Trailblazers: Top Travelers Talk
Published: April 2009
By Richard Alleman
These men and women changed the way we travel, and they haven't finished yet
We've taken you around the world, but this time Travel + Leisure is staying at home while venturing farther than ever before—into the future. We chatted with some of the travel industry's most influential and creative people about where we're headed.
Co-founder and president of Butterfield & Robinson, whose upscale walking and biking trips made it one of the first companies to hit upon the winning combination of exercise and luxury.
Vacation 2000—People will still go to beach resorts and do nothing, but for shorter periods of time—say, three or four days. If they've got two weeks, they want something more interesting. Becoming increasingly popular are what we call expeditions, experiences that would be difficult to organize on your own: camping in the Moroccan desert, cruising the Turkish coast on a royal yacht.
New Destinations—Southern Africa is a wonderful place to travel—not just South Africa, but countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia. Rajasthan, in India, will be popular, especially since there are so many new hotels that have been created from maharajas' palaces and fortresses.
A pioneer in the field of environment-friendly tourism, Selengut founded Maho Bay Camps, on St. John, one of the first eco-resorts.
Eco-tourism—The Industrial Revolution told us that you made things in big plants, shipped them long distances, and threw them away. Now with burgeoning populations and dwindling resources, it's time for another revolution. Ecologically sensitive resorts can teach us how to live simply, how to turn waste into something useful, how to treat sewage without polluting, and how to create energy without fossil fuels.
Prospects for the Planet—I'm less worried about the population explosion than I am about places like India and China becoming more affluent. When these couple of billion people start wanting the things that everybody else has, it's going to put a lot of pressure on the environment. That's why I feel so strongly about sustainability issues—because they focus on these concerns now.
One of the originators of Manhattan's infamous Studio 54 nightclub, Schrager revolutionized the American hotel industry by creating innovative properties such as the Royalton, the Paramount, and Morgans in New York City, and the Delano, in Miami Beach.
Hotel Evolution—I think you're going to see more individuality. A boutique hotel has nothing to do with size; it involves having a personal point of view. Using hotel design as the leading effect is not as important as it was when we did Morgans and the Royalton; we've pushed the idea as far as it can go. Also, up to now, we've tried to make our hotel rooms feel like a home; now we're going to want them to function like an office, making use of the latest technological innovations.
Nightlife—It's going to be incorporated into hotels the way it used to be in Europe, where hotels had great restaurants and bars. But I don't think nightlife will be as mindless as in the days of Studio 54. People no longer want to take a nap and then go out at one o'clock in the morning. Also, there are two different groups—an older crowd and a younger one—and mixing these people is a challenge. One way is to have a one-stop facility with a restaurant, a piano bar, a dance area, and a salon where you can have a conversation. A hotel is a natural place to pull all this together. And a lobby should be a microcosm of everything that's great about a city. You should be able to go downstairs and get a vibration of the place.
With his wife, Maureen, he founded Lonely Planet Publications, which produces nearly 200 travel guides, many of them to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Their books have gone where few would tread.
Guidebooks—For the moment, a book is still a convenient way of carrying information, but people are going to find an alternative. I don't know whether they'll wait till they arrive, dial up what they want, and download it or whether they'll carry it on a disk to pop into their computer.
New Destinations—Politics will determine them to some extent. Vietnam is hot, with Cambodia about five years behind. I've been waiting for years for Afghanistan to calm down. And Iran has extraordinary architecture, especially its mosques and palaces, but there's that side that scares people.
Eco-travel—We need to be environmentally conscious. If every trekker in the Himalayas wants a hot shower and a cooked meal each night, there won't be any trees left there.
His company, TravelSmith, is one of the country's top mail-order firms specializing in clothing and gear for active travel. It has been instrumental in using high-tech fabrics for wearable and stylish clothing.
Vacation 2000—When the baby boomers retire, there will be a surge in demand for vacations. Not only will these people have the time, the money, and the energy, but they're in better shape and more active than their parents.
Travel Clothing—We all love cotton T-shirts, but they don't work for travel, because if it's rainy or muggy they get wet and stay that way. The future of clothing lies in synthetic fabrics. Microfleece has all the virtues of wool with half the bulk, dries quickly, doesn't itch, and keeps you warm. Microfiber is so wrinkle-resistant that you can stuff a blazer into a carry-on or put it in the washing machine and have it come out perfect. CoolMax, softer than cotton, pulls moisture away from your skin and dries incredibly fast.
Looking Good—We're transforming the clothes that first made use of these fabrics into styles that suit our customers, so they can walk into a cafe in Milan and not look as though they just stepped off a mountain—even if they did! What's exciting about the new fabrics is that they're lighter and take up much less luggage space. Even now, you can pack for a week and carry it all on.
The music-industry mogul who founded an airline and a chain of record stores (including the world's largest, in New York City), recently took over management of the Eurostar, the high-speed train that runs between London and Paris/Brussels via the Chunnel.
