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.
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.
One of my main goals for visiting Flanders was to see some of the World War One battlefield sites, and I got my wish by arranging a one day battlefield tour with a local company. Quasimodo Tours is run by husband and wife duo Philippe and Sharon, with the aim of delivering a really thorough introduction to the battlefields in the space of a single day, which is perfect for time-conscious travellers.
Whilst it would have been fun to devote my entire trip to cemeteries and memorials, like most tourists I had a packed itinerary to fit in, so a day trip was the best compromise. I hopped on a train from my hotel in Brussels to join the tour bus at Bruges about an hour later, for a bright and early 9am start at Bruges train station.
After my recent look at the centenary of WWI, I felt the need to carry on the theme when I found out about a statue in London that I’d walked past hundreds of times recently without ever realising its true significance. The monument to British nurse Edith Cavell has stood opposite the National Portrait Gallery for years (it’s right outside Pret, to be precise, in St. Martin’s Place) since 1920, but I’d honestly never noticed it before.
Yet my mum came back from a London adventure the other week, having seen a remembrance ceremony taking place on the anniversary of Cavell’s death, and she got me thinking. Were both a bit embarrassed to admit that we’d never even realised this statue existed, let alone stopped to look at who was being commemorated, in all the times we’d hurried past to get to the NPG, Leicester Square or Trafalgar Square. How had we managed to walk by time and time again?
As the centenary of the Great War approaches, it’s fair to say that things are already hotting up on the tourism and publicity front.
Whilst I unfortunately missed the WWI talk at World Travel Market last year, due to clashes in my schedule, I did manage to pick up some poppy seeds from the Visit Flanders area and I will be planting them (despite my not-so-green fingered gardening ‘abilities’) in an effort to bring a part of this very real, global event home – I think that offering poppy seeds is a great marketing tool, but also a really personal way to get people involved. After all, the Great War was something that touched the lives of normal citizens and changed the future and fortunes of a whole generation.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.