Up until the start of the pandemic in early 2020, international travel was growing exponentially, almost incommensurately. The overall sentiment was: visit more places in less time, more flights, more selfies. More and faster, that was the trend. In the backdrop of that strong current, a new movement surfaced.
Slow travel is the concept that defines this phenomenon. It means taking the time to get to know areas, cities and towns in an unconventional way. Instead of staying at an all-inclusive resort, the suggestion is to use local transportation networks and be guided by maps to discover and explore the secret corners of each country. It means traveling by train, bus or boat in order to enjoy the different landscapes. It means avoiding the hustle and bustle of an airport.
The concept is associated with the rethinking of tourism that the pandemic has brought about. For a number of travelers, the option in the future may involve less travel but more of experiences, more customized, with more time. At the beginning of 2020, when several countries in the world went into lock-down, a business opportunity emerged based on this concept. Byway, developed by Cat Jones, aims at reshaping travel to the way it once was.
“Family vacations have always been on buses and bicycles, feeling a freedom which is not explored with common vacation packages,” Jones said in an interview with Euronews. Something she had realized during her college days, when she traveled back and forth by train to visit her boyfriend on weekends. It used to give her the opportunity to get to know cities and towns along the way.
It’s about the joyful experience of traveling through, rather than flying over, connecting with the region and supporting local businesses on the wayCat Jones, CEO and founder of Byway
Byway offers customized vacations that allow travel to various European locations by train, bus or boat. Currently, it only encompasses areas of the UK, France and Italy. This platform aims to popularize the emerging trend of slow trips, making it easier to visit places not so well known, without the need to rent a car.
Cat Jones also stresses that the goal is not to encourage people to never get on a plane again, but rather to give them a different experience than usual. A greater connection with the region and to support the local businesses they pass through.
Although this type of trip is for everyone, Jones said that, “The main market is couples and solo travelers”. Large families are still trying to figure out how to travel without a more personal means of transportation.
This pandemic phase we are going through makes people avoid crowded tourist sites. They want to opt for a more sustainable lifestyle, and have the mentality of slowing things downCat Jones, CEO and founder of Byway
There is also the importance of supporting local businesses. Byway has a WhatsApp group with the various employees and partners of the initiative, so that if anyone has a question or needs a recommendation, members of the local community are ready to help and advise.
Byway has recently signed a partnership with Go North Wales, which is dedicated to outdoor adventure vacations in the Welsh mountains. This company has an extensive network of affordable shuttle buses that allow travelers to access more hidden rural areas in North Wales and help the local economies.
Jones’s enterprise has so far received very positive reviews. “The level of service is fantastic and being available via WhatsApp for any mishaps is really reassuring,” a user noted. “It is a very personal approach to planning vacations.” Byway is already mapping out an expansion plan in Europe by the end of 2021. The idea would be to include cities, villages and towns in Germany and Switzerland.