Whereas 2014 was all about knee defenders, awkward profiles of Brits in the German press, and Outlander-themed tours of Scotland, this year has been very different.
We’ve seen terror on the streets, refugees in crisis, and a king reburied half a millennium after his death, and that’s only a snippet of what 2015 involved.
A World in Chaos
With ISIS/ISIL-led terror attacks tragically striking Egypt, France and Tunisia, and with parts of Belgium on lockdown following the recent Paris attacks, it’s been a sobering year. Western tourists have naturally been cautious, but holidaymakers are not the only targets. Locals socialising or going to work also lost their lives. Whilst the travel industry is under pressure to deliver better safety measures and tighter security, anyone driven to cancel their holiday and stay at home won’t be risk-free, because domestic threats are just as common. The sad fact is that we can’t always prevent these attacks from happening, however we can’t live our lives in constant fear.
Another ongoing situation is the influx of refugees, mainly from Syria, heading to Europe. What began as matter-of-fact news coverage of ‘economic migrants’ quickly developed into stories of desperate families drowning off Greek islands as they fled civil war and persecution. Escapism magazine dedicated its 25th issue entirely to the refugee crisis, breaking away from its usual coverage of holiday trends to expose the horrific journeys refugees had undertaken. A temporary holding camp set up in Calais, known as ‘The Jungle’, now has its own theatre and church, as well as artwork by Banksy and shelter materials donated from Banksy’s tongue-in-cheek theme park, Dismaland.
The Choice is Yours
British Airways introduced new routes such as London Gatwick to Vienna (which I’m keen to try out) and grabbed headlines in August by announcing a London Gatwick to Lima route, which will be available three times a week from May 2016. When I visited Peru I had to travel via Madrid Airport, which is a nice enough place to stop and pick up some jamon, but the direct option will definitely cut out a chunk of overall journey time. When you reach Peru, don’t forget to read my altitude sickness tips.
In November, the World Travel Market (WTM) trade show highlighted the growing demand for wellbeing holidays, and the power of the older holidaymaker with money to burn. Senior travellers, sometimes referred to as ‘greycationers’ spending ‘the grey pound’, are becoming more adventurous and seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences rather than quiet self-catering cottage escapes. Meanwhile, travellers of all ages are looking to chill out, unplug and detox, as an antidote to their hectic everyday lives.
Respect and Disrespect
Somewhat unusually, a man who lay dead for 530 years made his final journey in March 2015: Richard III, whose remains were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester, was reinterred with a royal funeral atmosphere. 35,000 mourners turned out to see the cortege pass through the streets of Leicester (possibly hoping for a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard’s third cousin 16 times removed, who attended the ceremony). By the time the coffin reached Leicester Cathedral, it was covered in white roses.
Away from those dignified scenes, 2015 saw a few monumentally disrespectful idiots making the news. Malaysia’s sacred Mount Kinabalu, in Borneo, became world-famous this summer when 10 tourists stripped off and posed for photos. Not long after, an earthquake hit the area; some locals believe the visitors’ behaviour led to the quake, whilst others were merely outraged that anyone staying as a guest in their country would behave so badly. The whole incident just highlights how selfish some travellers can be (something I highlighted in my selfie-obsessed travel blog post last year).
In Other News…
- Many Ebola-hit areas in West Africa were finally declared free of the disease. Just days ago, the World Health Organisation announced that Guinea, where 2,500 people died over two years, is now Ebola-free. Overall, Ebola is thought to have claimed 11,315 lives.
- The Mexican Tourist Board saw a golden opportunity with the recent James Bond blockbuster, Spectre. After investing millions in the film, and promising tax rebates and other financial incentives for producers, the Mexican government ensured Spectre’s baddie wasn’t one of their own countrymen, and got a Mexican actress cast as a Bond girl. The film’s opening sequence, which show James Bond crashing Mexico City’s Dia de los Muertos festivities, received plenty of good publicity.
- Museums and galleries weren’t short of tempting exhibitions this year. Highlights included Edvard Munch at the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid (running until 17th January 2016), Chuck Close at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and Celts at the British Museum – closing on 31st January 2016 and transferring to the National Museum of Scotland from 10th March-25th September 2016.
Here’s to another year of stranger-than-fiction travel stories.