2019: A year of anti-social travel
Josh Martin looks at 2019 trends for travellers and discovers that social media show-offs and their enablers may be out of luck.
In 2018, we witnessed kneeachingly long flights, ever-larger cruise vessels and more people travelling globally than ever before.
Thankfully the number of people dragged off airlines did not reach the shameful heights of 2017.
Travel and tourism is a mega industry obsessed with trends and the ‘‘Next Big Thing’’ as well as one that offers niches, sub-tribes and weird anomalies.
Here’s what 2019 may have in store for the travelling Kiwi:
Over-capacity (that’s industry speak for too many seats on offer) on leisure routes, higher fuel prices and increasingly shaky consumer confidence pushed some – mostly European – airlines to the wall in 2018, while many others came close.
Although the main players flying the New Zealand skies look more than sound, the macroeconomic conditions and often razor-thin margins of global aviation remain. All the more reason to have comprehensive travel cover on your next big European trip.
Emphasis on experiences
It’s no longer about million-count Egyptian cotton sheets on California super-king beds for the one-per-centers and the wannabe one-per-centers. We want customised, personal and (mostlikely) ‘‘shareable’’ experiences. Think heli-transfers, Michelinstarred chef cooking lessons and F1 racer driving lessons.
Travel is now even more of a status symbol, so the top tier especially demands hotels, cruise companies and travel service firms make their stay more about what they get to do and how they do it, rather than about things (although top-branded toiletries and top-shelf minibars never hurt).
User pays (and pays and pays)
Whether they call the offering ‘‘customisable on price’’, ‘‘pay for perks’’ or ‘‘seats to suit’’, it means that your advertised cost of travel is more a starting point than a final destination.
We see it most prominently in airlines, which this year are set to rake in more than $60 billion in ancillary revenues (that’s baggage fees, seat selection fees, insurance, credit card fees, boarding priority passes, and the list goes on).
What was sold a decade ago as airlines offering financial-crisisburdened customers a way to fly with no frills, has persisted and, in fact, worsened as consumer spending improved.
Low-cost carriers wrote the book on users pay, and now make on average 30 per cent of their total revenue from ancillary fees.
Now, on some airlines, you have to pay a penalty for the ‘‘frill’’ of checking into your flight at the airport. Sadly, this trend will become even more mainstream in 2019.
Off the grid moves on trend
While some travellers (myself included) love to over-share and brag their way through their foreign
escapades, 2019 will see a growing number of tourists wanting to go off the grid. No, really.
Trampers and campers will scoff, ‘‘yep, we’ve been doing that for years’’, but now the other end of the market is catching on.
That’s right, purposefully snubbing wi-fi, screens and social media is now the preserve of posh hotels, boutique retreats and safari lodges where it was once held up as an essential marker of a good starrating. Focus on the now, not the next social media post – your followers probably deserve the break.
After coming off the boil over the past decade, Japan will come back in a big way for New Zealanders in 2019.
After August your social media feed should see a steady stream of photos (probably stadium-centric) from the Land of the Rising Sun. Why? The Rugby World Cup. Prepare for tens of thousands of rugby tourists exploring all Japan has to offer.
Air New Zealand has ramped up its scheduled flights from Auckland to Tokyo (Narita) to coincide with the tournament’s September to November fixtures (although flying with one stop in Southeast Asia can be 50 per cent cheaper).
From snow thrills and onsen spas in the winter to the infamous cherry blossom spring to big festivals and sashimi sampling in summer, it’s a year-round destination sure to please the senses, even if you’re not watching the All Blacks.
Skin in the game
There must be something about centuries-old stone carvings, ancient religions or hiking up steps at sunrise or sunset, but taking snaps of your bare butt at a cultural monument and posting them online is staying.
Yes, the trend nobody asked for. Just this month, two Danish tourists caused outrage after breaking the law to scale the Great Pyramid in Giza and pose nude (and more) atop it after dark. They allegedly paid off members of staff in the park.
It follows similar feats by culturally tone-deaf tourists in Cambodia, Malaysia, China, and even in little ol’ New Zealand.
While some say ‘‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’’ (ie, cover up), a growing number of tourists reply ‘‘free the nip’’ (among other things).
In 2018, many thousands of column inches were dedicated to business-class seats and first-class lounge experiences that most of us will never actually get the chance to experience.
Of course, these multimilliondollar investments result in total luxury and make long-haul travel in particular an effortless pleasure.
Door-to-door concierge services, hideaway suites in the sky and your own personal chef show the lengths airlines will go to in order to fill its seats (and now suites) in the front end. This is where they make their money.
It’s often said the cheap seats, where I’m more likely found, barely cover the fuel when filled.
The result? The trend of stratification of air travel, based on your history and future likelihood of loyal spending, will continue.
Things will get better and better up the front, while airlines continue to put the squeeze on passengers’ wallets and knees in economy. Which is another reason 2019 will see more airlines trying to cram more in to cattle class. A 3-3-3 layout down the back of a twin-aisle Airbus or Boeing aircraft is becoming a rarity.
Safe (if cramped) travels.
Taking snaps of your bare butt at a cultural monument and posting them online is staying. Yes, the trend nobody asked for.
Focus on the now, not the next social media post – your followers probably deserve the break.
Low cost carriers wrote the book on user pays, and now make on average 30 per cent of their total revenue from ancillary fees. 2019 will see a growing number of tourists wanting to go off the grid.
All eyes are on Japan this year.