Although it is still uncertain when we will be able to freely travel in 2021, there are still possibilities. We asked Jarvis Marcos, The Luxury Traveller, to give us his insight into luxury travel during the pandemic. Jarvis is an avid traveller and has been writing luxury hotel reviews since 2013.
Prior to COVID I didn’t think twice about flying from London to Sao Paulo just to have dinner, flying back the following day. I’ve spent long weekends in Jakarta, Montreal and Mexico City. I’m of the opinion that life is short and opportunities to travel should always be taken. You’ll have the opportunity to feel tired once you return home.
As such, it’s safe to say that the last year has come as something of a shock to me.
Last March it seemed like all of 2020 would be a complete write off. And at the moment 2021 isn’t feeling much better.
Writing off travel isn’t in my nature though.
I lived in China during SARS; I was in Ulaanbaatar during the 2008 riots; I lived in Bangkok as snipers were placed on shopping mall rooftops and grenades were thrown at the Skytrain in 2010; I flew into Japan during Typhoon Hagibis, when all direct flights from Europe had been cancelled…so you can see that I don’t give up easily.
Here are the lessons that I’ve learned travelling during the pandemic. I hope that they’ll serve to inform and inspire you during what continues to be an uncertain period for global travel.
Airplanes are just about the safest public spaces you can find yourself in
All major airlines require the use of masks on board and all modern planes feature HEPA filtration systems. HEPA systems filter 99.97% of all airborne viruses and bacteria from the air and are also used in hospital operating theatres.
If you’re flying in Business or First, not all products are created equal. But I’d feel very comfortable with the amount of distance between passengers on enclosed suite style products, like those offered by Qatar in Business Class or Emirates in First.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is safer than breathing unfiltered air indoors at a restaurant, where the closest tables will be no further from you than the next suite on a plane.
Consistency is key
One of the first things I did when the pandemic broke out was to analyse the data regarding tourism and travel as a % of GDP across the globe. Countries that top the list have tended to be the most consistent and pragmatic. They can’t afford not to be. The best example is The Maldives. Their rules are simple and they hardly ever change. No matter where you’re from, no matter where you’ve been, if you have a negative PCR test that is no more than 96 hours old, you can enter.
You can check up to date entry rules for every country here. Travelling to these sorts of countries affords you a far greater deal of certainty than visiting those where tourism and travel are less economically important.
There are some once in a lifetime opportunities to be seized
I visited Rome in July of 2020 and saw the Trevi fountain in the middle of the day, on a weekend… and it was completely deserted. I walked around the Vatican museum and spent 30 minutes sitting alone in a room with a Mondrian, a Van Gogh and a sculpture by Rodin.
These are experiences which would be close to impossible to recreate, regardless of your budget.
Of course if you pick the right spot and it is deserted, then not only will you enjoy having the place to yourself but safety shouldn’t be a concern. COVID can’t spread when there’s nobody around.
Not all PCR tests are created equal
When it comes to PCR testing you need to pick somewhere that has meaningful capacity. A guaranteed turnaround time and ideally nurses with a soft touch is also helpful. I’ve had PCR tests that resulted in extreme dry heaving and left me more teary eyed than a night in with Watership Down. Others have been an absolute delight, where samples were taken with extreme precision and no discomfort whatsoever. In London, the best I’ve found is Unilabs. They guarantee results in 48 hours, and generally take a lot less. I have always had immediate availability and the test itself is the most comfortable I’ve encountered anywhere.
In Dubai, a special mention has to go to Aster health who not only delivered results within 24 hours, they sent a nurse to administer our tests in our room at the Four Seasons!
Ultimately, I’m very glad that I travelled as much as I did in 2020 and will return to the Maldives next month. The one thing I’ve noticed throughout my travels – besides the low occupancy in hotels and low yields on planes – is that workers throughout the travel industry have been thrilled to see visitors.
If you travel irresponsibly and don’t adhere to mask wearing and use of sanitiser then people will be justified in condemning you. Travel shaming is certainly on the rise these days…
However, if you enjoy responsible travel within the guidelines, not only will you encounter some truly unique experiences; you’ll be playing your part to ensure the survival of one of the industries most heavily impacted by the global pandemic.
If you would like to plan your luxury holiday in 2021 or beyond, please contact us here.