7 Important Travel Trends for 2010
The travel industry has been struggling over the past two years. With signs of economic improvement on the horizon, 2010 might be a good year to hit the road or drop in on that destination you’ve always dreamed about visiting.
Industry players, like airlines, hotels and cities’ convention and visitors bureaus, have been altering their approach in order to survive these lean times. This has lead to some new travel trends that are much more consumer-friendly. New laws, new destinations, and new ways to save money on the road will also be affecting how and where people travel this year.
Many travelers have simply been staying home for the past two years. During these travel-less times, US passport requirements have changed. If you head aboard, remember that US residents now need a passport to travel anywhere outside of the country, even to Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada. For most people, this will seem a minor inconvenience. Getting a passport is easy enough if you plan two months in advance and fork over the application fee. Passport applications can be completed and sent from your local post office.
Some destinations have been advertising the fact that a passport is not necessary, even though they are not usually associated with the mainland US:
- The US Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico
Both are becoming more attractive Caribbean destinations because US citizens are not required to have a passport to enter the territories or to re-enter the US. Because of this, the stock of these two destinations will continue to rise among US-based travelers in 2010.
Eastern Europe on the rise
Europe holds some of the most expensive destinations in the world and major cities like London, Paris and Rome carry a been-there-done-that image that serious travelers go out of their way to avoid. Because of these factors, Eastern Europe is becoming more attractive than ever.
- Croatia is experiencing a tourism boom, especially along the Dalmatian Coast.
- Cities like Prague, Czech Republic have long been a hotspot for hipsters, but are heading more into the mainstream, especially since low-cost-carriers have been offering cheap connecting flights from major Western European cities.
More tourists will be visiting these eastern destinations in the coming year, taking advantage of cheaper prices.
Budget hotel chains growing around the world
Budget hotels have become more attractive to investors over the past two years. There has been a rush to develop chains of hotels that offer decent, predictable service for cheap prices. This has become a worldwide phenomenon, with chains like American roadside staple Super 8 making headway in China with dozens of new locations catering to foreign travelers and domestic business travelers. Tune Hotels, which began in Malaysia, is planning to spread its a la carte approach to the rest of the world. Tune offers a bed for a small price (only $0.20 at the KL airport location) and then adds additional charges for everything else (from blankets to towels to water). Future expansion plans include franchises in the US and England.
Extra charges will continue to plague flyers
In an effort to move their books back into the black, many airlines have been introducing additional charges and fees. The most noticeable has to do with your suitcase. In order to check baggage with most major domestic airlines, passengers have to pay a fee. This has become a universal practice among legacy carriers with American charging $20 for the first checked bag, and Delta, Continental and United charging $25 apiece.
There are two notable exceptions to this rule:
- JetBlue does not charge for the first checked bag (second bag on JetBlue is $20).
- Southwest Airlines does not charge for the first two checked bags.
The two low-cost-carriers have also been expanding their service in certain areas and are set to take an even bigger chunk of the industry’s business. Southwest has been heavily marketing their free bag-check policy.
Equatorial Americas set to take off
Though they have Caribbean shoreline, clean beaches and cosmopolitan culture, places like Panama and northeastern Colombia have always played second fiddle to popular Caribbean and Mexican travel destinations. But these under-appreciated places have recently received some buzz from the likes of Lonely Planet and Budget Travel Magazine, as well as publications like Conde Nast and the New York Times.
- There are plans to develop Panama’s coastline with a series of eco-resorts, similar to those that currently line Costa Rica’s seaside. Panama City and the canal zone have always been exciting, cosmopolitan, international places with a mix of cultures and exciting nightlife and shopping scenes.
- The Colombian city of Cartagena, on the country’s Caribbean coast, has more in common with Panama than it does with the other cities in its own country. Great beaches, restaurants and nightlife have been drawing in-the-know jet-setters for years.
As Colombia enters an new era of peace (Cartagena was never affected by the rebel and cartel violence in the same way as southern cities like Bogotá), this destination will become more and mainstream
Lonely Planet also recognized the small South American nation of Suriname as a hot spot. This Dutch-speaking country on the northern coastline of the continent has an laid-back, un-crowded capitol, diverse culture and plenty of eco-tourism spots in its sparsely inhabited interior.
Vancouver seems poised to use its hosting duties of this year’s Winter Olympics to create buzz about its tourist attractions. Though it has always been a user-friendly city, it has never been seen as tourist hotspot, especially compared to Montreal. But the pleasant climate (not often below freezing, even in January), attractive cityscapes and diverse culture are all attractive qualities that will be heavily promoted during the Games. The nature of the area, like the mountains that frame the city and the nearby chain of the Canadian Rockies, will surely earn Vancouver some new fans in 2010.
Las Vegas changes its personality
Las Vegas is moving more and more away from its gambling roots. A majority of visitors will still come to try their luck at the tables and slots, but recent developments will help to reinvent the city, if only in a small way. The Vdara City Center Hotel, part of the new City Center complex, will be the first resort hotel in the city that is not associated with a particular casino. City Center’s shopping and dining options and the spas and entertainment venues are still very Las Vegas (that is to say, gaudy and tourist-centered), but gambling is noticeably absent.
With all these trends in mind, it appears that 2010 is going to be a great year for travelers.