I remember the week before my three children finished school in January for the Chinese New Year break vividly, as I was at the hospital with my daughter for her check-up. Having lived in Hong Kong for almost a decade and a half, I am all too familiar with Hong Kong citizens wearing masks, but I found it especially strange that everyone was being asked to wear one on arrival! Looking around, there seemed to be an underlying panic about this new ‘virus’ that was escalating rapidly in China. There was a lot of talk about it, but no one really had any insight into what the next few months would hold nor the extent to which lives around the globe would be affected.
This was eighteen (long) weeks ago; a time when the 360 Private Travel team in Hong Kong were getting their teeth into the notoriously busy, post-Christmas booking season. We could never have predicted what was around the corner!
Four and a half months on and we have found ourselves equally busy – reassuring our clients and rescheduling beautifully tailored trips that were very much being looked forward to; all whilst trying to keep on top of the ever-changing global travel advice.
During this unprecedented and worrying time, the 360 team have shifted their focus from enticing clients to travel, to offering support where needed to those affected, either directly or indirectly, by the pandemic.
Hong Kong has handled the COVID-19 situation with strict measures and were quick off the mark to close borders and to enforce a 14-day uncompromising quarantine for all overseas arrivals. This, teamed with an unwritten rule of compulsory mask-wearing in all public spaces, many believe, has led to Hong Kong having the virus well under control. Our beloved city is cautiously striving to return to normality and to a position of being able to restart inbound and outbound travel, be it for business or leisure.
In the last few weeks, we have seen a glimmer of light at the end of (what has felt like) a long and narrowing tunnel, and we feel that the time is now right to encourage our clients to resume ticking off their ‘bucket list’ of travel dreams. Many clients have actually used the lock-down period to learn about and add new places and experiences to these lists that they hadn’t considered before.
Locally, we have seen a huge increase in Hong Kong staycations for last-minute and summer travel and outside of Hong Kong, many clients are enquiring about travel to Macau. The prospect of escaping a mere hour away by ferry has become extremely appealing after 14 weeks of home-schooling! Although the borders are not open yet between Macau and Hong Kong, there is talk that this could be on the horizon as early as July.
For mid to longer-haul overseas travel, enquiries are underway, but most are for the latter part of the year and 2021 when we assume borders will be open and quarantines lifted. There is a ‘pent up’ demand for travel, however, we have noticed that our clients are more cautious when booking and are opting for destinations that can provide good medical care in the unfortunate event of them falling ill. Many of our older and high-risk travellers prefer to stay put until a vaccine is available.
So luxury travel IS coming back, just slowly and differently with flexible terms and conditions at the top of our clients’ requirements. Remote and secluded travel, such as private yachts and villas are without a doubt also in demand. Across the globe, we are seeing the positive effects of travel being halted, (less pollution, a reduced carbon footprint) influencing client choices as they seek to spend the travel fund they have saved on more thoughtful and sustainable options.