Loren Christie: Travel trends and hot spots of 2015
So what are the big trends in travel for 2015?
The sharing economy is nowhere better showcased than with travel. New websites like EatWith and BookaLokal, which pair visitors with home cooks, are great examples of the growing reach of the of the sharing economy but no website has better exemplified this global trend like Airbnb. This marketplace for people to list and book accommodations around the world likely owes its success to its range of price points and the variety of accommodations available, from a night in an apartment to a castle for a week. With a presence in 190 countries, their rapid growth is impressive. Here in Canada there are now a million people travelling with Airbnb and more than 18,000 Canadians supplementing their income by hosting people in their extra spaces. A recent study found the Airbnb community contributed $54.6 million in total economic activity in one year to the city of Montreal. In Toronto, Airbnb sponsored the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, reminding global movers and shakers that the sharing community is not just for people who need to save money, it’s about embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Tech, tech and more tech. This year will see the continued emergence of some incredible on-line innovations; like 2014 ‘s new payment tools - Apple Pay and wearable technology like Sony Smartwatches. The stand out specifically for the travel industry has to be Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ SPG Keyless. It’s the hospitality industry’s first mobile, keyless entry system allowing guests to use their smartphone as a key. Rolled out initially in ten hotels in November 2014….the plan is to have it rolled out in 150 hotels around the globe within the next couple of months. This new technology enables guests to bypass the front desk, go directly to their room and unlock their door with a simple tap of their smartphone.
Sustainable tourism and giving back is happily a hugely growing trend. Many travel companies have sister foundations that will put your donations to good use; now an increasing number are taking it a step further and committing all profits to such projects. For example, the Fogo Island Inn, off the coast of Newfoundland, functions almost as a heritage foundation for its small island. Wherever you’re heading, check if your hotel has a relationship with Pack for a Purpose. The organization works with hotels that have identified development goals in local communities and encourages guests to bring necessary supplies in their suitcases.
As far as hot destinations in 2015….
Lithuania will adopt the euro on January 1, 2015, bringing the Baltic country into the single-currency club. Lonely Planet is saying it is the place for 2015. The country offers 100 km of coastline including the Curonian Spit, an impressive stretch of sand dunes and a UNESCO protected world heritage site shared with Russia. The capital Vilnius has amazing baroque architecture and the Old Town is a UNESCO heritage protected site. Cheapflights.ca says prices will rise, but visitors can still expect plenty of bang for their buck. The beer is legendary, its cuisine hearty and its culture comes with a side of quirky. Lithuania.Travel.net.
After U.S. President Obama’s December announcement on renewed ties with Cuba, this island leapt on to the travel radar of many Americans. However, there is no serious rush, as the trade embargo still prevents most U.S. citizens from legally traveling to or spending money in Cuba. Packages through U.S. educational tour companies can run $5,000 per person for a weeklong visit, plus airfare. The value is visiting before Cuba becomes a hot tourist destination; before it's overrun with chain hotels and restaurants. An affordable vacation in a relatively pristine landscape will be harder to come by in the years to come.
The Jolie-Pitts recently bestowed their celebrity endorsement upon Malta when they had a working honeymoon on this European island nation while filming “By the Sea”. This past season’s racers on The Amazing Race showed us just how blue the waters of the Blue Grotto are when they rappelled down into this popular tourist attraction. And, if the Hollywood effect isn’t enough, Malta should get some royal treatment in 2015. This past fall, the Duchess of Cambridge missed her first solo trip overseas when a visit to the republic was cancelled due to severe morning sickness. Cheapflights.ca predicts that she will plan a make-up visit in 2015 with royal baby number two in tow.
Having come off 2014 as the host of the FIFA World Cup and preparing to again welcome the world for the 2016 Summer Olympics, this is Brazil’s gap year. According to travelzoo.ca, the country will open 400 new hotels over the next year, enticing more travelers to hot spots such as Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls. Air Canada has increased its service to this South American hot spot by adding three direct flights between Toronto and Rio. If your curiosity is peaked and you want to avoid the crowds and costs of an Olympic year, now is the time to go.
Topographically speaking, 2015 is the year to get high. July will mark 150 years since the first Matterhorn ascent and Zermatt, Switzerland is celebrating with open-air performances, festivals and sporting events. The 101-year-old Hörnli Hut, the starting point for a Matterhorn climb, will reopen after being refurbished. Meanwhile Salzburg, Austria will be alive with The Sound of Music as the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s gem marks its fiftieth year. The city will host exhibitions, tours and sing-alongs.