Bill Bensley: Social Distancing Will Remain With Us for Years

Shinta Mani Angkor — Bensley Collection
Shinta Mani Angkor

Thailand-bases architect and designer Bill Bensley believes “social distancing will remain with us for years.” In a Q&A with the Global Wellness Institute, Bensley spoke about the future of travel, the “silver linings” of COVID-19 (coronavirus), projects he’s working on and more.

Regarding “old luxury,” Bensley says it’s going to be “deader than a doornail.”

“I think we’ll travel less post-crisis—I know I will—but mostly I think people will be radically more selective about where they go. That’s a positive for our world,” he says. “Certainly, the ‘monied’ people are going to go to places that are more remote and places in deep nature.”

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His projected decrease in travel will bode well for countries like Thailand that are suffering from overtourism. “These huge busloads of tourists were given booties to walk on and crush the corals, so they’re basically dead. I think COVID will curb that kind of overtourism in Thailand and in many other parts of the world and prove a catalyst for a better, less destructive tourism,” he says.

Another positive of COVID-19, Bensley says, is the increased protection of wildlife, specifically noting a ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals being rolled out across China. He adds that a “blue” lining is the cleared-up skies due to a lack of pollution. “COVID is one hard way to grasp the unbelievable impact that just a couple of weeks without cars and polluting the air can make,” says Bensley.

While his properties are closed, Bensley will continue to keep employees on payroll “and will grin and bear it as absolutely long as I can.” Many of the employees, he says, rely on their monthly paycheck to support, on average, eight family members. Bensley also called out other hotels and management for refusing to offer a refund for cancelled trips. “Hospitality needs to live by standards, or we lose all respect. COVID is no excuse to take people’s money to pay for your mismanagement,” he says. Bensley adds his properties are encouraging guests to rebook, not cancel, and are offering “all kinds of extras if they do;” although, cancellations are still being obliged.

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