Virgin ’seas' the day through launch of departure lounge on the sand

The Spark

22nd June 2017

The Spark newsletter is our fortnightly roundup of the latest innovation trends. To sign-up, click the register link in the footer of this page.

Life truly is a beach for Virgin Holiday travellers from May 2018, after the heavyweight tour operator arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire recently announced plans to launch ‘the departure beach’; an area in Barbados for holidaymakers to squeeze out that lost spot of vitamin sea before they head home.

Travellers can swap the arduous airport wait for an air-conditioned lounge, bathroom and showers, beach bar and check-in service which overlooks picturesque Brownes Beach. Customers will even be picked up from their hotel after breakfast as well as have their luggage taken for them, then taken direct to check-in to make sure they make their flight.

Virgin has developed the idea in response to survey findings which revealed that a whopping 2.4 million hours of British holiday time is wasted every year due to the ‘lost day’ experienced when travellers are required to check out of a hotel at midday but wait for an evening flight – equating to 10 per cent of a holiday per person.

It is the latest in a wave of initiatives within the travel industry which are designed to enhance the travel experience for holidaymakers. Dubai airport recently announced a biometric technology partnership with ObjectTech, a UK start-up which is working to create ‘digital passports’ enabling travellers to be identified by facial recognition software and 3D scanning—eradicating the need to carry a passport and signalling the end of long passport control queues.

Furthermore, digital and technology continues to sit at the heart of innovation by travel and tour operators as they seek to gain market share from competitors. The flagship brand of Marriott International, Marriott Hotels, recently launched a search for the most innovative tech start-ups to join the 2017 intake of its hugely popular European accelerator programme, TestBED—designed to help shape the future travel and hospitality experience by innovating creative thinking around the entire guest experience.

And this commitment to investment and innovation should come as no surprise, given that the travel and tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries. According to the Tourism Alliance’s UK Tourism Statistics 2016, the value of tourism to the UK economy alone in 2014 was £121.1 billion—7.1 per cent of UK GDP. What’s more, Britain is predicted to have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025—reaching just under 10 per cent of UK GDP, supporting almost 3.7 million jobs.

As for passing the sands of time until Virgin’s departure beach is available, you won’t have to wait long. Construction is beginning imminently, and it’s scheduled to open in May next year—plenty of time to start saving.


Click here to read the more of this issue of The Spark.