The Value of Escapes and Escapism

The Value of Escapes and Escapism

02 Aug 19 3mins Jon Midmer

Travel Wellbeing

This week-end, like many in the northern hemisphere, my family and I will be heading off on our annual summer holiday. Modern life is typically busy, sometimes stressful and all the more pressured for the mixed blessings of smart phones and social media. Is it any wonder, then, that when we layer on business travel and extracurricular commitments we sometimes just want to get away from it all?

Physical escapes

The travel and airline industries play a key role in facilitating literal escapes. Whether your destination of choice is Barcelona, Barbados or Butlins, and whether your break is a last-minute get-away or a long-planned sabbatical, holidays are a great way of restoring equilibrium and providing refreshment and rejuvenation. Such is the power of ‘down time’ that one of our clients has a policy of prohibiting rolling over more than five days’ annual leave, in order that it should be taken and colleagues should not run the risk of burn-out.

As a result of spending less of our disposable incomes on things and more on experiences, travel has become an increasingly attractive sector for investors. A number of segments – cruises, safaris and adventures, in particular – are experiencing rapid growth. I’ve also long held that a major factor in Airbnb’s success is its enablement of escapist desires.

Emotional escapism

The hospitality and leisure industries play a major role in a more figurative form of escapism – emotional vacations, if you will. By allowing us to spend time away from screens in the company of friends, family and other like-minded individuals, usually in a ‘third space’, they allow us to disengage from everyday stresses and strains.

While chatting about the concept of emotional escapism last week with a senior figure in the UK hospitality industry – who reliably informs me that there’s a good basis in recent academic research for the benefits of the respite provided by ‘momentary escapism’, including more present-moment awareness, better sleep, lower stress and tension levels, greater productivity and learning, and deeper social connections – it really got me thinking.

Time in; time out

We can’t always have and, indeed, are not always in the mood for congregation and conviviality. Sometimes we just want to go home, retreat from the outside world and have a quiet evening in with some good food and the latest box set. Step in the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats, Hello Fresh and Gousto, Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.

Frequently, however, for an escapist fix there’s nothing better than a good evening out. To this end we have festivals and clubbing, musicals and immersive cinema screenings. When it comes to eating – never far from my thoughts – you might head to the technicolour, mythical Caribbean beach hut that is Turtle Bay or, by complete contrast, to the forced sensory deprivation that is Dans Le Noir.

Despite technology’s seeming best efforts to divide us in the pursuit of increased connectivity, proof, if any were needed, of the human need to connect lies in the recent boom in the so-called ‘competitive socialising’ sector. It has, of course, existed for many years – certainly before the term was coined – in a less organised and polished form, but the mushrooming in sector operators, from Swingers, Flight Club, Bounce and Puttshack to Junkyard, Rebound, Lucky Voice and Whistle Punks (the newly-opened axe-throwing concept!) is astonishing.

The flood of investment into the sector suggests that it’s more than a passing fad. Escape Hunt, the global ‘escape room’ company, is, I believe, the first competitive socialising company to list on the London Stock Exchange.

A deep-seated human need

In a world in and from which we occasionally need a physical or mental vacation to re-charge, we are lucky that travel companies and airlines provide such a range of literal escapes, and hospitality and leisure operators a myriad of figurative ones. Whether you’re a customer, operator or investor, it’s clear that there’s emotional and monetary value in escapes and escapism, and I predict the trend will only continue. If you have a break coming up, therefore, may it be an enjoyable and relaxing one.