Over the last year holidays have become an emotional, and sometimes headline grabbing subject. Should you book for now, or later? When will foreign travel get back to the way it was? Which countries have Covid best under control? The pandemic has revealed so much to us about ourselves and our priorities but it seems that whether we would rather holiday in our own country for now, or whether in the light of the vaccine roll out we are planning foreign adventures, we all of us yearn both to explore new places and to relax and recharge in different surroundings.
Travel agents have of course been at the forefront of this discourse, navigating between pent-up demand, and changes in rules and regulations, so it is my pleasure to introduce you to Carrie Williamson at The Holiday Fixer . Carrie has more than a decade’s experience in the travel industry, having worked for both British Airways and Virgin Holidays. She now specialises in creating bespoke, luxury holidays and honeymoons for her clients. I caught up with Carrie about her favourite destinations in the UK and abroad and her hopes for the future of the travel industry...
In the long-run, do you think Covid will have bought any positive changes to the travel industry?
It will take a long time for the travel industry to fully recover. Hotels across the world are ready to welcome guests again and most are offering a very high standard of cleanliness, safety and care. Sandals have in place their Platinum protocols of cleanliness, which ensure heightened health and safety measures to give guests peace of mind.
I also think sustainability and environmental impact is going to be a huge, huge focus after the pandemic. Being mindful of choosing where to travel to and where to stay so that you can have a positive impact on local communities and environments.
When the world came to a stand still, it meant we all had time to reflect on how we do things and realised that we needed to slow down. Employers became more understanding of family life, we adapted, and we embraced change. There has been more focus than ever before to work on businesses and improve on processes. Things that were once on the back-burner or just an idea came into fruition. New businesses were born. People took the plunge to run with their business ideas and became their own boss. Those of us still in the travel industry have shown how resilient we are after the whole industry collapsed. If we manage to get through the pandemic we can get through anything!
Tour operators, accommodation and airlines have had to become more flexible than ever in relation to offering changes and cancellations. Those businesses that looked after their customers during the pandemic will likely see a return of business because the confidence and trust wasn’t lost. I also think that staycations have given the UK a much needed economic boost. Investing in our own country is a positive offset of covid’s economic damage.
For people who have had to cancel a foreign holiday or so in the last year and now want to have a splurge on their next one, are there any particular resorts that you would recommend for a really luxurious experience?
It depends on your budget and the type of holiday you are looking for. There are some truly amazing places, one of which is Secret Bay in Dominica in the Caribbean (not to be confused with Dominican Republic). It’s a six star resort, perched on the world’s most breathtaking cliff tops. It has won many top industry awards! It has 10 private villas, 3 beaches, on-call hosts, chefs and guides.
Secret Bay, Dominica
I think that many people are looking for privacy too, so holidays that offer a private pool or outdoor hot tub/soaking tub are ideal. I think Excellence resorts and Sandals resorts are great if you want affordable luxury. You can even have your own butler! If you want to experience a luxury 5 star all inclusive resort in Europe, I’d recommend Ikos Resorts. They have also won many awards as they offer such an amazing experience and superb service. Expect a selection of remarkable restaurants with menus prepared by Michelin starred chefs. A sommelier offering a choice of over 300 wines, an award winning Anne Sermoin Spa as well as luxurious and contemporary accommodation.
Where do you think will be the most popular honeymoon destinations for 2022?
The Maldives is still the number one spot. Remote islands where there are little crowds seem to be a magnet for many. I’d also say that honeymooners are looking for amazing memorable experiences. Destinations like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bali are also very popular. Twin centres and triple centres combining culture with beaches are also popular choices.
For people looking to book a romantic UK break, where would be your top hotel choices?
Oooh I’ve a few suggestions. Firstly, let’s talk Foxhill Manor in the Cotswolds. It’s a lovely 5 star boutique hideaway which is a grade 11 listed arts and crafts country home. They have a number of rooms and suites that are contemporary in design and beautifully decorated. The suites have amazing free standing baths but I particularly love the Oak Suite. This is the piece of resistance. Twin baths face a huge bay window facet that overlooks the rolling hills of the Cotswolds. There’s also a champagne stand perched in the middle for those romantic evenings in. As a guest you can use the spa of the nearby Dormy House, another stunning luxury farmhouse hotel. Dormy has romantic courtyard suites with outdoor hot tubs…
Foxhill Manor, The Cotswolds.
The Oak Suite at Foxhill Manor
Although most of us can’t wait to go abroad again, I know personally the pandemic has given me a new appreciation of the UK and staycations. Where are your favourite areas for UK holidays? Any off-the-beaten path gems?
Off the beaten track The Isles of Scilly are unspoilt, uncrowded and have sensational beaches. Cornwall and Devon remain in high demand. Also there’s much more interest in self drives around Scotland and Wales. There’s a great company called “Not In The Guide Books” that offer immersive unique holiday experiences, like food foraging, cookery classes, campervan adventures, tree house experiences and glamping pods....I love how quirky and different the holidays they offer are. I still need to explore more of the UK!
Do you have any practical tips to help people feel more confident about travelling whilst Covid is still about?
Use a travel agent! They will keep you up to date on travel restrictions, entry requirements and where to find reliable factual information. Sign up to government alerts, do your research on covid testing for travel. Use airport websites on what to expect in terms of sanitising stations, cleanliness protocol, and the customer journey. Make sure you check your travel insurance regarding covid cover and that you check your booking conditions regarding covid related cancellations. Many tour operators are offering more flexibility than ever before! Check out where the covid test centres are overseas as a back-up. Make up a list of questions to ask your travel agent!
After such a long time in the travel industry, you must have explored lots of fantastic destinations! Where is your all time favourite and why?
The world is a huge place and I’ve only scratched the surface. I love The Maldives as it is exactly how you imagine it; clear waters, white sands and amazing sunsets. I also love Barbados; the culinary scene, the nightlife, the beaches, the rum punch and Aunt May’s hot sauce!...I’ve spent so much time in Barbados, it holds many wonderful memories.