Experts predict that far-flung wilderness destinations and naturally self-isolating honeymoon hotspots will top the list for luxury travellers in 2021.
Some destinations do isolation better than others. In the post-pandemic world, this new focus on privacy is reshaping luxury travel itineraries and wish lists.
Open Spaces: Australia
For Julie McIntosh, founder and director of The Classic Safari Company, there will be a renewed focus on the open spaces of Australia. She’s planning fun itineraries such as a “great Aussie pub crawl” by private plane, which swings around quirky outback pubs such as the Birdsville Hotel in Queensland and the Prairie and William Creek hotels in South Australia.
She’s also expecting renewed interest in remote lodges such as Bamurru Plains in the Northern Territory’s Top End and Arkaba in South Australia. “People want real experiences rather than fluff,” she says.
Explore the wilderness: Zambia & Argentina
South Africa-born McIntosh knows Africa well – her top pick for the continent is Zambia. “It’s affordable – it hasn’t quite hit the price point that Botswana has – and it’s got a lot of owner-operator characters who have a story behind them,” she says. “People come away feeling they’ve had a genuine wilderness experience.” Highlights include the “amazing eco-system” surrounding the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers.
In South America, she says Argentina is a stand-out with its stunning estancias (cattle ranches) that make great bases for walking, horseriding and fly-fishing holidays.
Rare wildlife encounters: New Zealand
Lisa Pagotto, founder of boutique tour operator Crooked Compass, has launched three New Zealand itineraries for groups of up to eight travellers in 2021.
“Accessing some of the country’s most remote reaches by helicopter and private boat for truly exclusive experiences, being privy to one of the world’s rarest wildlife encounters as you spot wild kiwis on the beach on Stewart Island, and shucking your own oysters straight from the salty ocean” are among the tours’ highlights, she says.
Atmospheric luxury: Morocco & Iran
Morocco will also appeal, Pagotto says, attracting “the more adventurous traveller still seeking the creature comforts and luxe touches that can be found in prestigious and traditional riads.” Drawcard experiences include gliding over Marrakech in a hot-air balloon, relaxing in a hammam and stargazing in the desert.
History buffs fascinated with ancient Persia will point themselves towards Iran, she says. Travellers can dine on the rooftop of earthen buildings in the World Heritage-listed historic city of Yazd, dine in manicured gardens and eat their way around the country’s atmospheric bazaars.
Luxurious, secluded hideaways: Fiji, French Polynesia, Thailand & the Maldives
Anthony Goldman, named Virtuoso’s most admired travel advisor in the Asia-Pacific region for 2019 and joint managing director of Melbourne’s Goldman Group, says Fiji offers a multitude of luxurious hideaways such as Kokomo Private Island resort, Royal Davui Island Resort and Six Senses Fiji. “We’ve always sent clients there to isolate,” he says, pointing out that guests can enjoy the privacy of in-room dining along with the country’s secluded beaches.
Bora Bora in French Polynesia, home to stunning overwater bungalows that attract A-list celebrities (Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned in Bora Bora), will be on the radar, along with Phuket in Thailand – especially if airlines can fly directly into the South-East Asian resort island, Goldman says. Its top hotels include Amanpuri and the Rosewood Phuket.
The Maldives will also prove alluring, says Goldman, “because you don’t need to go near a city”. “People go to the Maldives to isolate anyway,” he says.