2016 in the Travel Industry

Street art asking why, on wall against blue sky

2016 wasn’t exactly the happiest year on record – celebrities dropping like flies, not to mention Brexit and President Trump adding to our woes – but there were a lot of travel industry stories and trends making headlines as well. Here are some of the biggest developments from the last 12 months.

Europe was on high alert

Paris continued to mourn the victims of its terror attack, which happened at the close of 2015. Just days into 2016, the city marked a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Nice, Berlin and Istanbul sadly became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons in 2016 – Islamic State extremists struck again. These horrific acts have, of course, made people nervous about travelling, but they’ve also highlighted the scarily simple tactics terrorists employ.

Without being able to second-guess their every move, and without wishing to trivialise the events of 2016, I can only repeat last year’s message: we can’t live our lives in constant fear. That’s why I was thrilled to see Berlin’s Christmas markets reopen days later, defiant and proud.

Imprisoned British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Ratcliffe with her baby daughter in her arms
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter, Gabriella. Credit: FreeNazanin.com.

Iran was back on the map… but Nazanin was forgotten

Some previously off-limits destinations opened up to the West again, like Cuba and Iran. The latter slowly trickled into the media, touted as the perfect inspiration for design lovers and foodies. I’ve had Iran on my wish list for a little while, but I can’t forget the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker who’s been held in Iranian prisons since 3rd April 2016. She spent the first month and a half in solitary confinement and is currently in a women’s prison in Tehran. In September she was given a five year sentence, but the charges were kept secret.

Nazanin can’t even see her baby daughter, who she’d travelled to Iran with. Nazanin’s British husband, stuck in the UK, is powerless – their daughter is with her Iranian grandparents and, if he travels to Iran to see any of them, there’s every chance he’ll be arrested too. However, he’s trying to arrange a visa.

In the meantime, Nazanin waits, without access to a lawyer, and the situation rumbles on. If you think this shouldn’t be allowed to happen, please sign the petition set up by Nazazin’s husband, Richard. Until Nazanin is free, and there’s an end to the government’s wrangling of the situation, I can’t bring myself to endorse Iran as a travel destination. Could you?

Graffiti scrawl by Trump supporter written in black marker on Brooklyn Bridge
A deluded Trump supporter left this message on Brooklyn Bridge. I’m glad I didn’t meet them…

Trump and Brexit divided us

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump caused major shockwaves across the travel industry. Suddenly the world felt like a more xenophobic place, as countries began to cut ties with each other (except for America and Russia, who look to be NBFs as Trump cosies up to Putin…). The value of the pound fell, and companies panicked about post-Brexit business in Britain.

At World Travel Market, analysts had warned that Trump faced alienating Mexican tourists, whose increasing spending power could have really boosted inbound American tourism.

The number of people threatening to move abroad due to world events – mostly UK citizens planning to up sticks to Ireland, and Americans crossing into Canada – meant renewed interest and search volumes for those suddenly in-demand destinations. Canada was also on the thanks to a much-publicised visit from Prince William and Princess Katherine. 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canada as a nation, so expect to see a lot more of this country in the media, and visit all its national parks for free.

Somme 100 Commemmorations at the battlefield with poppy emblem
It was 100 years since this brutal battle took place, causing devastation on both sides. Credit: British Legion.

Historical holidays were all the rage

This summer it was 100 years since the Battle of the Somme. Historians are divided on the effect of the battle (some say it was spectacularly mismanaged and a pointless waste of life, but others say there were valid reasons for the battle, and the Allied military strategy vastly improved afterwards).

Whatever the tactics, the staggering loss of life can’t be ignored, and many survivors’ lives were changed forever by physical or mental trauma. To mark the anniversary, I went along to my local library for a screening of the famous 1916 propaganda film, The Battle of the Somme, first shown in cinemas 100 years ago. Thanks to a national ballot, other British tourists were lucky enough to visit the Somme for the commemoration ceremony.

This wasn’t the only historical anniversaries shaping our travel plans: it was 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, 350 years since the Great Fire of London, and 75 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (American spelling) brought America into WWII.

Paisley Park tributes to Prince Rogers Nelson including purple balloons and flowers
The entrance to Paisley Park in the wake of Prince’s death. Credit: Thomas/Twister MC (flickr.com/photos/twistermc).

In Other News…

  • Prisons-turned-hotels were one of the year’s biggest trends. It didn’t count if your hotel just felt like a jail and the receptionist had all the charm of a prison guard. The latest incarnation was The Good Hotel, a Dutch prison ship now moored in London’s docks.
  • Whilst we lost the great musician Prince in 2016, we did gain his mysterious estate, Paisley Park, as a tourist attraction. The Purple One’s Minnesota home, complete with studios, sound stage and elaborate décor, opened to the public in October. It’s expected to welcome 600,000 visitors a year.
  • The first non-stop flight from the UK to Australia was announced. Taking 17 hours (which still sounds like a long time to me), Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner will whisk passengers half way around the world – precisely, London to Perth – without the inconvenience of a stopover. You’ve got a while to save up, as flights won’t commence until March 2018.

How was your year in travel? Are you worried about Brexit and Trump impacting the wider world? I’d love to know.