in general, and it has been interesting to see how are we are beginning to reimagine our own cities as cleaner, more cultural places, in a new world. What we found in 2019 is that people were traveling a lot. Will they continue to take up to seven big trips a year when the lockdown does end? Maybe not. The new normal may mean people taking fewer trips, but staying in destinations for longer, and really immersing themselves in places when they do.”

Chris Kucway, Editor, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, agrees: “Both Vietnam and Thailand have announced plans to open up domestic travel first. We often think that a place like Vietnam is not big with domestic travel, but if that had been the case it is going to change fairly soon. Travel to these places is obviously huge, and we would expect this to resume once lockdown does end. However, when this does happen one can only hope that people don’t go back all at once, partly because of social distancing and partly also just because getting away from things is a big part of travel, and you want that to be able to continue.”

In China, which went into lockdown earlier, the situation is obviously much different, and Amber Li, Senior Editor, Travel + Leisure China, highlights some of the ways in which the industry in this region is already bouncing back: “People like to buy vouchers for next year. Also China is almost fine right now, already back to normal, so while this year people may not want to take too many risks, the country is already beginning to open back up. Luxury restaurants in Shanghai are very popular again, people like to pay for that more other things in the luxury sector.” 

Of course in the short to mid-term, the question of what kind of travel content to provide is at the forefront of publisher’s minds in the sector. Aindrila Mitra, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure India and South Asia, says that the publication has pivoted to a focus on armchair travel and points out that there is no lockdown on dreaming.

“Travel is never going to stop, and the magazine is all about dreaming and inspiration,” says Mitra. “I don’t think one virus is going to kill that any time soon. In 2019 we had about 1.4 billion cross borders. That number in 1950 was just 25 million so you know the difference and you know how much people want to travel.”

“But of course you can’t really ignore the current crisis, it’s something that’s new for everybody. When it comes to the parameters of content it’s about hope and inspiration. Cornell University research has shown that there is a very close correlation between planning trips and mental health. So there is no quarantine on dreaming, and it is our job to focus on armchair travel and provide virtual trips, which offer an escapism of sorts.”  

Alejandro Ortiz “Matu”, Editor-in-Chief, Travel + Leisure Mexico examines the mental health issue further, and highlights how post-Covid travel needs to have a particular focus on managing anxiety in a more stress-filled world: “People will be even more keen to use travel to create meaningful experiences post-Covid. They will also be looking for more space, more social distancing, and looking to manage stress, anxiety, and mental health. So travel will likely have an increased wellness aspect to it. Those within the travel industry will need to think even more about the client, and the services they are offering, and how they can meet these heightened needs.” 

All editors said that increased digital content was one of the keys to keeping audience eyeball figures high during the lockdown. Virtual tours, aspirational planning content looking at the days ahead, global recipes, and up-to-the-minute online stories about airline refunds and other current consumer issues are all important components.

You can find out more about Travel + Leisure’s outreach webinar series here.


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