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The Great Reset

A version of this article was first published on the blog

In March of 2020; before we became fully aware of the life-changing consequences the Covid-19 pandemic would have on our lives, businesses and future I wrote a blog post called “The Great Pause”. In it I touch on some points that I then thought would become important such as the longer-term effects of isolation across multiple spheres such as the economy, our individual psychology and societal worldviews.

I was hopeful that bringing what was then a very fast-moving world (often not for the better) to a halt would come with a silver lining:

We hope that this event is a catalyst in helping many more people realize that it is not in our collective best interest as humans to return to “normal”, and that we take this opportunity to re-invent ourselves, our society and our economic machine at a fundamental level in such a way that we all live in a slower, kinder, more sustainable world in which never-ending growth and consumption at all costs is replaced by a more socially and environmentally sustainable approach to development.”

My opinion is that the last year leapfrogged many trends into warp-speed such as the prevalence of e-commerce and especially remote-work. Having had a distributed workforce at The Chilam Group for well over a decade and being a very early adopter and advocate of tools that facilitate collaboration such as Basecamp and Confluence (and now Slack); it has been satisfying and validating to see how every company in the world has had to re-address how they look at “work about work” and the positive and unintended consequences this has had on many people´s work-life balance.

As it´s been the case for many entrepreneurs around the world, the last year has been incredibly challenging. It has forced me and many in similar positions to dig deep down and find resilience, resourcefulness and creativity where we didn´t know we had it. There is a certain fearlessness that comes with facing a real existential threat that allows you to break away from ingrained mental models and think way outside the box. The Chilam Group is now a leaner, more efficient and more creative company because of this. This is something that we will benefit from well into the future.

It has thus been complicated to figuratively lift our heads up from the daily grind to look ahead and plan ahead. How will our market look like a year from now? Who will our clients be, how will they book and how will we reach them? What sort of products and services will they want and what is going to be important to them? How can we learn from the past year and what can we do to adapt our business model (and therefore our branding and marketing)?

Trying to answer these questions led me to write this post and title it “The Great Reset” because of the sheer depth and permanence of many of the effects the Covid 19 pandemic is going to have on the way we think about many things.

The Chilam Group´s slogan: “We create and deliver transformative travel experiences with a purpose that positively affect everyone involved and the world we inhabit” (not to mention our trips/experiences; swimming with wild crocs in the middle of the ocean? Are you crazy?) was “fringey” at best; definitely not mainstream a decade ago.

I am extremely enthusiastic about how the trend towards environmentally and socially sustainable travel is being brought to the forefront and the mainstream suddenly and all at once. Covid-19 did indeed come with a silver lining.

“The Future Laboratory”, a consultancy that researches amongst other things trends in the hospitality and luxury industries worked with none other than Design Hotels in a project in which they coined the term “Promad” (progressive nomad):

The trend for Promadic Travel is pan-generational and international, representing a mindset that cuts across lines of identity. The notion of “high-end” to Promadic Travelers will not be defined by the material and acquisitional but by the experiential and intellectual. While purpose and progress represent the collective end for Promadic Travelers, the means through which this is achieved may initially differ from generation to generation or from guest to guest.

As a collective, the way Promads book their travel will be flexible and seamless, fueled by word-of-mouth approval and enabled by social media, augmented reality (AR) experiences, and smart banking that anticipates their travel budgets. And the way they choose to travel will recall nomadic tribes of the past—opting to go by land and sea rather than polluting the air further. Ultimately, Promadic Travelers will not see themselves as consumers. They will travel to produce and contribute, helping them and the local communities to progress in the process.

 Over the next decade, any remaining distinction between premium offerings and sustainability will fade from existence as the two concepts become synonymous with one another. Forming the heart of the Promadic Traveler’s decision-making process, future travelers will expect brands to have done their eco-research for them, with “premium” defined by the assumption of sustainability.

This term represents a confluence of multiple trends in the travel industry we had been seeing gain ground over the last few years. Regenerative tourism, voluntourism (part of what is called “the third sector”), etc. These are all still relatively small niches with the respect to the overall tourism industry, however, they represent a massive “Blue Ocean” opportunity.

Yet, the biggest, and most impactful shift is in the massive and very influential luxury/premium sector.

The consumption of luxury products and services has deep psychological implications. Why do people make these purchase/consumption decisions? There are two sides to this coin. One is intrinsic value and the other is extrinsic messaging.

It is no coincidence that the biggest luxury “houses” are in the two European countries that don´t have a Royal House. Italy and France. Luxury consumers buy products (and increasingly experiences) because they extract value and enjoyment from them personally but also because of what they want their purchasing decisions to say about their values and stature in society. In the age of Instagram this becomes incredibly consequential as newer generations of consumers with changing values redefine what a luxury product or experience actually is.

Companies like Fourth Element, that makes technical exposure suits for diving and watersports as well as apparel (bikinis, bathing suits) from recovered “ghost nets” and packages them using 100% bio-degradable (even edible) packaging will dominate the luxury/premium market in the future.

Companies like Eyos Expeditions that can take well-off customers to the deepest points of the ocean in submarines or that can organize an expedition to Antarctica on a research vessel  that is carbon-neutral will be at the forefront of very high-end travel.

Offline, analog, sustainable, fair-trade, regenerative, digital-detox, small-groups, citizen-science, conservation, pro and non-profit hybrid models, are all concepts and “buzzwords” that will no longer be the domain of the few but will be commonplace in the boardrooms of the largest leisure companies in the world.

This, for me, is hugely important and exciting. I am very much looking forward to “The Great Reset”