Opinion

How ‘nature prescriptions’ drive demand for remote UK escapes

It comes as no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has kept many Brits at home this year. In fact, despite the often-longer hours spent remote working, 73% of people did not take a single day of holiday in April.  But growing concerns around worker burnout and stress combined with international travel restrictions have since resulted in the demand for staycations booming. July alone saw a 45% increase in demand holidays within the UK from June signalling a boost for domestic tourism post-lockdown. 

However, it seems that the benefits of these domestic vacations will likely be appreciated long after COVID-19 has passed, with more of the UK recognising the wellbeing benefits of immersion in nature and the NHS even giving out “nature prescriptions”. In fact, if hotels can understand and aim to enhance the benefits from the simple moments of peace and connection with the great outdoors, to mental and physical health benefits, and its intimate connection to sustainability, then there is no doubt that this demand, like the guests, will be here to stay.

The desire for escape

Few of us have escaped the day-to-day stresses of remote working, home schooling and persistent concerns surrounding health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The national lockdown and ever evolving social distancing regulations have naturally restricted everyday routines and lifestyles, accelerating the feeling of cabin fever. Moreover, a growing sense of loneliness and isolation among workers can lead to a multitude of mental health issues and burnout. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation has reported that during lockdown 24% of UK adults said they had feelings of loneliness in the previous two weeks, with loneliness being as damaging as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.

With travel limitations preventing international holidays for many this year, domestic holidays have offered a much-needed retreat and a chance to recharge and relax. For many, a chance to escape to the UK’s plentiful rural and coastal retreats has had an even greater importance after many months spent inside. In fact, the NHS has been giving ‘nature prescriptions’ which have been found to improve the condition of 95% of people with low mental well-being within six weeks. 

Re-discovering your hotels’ natural assets

British hotels can play an important role in helping travellers to access the escapes into nature and importantly, should be adapting to meet these new requirements. So, in a post-pandemic era dominated by the need for space, cultivating your hotel’s natural environment is paramount. Increasing al fresco seating and outdoor dining areas can be a great place to start, even for city-centre hotels.

The health benefits of spending time in the outdoors, both physical and mental, cannot be underestimated. The small act of encouraging guests to venture outside can have a great impact on their health. And by facilitating local walks, sports lessons, or exercise classes, hotels can engage in finding new ways to boost the health benefits offered by their retreat. In terms of physical health, studies have demonstrated that being outside can improve blood pressure, reduce inflammation and even decrease cancer risk.

The future of nature-based travel

Part of developing your hotel’s connection to nature should also include consideration for the future of natural escapes, as guests’ expectations and preferences evolve. Whether that be investing in eco-buildings, renewable energy, recycling schemes or sustainably sourced products and ingredients, with some 27% actively seeking out more sustainable hotels, eco-friendly initiatives are becoming a new normal as more consumers expect sustainability.

At Burgh Island, we have made great effort to invest in sustainability; From refurbishing the energy efficiency of the building, to creating a solar panel array on an unused tennis court and training our staff in eco-awareness to reduce our burden on the natural environment. We also believe in the importance of fresh produce and work closely with local producers to ensure that almost all of our food is sourced within a 30-mile radius. 

The simpler life

Ultimately, nature-based holidays and escapes to the UK’s remote, rural and coastal beauty are about accessing the simpler pleasures drawn from the outdoors, rather than the hectic, always-on, digitally connected day-to-day life many of the UK population face. From offering basic means to reconnect with nature, from outdoor facilities and activities, to prioritising sustainability, including locally sourced food and limiting the availability of screens, nature gives us a means to connect with a more natural, peaceful life in the wake of COVID-19 and beyond.


By Giles Fuchs, owner of the Burgh Island Hotel

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