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Many of our destinations experienced an unprecedented number of visitors during the summer months as a result of restrictive (and sometimes confusing) Covid rules in Europe. 

As a result, the peak holiday season has been extended and for some visitors they’ve opted to take breaks in the Autumn and Winter seasons when visitors numbers will be lower and availability less limited. 

On a quest to ‘refind’ themselves, some are opting for more simple pleasures to boost their wellbeing or fitness.  It’s been interesting to see that some of the activities which experienced a boom during lockdown have continued to be popular and could be here to stay.

Wild Swimming

Wild swimming took the UK by storm during the lockdown and with public swimming baths having to close and people being unable to travel far, people took to their local rivers, lochs, lakes and seas to experience the mental and physical benefits for themselves. In Northern Europe, ice swimming is already popular but again, this experienced a surge in interest during lockdown.  

It may not for the faint hearted, but some continue with their passion throughout the year, whatever the temperature.  In fact, the temperatures of our waters can be at their highest during the Autumn, retaining the heat from the summer sun.  Followers of Wim Hoff won’t really be too preoccupied with the temperature though! 

Once they’ve tried out all the local wild swimming opportunities, many enthusiasts are on a quest to explore further afield, within their own country or overseas.

So destinations should promote wild swimming opportunities and exploit the need for swimmers seeking out both places to swim but also venues where they can have a warming bowl of soup, coffee, hot chocolate etc.  Restaurants, bars and cafes can create special Autumn/Winter Warmer menus with a healthy theme.  Destination websites can feature wild swimming bespoke itineraries with suggestions for swimming locations and accommodation and refreshments nearby.

Doggy vacations

For those who don’t need convincing about the benefits of having a dog, or those relatively new owners who welcomed a furry friend into their family during lockdown, they’ll probably be fully integrated into family life by now and holidays may never be the same!  In fact, they’re probably going to be better!

Dog owners can be hardy, so again, may prefer to holiday out of the peak season, when it’s quieter and the temperatures are more comfortable for their pets.

So finding accommodation that caters for the pets' needs as well as their own may be top priority for some owners.  And for those that opt for self-catering accommodation, it’s likely they’ll want a night off and will be wanting to find a pub or restaurant that will allow your dog to accompany you.

So now, more than ever before, the hospitality sector needs to build dogs into the equation and for those not currently allowing them in, think about the opportunities lost.

Hotels shouldn’t label themselves as ‘dog friendly’ if they only allow their furry guests to stay in the bedrooms and not in the public bar or dining areas. Leaving a dog in a strange room will be unacceptable for some owners, not to mention a risk to the hotel too so accommodation providers need to think about being truly dog friendly.

Camping

The definition of camping has broadened in recent years to include glamping, caravanning, motor homing.

Camping experienced a huge surge in popularity after lockdown.  In the UK, the UK Camping Trends Report 2021 by camping experts, Cool Camping reports that 2020 was a record year for camping in the UK and its popularity is set to continue.  The most popular accommodation (62% of bookings) was the standard grass pitch, despite the plethora of modern alternatives to tents, eg. yurts, tipes, tree houses etc. Interestingly, 45% of Cool Camping’s page views in 2020 were for accommodation that offered hot tubs. In terms of who the typical camper is, 47.5% have children and the average holiday duration is 2.76 nights.

The facilities of some sites mean that visits aren’t limited to the peak summer season so Autumn could be an attractive time to really experience the great outdoors, without the crowds. Many sites are open all year round too so there’s more flexibility. 

It goes without saying that Autumn for some of our rural destinations can be their most stunning time of year too.

There has been an increase in people making big investments in motorhomes, campervans and caravans since lockdown too so they will be looking to make the most of their purchase by planning multiple year-round expeditions.  Some of our iconic routes in the UK and Europe have experienced huge volumes of traffic in the summer months which has been prohibitive for some visitors seeking a more peaceful break so Autumn and Winter may offer a more relaxing option.

Destinations need to make sure that their level of promotion matches the current demand and variety of breaks that people want to choose.   Some will want remote wild camping sites, off-grid and off the beaten track, whereas others will have more sophisticated needs and will want an electric hook up and basic facilities at least.

Cycling

Sectretary for Transport, Grant Shapps reported that levels of cycling had increased by 200% at weekends in the UK and 100% on week days during lockdown, boosted by bike maintenance and cycle to work schemes.

In fact, the pattern applies across Europe where more than €1bn (£907m; $1.1bn) has been spent on cycling-related infrastructure and 2,300km (1,400 miles) of new bike lanes have been rolled out since the pandemic began.

Advances in technical apparel means that its now possible to stay relatively warm in all weathers so cycling in the Autumn and Winter may be more pleasurable for exploring the countryside (not to mention safer on the roads).

In a recent article from Bikeradar on the top road bike trends, they predict that ‘bikepacking’ will increase in popularity.  For those who are unfamiliar with bikepacking, it involves strapping lots of bags to your bike and heading off into unknown pastures.

The biggest trend for this year is the rising popularity of the electric bike.  An article in Cycling Industry News suggests that ebike sales could double by 2025.  People can obviously cycle further on an ebike so routes which would previously be regarded as hard core may now be open to people of average fitness.

Many of our destinations throughout the UK and Scandinavia already do a great job of promoting their cycle routes but may be the ebike needs to be factored in and route descriptions (fitness level required) may need to be reviewed.

This is just a few of the trends that we've spotted over recent months and we're sure there's many more!  It could be that Covid and the resulting lockdowns have changed our relationships with nature and the outdoors for ever and the interests and activities explored above will prevail.  If that's the case, our tourism destinations should make sure they exploit these trends fully and feature relevant content which caters for these legacies of lockdown. 

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