In the industry that employs 1 out of every 11 people around the world, the 2019 travel trends signal changes that are different from past years. And the implications affect anyone who enjoys planning and taking trips. More than a temporary “moment in the sun,” these shifts are likely here to stay.
River cruises: The Danube is getting more crowded, as travelers are learning about river cruising. Small ships–the largest holds 190 passengers–glide along rivers all over the world. Cities have always been built on rivers, so exploring is just a matter of walking off the ship into the old town.
European river cruises are most popular; since 2017, 29 new ships have been built for Europe, bringing the total to over 100 vessels. Outside Europe, Africa, Asia, India, Russia, and the USA offer itineraries. Yes, the Mississippi is world-class! If you’re used to ocean cruising, know that a river cruise is a different animal: while many costs are included, it’s still expensive and not solo-friendly. Children under age eight are not allowed…which might be a plus. Want to know more? Read this article by River Cruise Advisor.
(NOTE: Ocean cruises continue to be popular. In 2019, over 30 million people will board a ship, up from 22 million just five years ago.)
Solo travel: Traveling alone is soaring! Klook, a travel activity booking platform, solo travel is #1 for 2019 travel trends. Intrepid Travel reports that for its 2018 US itineraries, 70% of clients were solo. Boomers are really rocking the solo concept. Booking.com’s survey showed that 40% of global boomers took an “unfettered” trip in the past year–and another 21% plan to do it this year!
While this is great news for lots of us–solo travel is finally shaking off its stigma–the travel industry isn’t exactly working overtime to adapt. The single supplement remains an enormous block to affordable travel. (No, I do not want to sidestep it by sharing a room with an unfamiliar female.) A few companies provide limited single accommodations, but these must be booked well in advance–and they are never discounted, as double occupancy is. At least flights and hotels don’t penalize solos for taking one spot. And I do have hope that the travel industry will recognize the potential profits of providing “equal opportunity” to those of us who go alone.
Over-tourism: Some destinations are being “loved to death.” Every year, more of us travel. Over 4.5 billion passengers are expected fly in 2019; just five years ago it was 3.1 billion. The fact is, we can get anywhere we want now; the only restrictions are time and money. Speaking of money, every place on the planet has a tourism department…and they want your cash. The result? Too many people are checking places off their bucket lists at unprecedented speed, and it’s taking a serious toll.
Examples of how destinations are trying to control numbers:
- Machu Picchu is going from just morning and afternoon tickets to hourly time slots. The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu are closed each February for much-needed repair and maintenance.
- Cinque Terre has an app that shows when paths are over-crowded. Visitors are also encouraged to buy the Cinque Terre Card which provides access to trails and public transportation–proceeds go to maintenance. Limiting the number of visitors a day is under consideration.
- Venice is planning a “head tax” for tourists who do not stay overnight…looking at you, cruise passengers. The city is simply overwhelmed with 30 million visitors a year. Barcelona is doing the same for its 32 million visitors.
- Angor Wat doubled admission price and moved ticket booths away from the temple’s main gates. Only 100 people at a time are admitted to the Central Tower.
These three travel trends may seem completely unrelated…but they all indicate that travel is on the uptick–and unlikely to slow down. More people are going everywhere. Look at Iceland–there it was, minding its own business–then, WHAM! The tourist-to-resident ratio is over 7:1.
What to do? Certainly, keep going, as a responsible traveler. We’ll find a way…together…or solo…
More thoughts on travel: