Nature As New Luxury Travel

While COVID-19 travel restrictions continue to remain in place throughout Scandinavia, international tourism is slowly but surely returning to the region.

Setting aside complications on vaccination status and economic issues, many industry commentators and tourism researchers are predicting a shift in travel trends in the years to come.

Within Scandinavia, luxury experiences in nature and more individualized travel and accommodation options are among the trends set to grow as tourists look for a deeper experience beyond a city break.

Nature as the new luxury

Satu Vänskä-Westgarth from travel agency 50 Degrees North says that the entire Nordic region is well-placed to capitalize on a shift to more premium experiences in nature: “When people talk about luxury in the traditional sense, it’s all the bells and whistles and fancy things. But I think that’s changed and luxury now is more about the whole experience and I think the nature in our region is perfect for that.”

She belives it’s a natural extension of slow travel, which had been a trend for several years in Scandinavia prior to the pandemic. “People really want to not only tick items off their list, but also learn and interact with the locals and the local environment,” she says.

Jenny Jonevret, senior project manager for Visit Sweden’s sustainable nature tourism program, said nature tourism will become more popular “as a way to disconnect from technology and enjoy a slower pace of life.”

Visit Sweden has also identified a shift towards all things nature and natural, which includes plant-based dining and sustainable architecture. Based on the success of the 2019 Edible Country initiative comes the Drinkable Country, which encourages guests to forage for cocktail ingredients before learning to mix their own drinks at a handful of open-air bars throughout the country.

Facilitating luxury travel in nature

But far from the infrastructure of the Scandinavian capitals, most tourists will need support to make the most of a nature-based vacation. Visit Sweden’s latest trend report picks out the need for guidance and support to meet the demand for packaged and safe adventures in nature.

Vänskä-Westgarth says 50 Degrees North has received a lot of interest from people wanting to book private experiences. “It remains to be seen whether this is a short-term desire, or a sign of a long-term shift,” she adds.

More individual accommodation experiences

Visit Denmark’s Katinka Friis says there is a clear trend for single-residency hotels, such as The Darling, a single guest house owned and furnished by a Copenhagen design studio. Friis believes this trend is related to the rise of platforms such as AirBnB, but also forms part of a general trend of people wanting to visit places like locals.

Elsewhere, in Copenhagen, the harborside Kaj Hotel features local details such as a breakfast porridge menu, while the single-room Central Hotel sits atop an adorable local coffee shop.

These are the kind of local details travelers are looking for, explains Friis: “Rather than the classic landmarks, they prefer to find the best coffee shops, cocktail bars, independent design shops or communal dining spaces. Single-residency hotels make the experience more special and create a strong connection to something local.”

While glamping is nothing new, the trend continues to grow in Scandinavia. In Denmark, Friis picks out some highlights including stargazing shelters at Brorfelde Observatory and the tents at Knuthenborg Estate that let you spend the night overlooking the new home of four retired circus elephants.

More experimentation with ‘workations’

Visit Sweden also points out how the region could adapt to meet the changing concept of a workplace. They are using research to discover that the benefits of a ‘workation’, whereby someone travels for longer but continues to work for some of the time, are numerous.

A previous study conducted before the pandemic showed that spending time in nature reduced levels of anxiety and boosted mental health. Now, in partnership with Karolinska Institutet, Visit Sweden has launched a new study to get a better understanding of how a working vacation in nature impacts productivity compared to working from home or an office.