Byway, a British travel company formed during the pandemic, is inviting holidaymakers to ‘discover the world by travelling through it, not over it’. Erica Jamieson
Byway’s tailored “slow tourism” packages traverse England and France via train, boat, and bike, promising customers that they will never have to set foot in an airport.
The start-up offers destinations and activities that claim to be off the beaten path, and focuses on socially and environmentally conscious travel. (It’s further proof that Globetrender was correct when it predicted that “Meaningful Meanderings” would be a trend over the next five years.)
“I raised a few eyebrows in March when I left a wonderful job to found a travel start-up the week lockdown was announced – but now is actually the perfect time for Byway,” says Cat Jones, founder and CEO of Byway.
“Holidays built around delightful experiences away from the crowds have never been more needed, and lockdowns have shown us the environmental recovery that’s possible when we stop flying,” she says.
Byway’s first successful tours went ahead between UK lockdowns, and the company is poised to launch fully once current stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. “We’re really excited to have an opportunity to catalyse a sustainable recovery for the industry, supporting local businesses away from traditional tourist hubs and bringing flight-free holidays to the mainstream,” Jones says.
All trips are curated for personal preferences, and are pet friendly. Customers can elect to reschedule elements of their holiday even after departure. Round the clock Covid travel assistance is provided via WhatsApp, so that travellers remain informed of changing regulations and avoid infection hotspots.
In the case that government restrictions force a planned trip to be cancelled, all Byway packages are ABTA bonded, and customers will receive an immediate refund.
Recent data shows that 52 per cent of Britons will not book a holiday unless they believe their money is protected, leading to a flurry of insurance schemes from companies across the travel industry. Byway hopes that ABTA protection will encourage customers to book now, and travel later when lockdown ends.
Current destinations include Yorkshire, Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands, Corsica, and the Alsace region.
The booking process starts with questions about the types of activities enjoyed on holiday, and mood about travelling during the pandemic. Based on responses, Byway will suggest an itinerary that may include kayaking around Saint Michael’s Mount, enjoying a seafood lunch in port, or lounging on a secluded beach.
Beyond curbing the travel carbon footprint by using alternatives to flying, Byway hopes to reduce the impacts of over-tourism to communities and natural environments.
The company recently won £100k from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, which has awarded £10 million to British businesses working towards sustainable economic recovery from Covid-19.
“In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation,” says Innovate UK executive chair, Ian Campbell. “The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy. Byway, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development,” he says.
Byway also recently achieved Pending B Corporation status. B Corp companies such as The Guardian newspaper and Patagonia apparel, meet certain social and environmental standards, commit to public transparency, and have a legal obligation to balance profit and purpose. Byway will be eligible to certify fully in 12 months.
Since launching, Byway has also unveiled a new free invitation-only membership scheme that offers limited-edition holidays, virtual “nights of adventure” hosted by slow travel pioneers, and slow travel tips and local recommendations.