We’d all like to have a crystal ball to predict the future. It’d be immensely helpful, after all, to inform both personal and business decisions, plus impress at parties. But since mine seems to still be in the shop, I’ll have to look ahead to 2018 without supernatural assistance. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but here are some headlines – related to travel and tourism, of course – that I think it’s safe to say will make the pages of CT and Canadian Traveller, and maybe some other publications as well, this year:
1. Korea cashes in on Winter Olympics
Olympic Games venues invariably gain a profile that lingers forever. Summer Games destinations tend to be bigger, so cities like London, Beijing and Los Angeles rarely need the exposure. But winter hosts, like Sochi, Lillehammer, even Calgary, are grateful for the ongoing association. Expect the same for PyeongChang, Korea, after this year’s Feb. 9-25 event, not to mention bountiful exposure for the entire country as coverage fills TV and online screens and newspapers around the globe.
2. Britain gets boost from royal wedding, baby
Tour operators claim that the engagement/wedding of British prince William and Kate Middleton caused an uptick in interest in the destination in 2011. Seven years on, the couple is expecting another child – always of great interest to royal watchers – while younger brother Harry takes his turn at the altar with Meghan Markle on May 19. Both spectacles will generate massive exposure for Britain and kindle more than a little interest in visiting the British Isles.
3. World Cup fails to score for Russia
The only global sporting event to truly rival the Olympics in size and importance is the World Cup of Football (soccer). Held every four years, like the Olympics, but with qualifying games sustaining interest in between, the tournament presents an unparalleled opportunity for host nations to capitalize on the exposure generated by the event. That won’t happen for this year’s host, Russia (June 14-July 15). In fact, like Sochi in 2014, negative coverage of the logistics of the event are likely to offset any short-time arrivals boost from those going to attend matches by discouraging potential visitors in the future.
4. Trump slump continues to hamper U.S.
Almost four per cent fewer travellers visited the U.S. in the first half of 2017 with the turmoil caused by (and general dislike of) president Donald Trump held largely to blame. Don’t expect 2018 to be any better. On only the second day of the year, the nation’s top man unleashed a vintage Twitter rant, followed by a taunt to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un boasting that his nuclear button is bigger. With a new book on the Trump presidency at hand and mid-term elections scheduled in December and Democrats demonstrably on the rise, the table is set for even more mania south of the border – and that is bound to inspire Canadians to stick close to their igloos, or to go elsewhere.
5. Space tourism finally blasts off
Maybe that somewhere else will be the moon, with the news that two private citizens, who have reportedly already put down deposits, will circle the celestial destination in a private space craft this year courtesy of Elon Musk’s spaceflight company, SpaceX. The entire trip is expected to take a week and will cover up to 650,000 kilometres. Musk says the mission will be an integral step in his eventual plan to colonize Mars (a headline for 2019 perhaps?)
6. Getting to Antarctica no longer half the fun
While not quite as a remote as the moon, Antarctica is nevertheless a challenge to get to and requires an intrepid disposition, not to mention a strong stomach to cope with the possibility of several days of seasickness while crossing the fearsome Drake Passage. Good news then that Argentinian airline LADE is planning to launch scheduled flights to the world’s largest and iciest continent in 2018. The regular 90-minute service will depart from Ushuaia to Argentina’s base on Seymour Island, Marambio, which will have rooms for tourists.
7. Ultra low-cost carriers take flight in Canada
Flights are unlikely to cost only a dollar, but the low-cost airline revolution, which took flight in Europe two decades years ago, is finally gaining substantial impetus in Canada with the addition of WestJet to the fold. Later this year, the airline will launch Swoop, its version of an ultra-low-cost carrier. Like most ULCCs, fares will come in substantially lower than traditional airlines, but will compensate through higher onboard and ancillary fees. Swoop, however, will not be alone, with start-ups Canada Jetlines and Enerjet (FlyToo) also hoping to take flight in 2018 as well. ULCCs like Jetsgo and Zoom have tried before in Canada and failed, while Flair Airlines relaunched last year after the acquisition of New Leaf Travel, and a host of U.S. low-cost carrier cater to Canadians from border cities; however, WestJet is the heaviest hitter yet to take a swing at the ULCC model in Canada.
8. Whistler gives nod to the pod
Another familiar global tourism product that to this point has failed to take hold in Canada will make headlines in 2018. Originating as “capsule” hotels in Japan as a cheap alternative for business travellers, pod hotels have been common in Asia for decades and having been slowly spreading to other parts of the world in recent years, from New York to Europe. Later this year, the concept comes to Canada with the Pangea Pod Hotel in Whistler, B.C., which will offer 88 sleeping pods and common spaces designed for “the discerning solo traveller seeking a boutique hotel feel, impressive design and a prime location at an affordable price-point.” It is expected to fill Whistler's void between hostels and hotels.
9. Sharing economy continues to shake up travel
The sharing economy, where everyday people offer or use services that would were once considered strictly professional, continues to evolve. Like the early days of the Internet, it seems we’re still in a Wild West scenario where forerunners of the trend, like Airbnb and Uber, continue to evolve, and get regulated, and new start-ups, well, start up in a bid to solve problems that we never knew we had. Consider, for example, Bangkok-based SHARELUGG, which turns travellers with unused luggage space into couriers for others “who are in need of the space for any shipping purpose, such as shippers, online sellers and travellers who may always spend a huge amount of money on luggage-overweight fee.” Meanwhile, ride-hailing service Uber is already developing a “flying taxi” to soar over traffic congestion that it hopes will make headlines by 2023.
10. Leeuwarden experiences tourism boom
With a fading best claim to fame as the birthplace of Margaretha Zella – better known as First World War double agent Mata Hari – the capital of the Dutch region of Frisia takes the spotlight (along with Valletta, Malta) as a European Capital of Culture this year. The transformative program generates not only publicity, but funding for infrastructure improvements and events that would otherwise likely never take place. Leeuwarden will highlight arts, landscapes and sustainability and is hoping for a “tourist boom.”