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.
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.
If the average adult spends 6 hours a day online, it’s hardly surprising we struggle to switch off when we’re away. All those habits of checking emails, sports scores and our Twitter feed can soon add up to take a chunk out of our holiday without us even noticing. That’s why I was intrigued by Cathay Pacific’s new #onedayoffline project. Let them explain:
At Cathay Pacific we believe in living Life Well Travelled. And we think that by going offline for just one day, travellers will experience the world from a whole new perspective.
When I was a child, family holidays involved picnics and windbreaks, intensive AA map reading and taking a punt on whether a hotel would be anything like the brochure suggested. Today’s families are so much better informed and really do have the world at their fingertips, with parenting blogs, specialist magazines, in-car SatNavs and travel review sites to help them plan adventures. However, with so much choice, making decisions can be just as tricky.
That’s where The Family Travel Show comes in – it’s the first consumer event designed just for families, providing hands-on advice and talks. Here’s what to expect, and how to save 50% on the price of your tickets (you’re welcome!).
Another year of travel highs and lows has gone by, so it’s time for a review of poppy-filled, sports-dominated, battle-scarred 2014. The stories below stood out for me as the most realistic insights into much-discussed destinations and travel habits.
Trouble in Paradise
Thailand suffered from the effects of harsh military rule and the aftershock of a tragic double murder, claiming the lives of two British holidaymakers. The country’s Tourism Authority is now trying to put a positive spin on martial law, claiming it offers greater safety for visitors, but the increased presence of the police and the army isn’t appealing to everyone. During the darkest times for Thailand, Russian tourists helped to boost the economy, but the falling value of the rouble has seen fewer Russian arrivals. Fortunately, high-spending Chinese visitors have helped Thailand get back on its feet again. This is all the more important as it’s now been 10 years since the devastating Boxing Day tsunami claimed 8,000 lives and affected 12,000 homes.
Keeping up to date with travel trends can be a tricky business, but putting reps from most of the world’s countries in one big London exhibition space definitely cuts out the middleman. This week I headed to World Travel Market, a huge trade event at the ExCel Centre, and squeezed in amongst 50,000 professionals, press and government ministers to find out the latest industry insight. Here are my main takeaways for the year…
Being a tour guide in Prague is a risky business
At a city tourism seminar, the CEO of walking tour company SANDEMANs New Europe spoke out about the difficulties and dangers of operating in Prague. “There’s a lot of street violence,” Chris Sandeman told the audience. “Other companies have even beaten up our staff and put them in hospital.” Chris explained that all tours in Prague 1 (the most historic zone) can only start at two specific locations to comply with city and government guidelines. It’s not hard to imagine how this must heighten tension between different groups competing for their livelihoods.
Now we can admit we’re not safe from pouting posers in the shadows of a city gallery or on a sun-bleached Thai beach, perhaps it’s time we all acknowledged the growing trend of the self-absorbed holiday. You know, the one where the background is fairly immaterial, an all-inclusive resort or a luxury yacht is hungrily booked up and the tourist doesn’t actually have to tour anything. They might venture out on a very occasional excursion, but it will mainly be an exercise in creating photo opportunities (starring themselves) and trying not to engage with anyone who doesn’t speak impeccable English.
Who fancies a trip to the fictional state of Zubrowka, across several decades? You’ll need to bring an enthusiasm for stealing priceless paintings, an appetite for Mendl’s cakes (think pimped up Laduree macarons and you’re half way there) and an eyeliner pencil to draw on a false moustache like the lobby boy in the very best hotel Zubrowka has to offer. Oh, and a rich old lady clad in Fendi and Prada, if you know any.
No, I haven’t gone completely mad: I’m talking about Wes Anderson’s brilliant new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is an unashamedly quirky tale of tourism, family ties, money, murder and prison etiquette. I fell in love with the film at a recent screening, and I wanted to share some of its best travel-related talking points in more detail.
A London City Airport survey has found that the average Brit has only visited seven countries, and only 31% have made it to 10 or more of them, despite there being an incredible 193 countries in the entire world that could be explored. This data, which I was reading about in Wanderlust Magazine, really got me thinking about my own travelling past, as it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started accumulating a respectable country count.
Rather than tally up where I’ve been, I’m going to admit why I haven’t been to as many places as you. It’s time to come to terms with my travel inadequacy and look back on those few countries with fond memories.
Whereas 2012 was all about home-grown Olympic pride and cities of culture in Slovenia (Maribor) and Portugal (Guimarães), 2013 was an altogether more complex and crazy year in the world of travel. I’ve picked out some of the highlights, from misguided tweets to far-flung Boris bikes…
PR was Bigger and Bolder
It’s safe to say that 2013 raised the bar in terms of travel PR stunts, with companies increasing their budgets and teaming up to create even better incentives for their competitions, aimed at bloggers or Joe Public. This was the year we saw My Destination’s BBB (Biggest Baddest Bucket List) winners crowned; we also witnessed BA’s Race The Plane challenge on Twitter, Lastminute.com’s search for a spontaneity champion, and Saga’s 50 day challenge for a 50-year-old travel writer. As for what 2014 holds, we’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m sure there will be some really creative ideas coming from competing PRs, possibly crossing into SEO as well as social media. These guys are at the top of their game right now.