Air Travel—Planes will get bigger: you'll see a 700-seater within 10 years. We're looking into a kids' class on Virgin Atlantic. We'll have face painters, entertainers, and kids' movies. We'll keep a seat reserved for mums with crying babies. In a couple of years, we'll introduce individual compartments with beds and showers.
Rail Travel—I can imagine fast trains being more popular than planes on short-haul routes. We're building a fast track for the Eurostar in England, which will mean that in six years or so you'll be able to travel between the center of London and the center of Paris in less than two hours. Virgin is applying what it learned in the air—hostesses, seat-back videos, kids' sections—to the Eurostar trains.
She changed the look of hotels from cookie-cutter to cutting-edge with her 1982 design of a New York City property called Morgans.
Traditional Hotel Design—So many bad ideas were everywhere—so many terrible, boring places with fake luxury, fake Louis XV, fake everything. Too much money was used to intimidate people rather than to make them feel great—from flower arrangements that were bigger than necessary to the obsequious manners of the staff.
Enlightened Hotels—People are going to get fed up with places that look like factories. Hotels will become more human, with touches that tell the traveler how much people care for them—starting with the lobby, where you can offer books and the perfect light for reading.
Elegance—For me, it's when you hardly notice what's been done. I've designed museums, where the challenge is how not to compete with the works of art. In a hotel, the work of art is the guest.
Proprietor of the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant, in Berkeley, California, Waters was a prime force in creating a new American cuisine that emphasized using natural ingredients and eating seasonally.
The Future of Food—We're going toward a much more Mediterranean diet, in which meat is looked at as a condiment rather than as the main event and where grains and vegetables and fruits are prominent. Farmers' markets will be the heroes of the next century. I think people recognize real food when they taste it, and as farmers seduce us with the real thing, we won't settle.
Fast Food—I'm not opposed to getting a quick bite. Sandwich bars all over Italy offer wholesome snacks. In America fast food is about dishonest eating. You give up more than good health and the sensual pleasure of dining; you give up the relationships with people who grow and make the food.
Founder of Island Records, Blackwell helped bring the reggae music of his native Jamaica into the mainstream through the songs of Bob Marley. He made waves in 1991, with stylish renovations of Art Deco hotels in Miami's South Beach, and more recently with the creation of hip resorts in Jamaica and the Bahamas.
His Resort Philosophy—The key to traveling is to seek contact with the people of a country, so I try to have a restaurant on the property that attracts locals.Then you feel as if you're really in the country.
Technology—Ultimately, people should be able to go away to an isolated location on Thursday and return to the office on Tuesday morning, with nobody noticing-because they've conducted business electronically.
His Resort Locations South Beach: The hype has exceeded the reality, but it's been getting better every year. Jamaica: People's fears about visiting aren't justified. The Bahamas: I want to do more here. Remember, these are still some of the most unpopulated islands in the region.
Since taking over as chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 1984, Eisner has pushed beyond theme parks with a cruise line and the Disney Institute, where you can take part in educational experiences such as filmmaking and cooking.
Where We're Going—Because of the dollar, Americans will choose to stay on this continent rather than travel around the world, whereas people outside the United States will find America an interesting and affordable place to go.
Vacation 2000—The idea of a destination resort, where there's a lot to do and it's safe and clean, is attractive. Theme parks and restaurants and other activities in a closed environment will be an important part of the next decade of entertainment. But I don't think virtual travel (experiencing other places by using a CD-ROM or the Internet) will replace actual travel any more than nature films replaced it. People are inquisitive and interested in other cultures, and staying at home gets to be a drag.
A world traveler and environmental and human-rights activist, Roddick founded the Body Shop cosmetics empire, which trades extensively with indigenous communities in the developing world.
New Destinations—Nepal, Tibet, the Ivory Coast, Chile, Antarctica, post-Fidel Cuba, Russia, Bosnia, the Middle East.
Virtual Travel—About as ridiculous as virtual sex. Ain't nothing like the real thing.
Travel—It's the perfect way to develop a broader sense of tolerance, respect, and understanding of other people.
The chairman of Amanresorts, Zecha has developed a group of luxurious properties in exotic Asian and Pacific locations that seamlessly blend into their physical and cultural surroundings.
Hotel Evolution—The grand hotels will not go out of style, but the demand for intimate places will increase.
The Internet—It will change the role of travel agents-they'll become advisers. If I were in the travel-agency business, I would transform myself into a data bank, an information provider. With the plethora of choices as to places to go and things to do, we're going to need expert advice.
A favorable nod from his Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletter that focuses on luxurious and unspoiled places to stay around the world, can be the key to a new, upscale resort's success.
New Destinations—Southeast Asia will become like Europe, a place where people want to go every year or so. Also, there will be more "soft" adventures, such as sailing up the Amazon River or down to Antarctica.
Hideaways to Come—There will be a proliferation of small luxury resorts with fewer than 50 rooms and city hotels with no more than 100. In the hotels, you'll see a greater emphasis on service; many will have on-floor butlers. All will have high prices, which no one will balk at paying.
High-Speed Planes—There is going to be such a demand for hypersonic air travel that it will occur in our lifetime.