Byway Travel - Slow Travel Holidays

Byway is the world’s first operator for flight-free holidays, aiming to popularise the emerging trend of slow travel.

Launched in 2020,  Byway Travel is a British operator specialising in no-fly holidays that offers tailor-made “slow tourism” journeys by train, boat and bike in the UK, France and Italy, with plans to expand across Europe. Byway is the world’s first operator for flight-free holidays, aiming to popularise the emerging trend of slow travel by facilitating visiting lesser-known places without needing a car.

Launched in 2020,  Byway Travel is a British operator specialising in no-fly holidays that offers tailor-made “slow tourism” journeys by train, boat and bike in the UK, France and Italy, with plans to expand across Europe. Byway is the world’s first operator for flight-free holidays, aiming to popularise the emerging trend of slow travel by facilitating visiting lesser-known places without needing a car.

Packages start at GBP 198 per person for three nights, including travel and accommodation. Current destinations include the Scottish Highlands,  Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Jurassic Coast, South Downs, West Country, North Wales, and Yorkshire Moors and Coast in the UK; French Alsace, the Mediterranean and Corsica in France; and the Ligurian Coast, Venice and Sicily in Italy.

Byway packages usually consist of multi-stop journeys featuring family-run, independent accommodation in off-the-beaten-path places. Trips are curated according to personal preferences, with the booking process starting with questions regarding the types of activities usually enjoyed on holidays and mood about travelling during the pandemic and based on the answers, Byway delivers a suggested itinerary. All suggested trips are pet-friendly, and customers can reschedule certain elements of their holidays even after departure, making their packages a very flexible travel option.

Travellers also have access to 24/7 COVID-19 travel assistance through WhatsApp so that they remain informed about any changes on regulations and infection hotspots to avoid.

“That’s what makes Byway a unique holiday experience. We’re connected to local people and local businesses in the areas we operate. We have a dedicated WhatsApp group which all of our customers and employees are in, so if someone has a question or needs a recommendation we’re ready to advise.” - Cat Jones, Founder and CEO of Byway

Byway packages are ABTA bonded, allowing customers to receive a refund if their trip is cancelled due to government restrictions. The ABTA protection serves as a way to encourage customers to book their holidays: this sense of security is an essential aspect, considering 52% of Britons don’t book a holiday unless they believe their money is protected.

A Prosperous Future

In 2020, the company was granted £100K from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, which has awarded £10 million to British businesses working towards sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19. More recently, Byway has closed a £1.1 million funding from an Innovate UK SMART grant as well as from the startup accelerator 'Founders Factory' and many angel investors. The Angels include founder/CEO of Viator and Rome2Rio, Rod Cuthbert, the slow-travel guru Ed Gillespie, and former Chair of Visit Britain, Christopher Rodrigues CBE.

This substantial funding aims to accelerate the company's growth and help its mission of making sustainable, slow-travel holidays more mainstream. This will happen by expanding its technical and marketing capabilities, improving the customer experience and extending its flight-free dynamic packaging technology.

“Our investment in Byway is not just about a great bet on a company with a superb founding team and obvious traction, but also about supporting a future of reducing carbon emissions. Aviation is a massive contributor to climate change, and over-tourism is a huge ecological issue. Tourism can be restorative to both the people on the trip, and the places they visit. That’s a future I want to invest in.” - Ed Gillespie, Angel investor

Even more recently, the company has partnered with Go North Wales, the destination management organisation for North Wales, to launch an outdoor adventure holiday in the Welsh mountains. Rivalling countries like New Zealand and South America for outdoor activities, Byway has developed a holiday package to provide easy mobility without the need of using a car.

“We have an accessible jump-on, jump-off bus network that gives travellers access to some of the most remote parts of North Wales. Dispersing the income from tourism to more rural areas will really help local economies.” - Jim Jones, CEO of Go North Wales

The company has also unveiled a new free invitation-only membership scheme that offers limited-edition holidays, virtual “nights of adventure” hosted by slow travel pioneers, as well as slow travel tips and local recommendations.

Since launching in 2020, Byway has built more than 7,500 trips with the company’s dynamic trip builder, providing ATOL (a UK protection scheme for air package holidays ) protected trips.

Sustainable Tourism

By using alternatives to flying, Byway is helping reduce the impacts of travel carbon footprint and by offering off-the-beaten-track trips it is also contributing to the reduction of over-tourism in certain destinations, positively affecting the local communities and environment.

As we already know, travelling sustainably has become one of the top priorities for travellers. While sustainable tourism has been on the rise for the past few years, the interest in more responsible and eco-friendly travel had peaked after the pandemic, when people started to see the effects of reduced travel on the environment and destinations affected by mass tourism. Not only are people more conscious of the impact they can have on a destination, but this shift in the traveller’s mindset takes into consideration their need for a safer holiday, which often means visiting less crowded places and travelling during off-peak season. Aligned with these principles, Byway has developed an offer capable to effectively tap into the sustainable holiday trend.

According to Booking.com, as a result of the pandemic, over half of the global travellers (53%) intend to travel more sustainably, 63% would prefer to stay away from crowded attractions, 51% will avoid peak season travel and 48% intent to visit alternative destinations to prevent over-tourism. These trends can only reinforce the selling proposition and vision of companies like Byway.

The Slow Travel Trend

One of the best ways to experience a holiday that embraces all the aspects of sustainable travel is by embracing slow travelling. ‘Slow travel’ is in fact one of the most recent trends emerging from sustainable tourism and is about embracing the journey and stay with a different approach: travelling for a longer period of time at a slower pace. This typically allows forming a deeper, genuine and more immersive experience, giving more chances to learn about the history, local cuisine and language of the destination.

Further confirming this trend, according to a 2021 poll from GlobalData, trips longer than ten days are usually more desired (22%) than day visits (10%) or a short break away from one to three nights (14%). The pandemic also contributed to this trend as the added cost of additional COVID-19 related travel requirements such as PCR tests and potential quarantine periods meant that short holidays wouldn’t be any more affordable and convenient.

For many, slow travel is a mindset, but for others, it is also a series of actions and decisions aligned with sustainable practices such as travelling by particular means of transportation (e.g. train, boat, bike, on foot), avoiding overcrowded tourist locations, and staying in local accommodations instead of all-inclusive resorts.

Slow travel has begun to gain more interest as people started to value less package holidays, and became more concerned about overtourism and its consequences. In particular, millennials were also a big part of the growing ethos of this trend as they are considered to be the most ethically conscious consumers, typically more invested than other generations in practising responsible tourism.

Another reason for the success of slow travel is the spread of the flight-shaming movement (also known as 'Flygskam', the anti-flight movement that originated in Sweden that encourages people to stop taking flights to lower carbon emissions) which directly influences the use of more eco-friendly transportation such as train travel.

Cat Jones, the founder of Byway Travel, believes that the pandemic created the opportunity for her business to grow as Covid-19 acted as a catalyst for the current changes in consumer mindset and emerging sustainable travel trends, such as travellers wanting to avoid crowded airports, holiday closer to home, and nature-based experiences – all part of her ethos.

While planning holidays and managing the itinerary trip has become increasingly easier with the improvements in technology and online booking platforms, travelling sustainably can be more challenging as people often have to do extensive and time-consuming research to ensure they’re using locally-owned travel businesses and sustainable products and services. Byway Travel is able to address this problem by allowing travellers to book everything on a single platform which guarantees more sustainable travel options.

“Our mission is to make this sort of travel accessible to people who don’t have the time and will to do all the research themselves,” said Jones.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
May 2020
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