By Christine Wei for ShermansTravel
Space travel. Bitcoin payments. Suites on airplanes. Some trends just keeping popping up on our news feeds time and time again. Some of these are fantastic and others... not so much. But for better or worse, here are nine that we think are here to stay.
1. Wearable tech.
Now that Apple's in the game, wearable tech seems more and more like a part of the future -- and not just as an ugly fashion trend. While we all love to hate Google Glass, travel brands are already responding to the Apple Watch unveiled in September. For example, Starwood's new SPG app, which will let guests unlock rooms with their iPhone, is already designed to be Apple Watch-compatible. Of course, at nearly $349 dollars, Apple Watch isn't a casual purchase, and we bet there will be some software and hardware challenges to overcome. Plus, it needs to be paired with an iPhone, though brands like Samsung are attempting to market what's essentially a mini-smartphone to wear on your wrist.
2. Space voyages.
Despite the unfortunate Virgin Galactic crash at the end of last month, space travel is going to happen. The brand's CEO shared that the company is continuing full steam and will "have a new spaceship that's going to be ready in a few months" (as investigations into the crash continue). Having recently received massive funds from NASA, Boeing is also working on developing passenger aircraft for space. And it's not just planes we're talking about here. A Beijing-based company called Space Vision is developing a "high-tech balloon" powered by helium to bring tourists into space, and a Japanese construction company, Obayashi Corporation, is aiming to operate an elevator into space by 2050.
Don't ask us how Bitcoin works, because, to be honest, we still can't tell you. But we do know that Expedia started accepting Bitcoin payments earlier this summer, and we just read in Bitcoin Magazine that Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana is offering discounts for Bitcoin and Exlusive Coin bookings. Our friends at Jaunted have listed other ways that you can use cryptocurrency toward travel, pointing out it's also good for gift cards for restaurants and stores.
4. Widening socioeconomic gap...on planes.
As coach seats get more and more cramped, first class suites -- yes, that's now a thing -- are becoming more and more lavish. On the one hand, seat pitch has shrunk down to as small as 28 inches on Spirit Airlines' A320s. (To put this into perspective, the report cites 31-32 inches as the absolute minimum in years past.) On the other hand, Singapore Airlines has created a new Suites class of its own, making huge waves across social media thanks to blogger Derek Low's account of his $23,000 journey from Singapore to New York, including a six-hour nap worth $6,000 of time. There are also the two "shower spas" and an onboard lounge that guests of Emirates' first class suites share, while Etihad Airways' three-room Residence includes personal butler service.
Once associated with teens and fashionistas, this type of smartphone snapshot has become so widespread that we're starting to see selfie bans in tourism. Some of these are based in safety -- like South Lake Tahoe's concern about tourists rushing toward bears for a good shot, or New York's recent bill against selfies with tigers (and other big cats). Other rules, like the one instated by a beach in France, are about preserving the spirit of a vacation. And where there aren't official bans, there are increasing frustrations surrounding respecting sites of worship, important history, and culture. The next time you whip out your iPhone, think before you pose...
6. Larger-than-life cruise ships.
Is bigger better? Some people seem to think so. Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, built in 2007, can carry up to 6,360 passengers. (For reference, that's the size of entire college campuses -- or many small towns in America.) It's currently tied with sister ship Allure of the Seas as the biggest cruise ships in the world at 225,282 tons, and the line's just-launched Quantum of the Seas has beat out Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic as the third largest with a 4,100+ capacity. What's the draw? These massive vessels have enough space to provide thrilling amenities like surf simulators and sightseeing pods elevated 300 feet above the water. Whether all that is worth dealing with huge crowds onboard is a personal decision...
7. Surge pricing.
The very phrase "surge pricing" was coined by Uber, which by now has become notorious for tacking on enormous fees for rides during in-demand times like rush hour, holidays, and during inclement weather. (In case you missed it, the latest uproar is over a $539 bill for an 18-mile ride.) Sadly, it seems like price gouging is only becoming more ubiquitous. In September, Spirit Airlines jumped on the opportunistic bandwagon and announced that it was raising its baggage fees for travel only between December 15 and January 5, 2015 -- right in time for the holidays.
8. Big screen-inspired travel.
It's a bit cheesy, sure, but there's nothing like a Hollywood blockbuster to drive tourism. Just take a look at the endless Middle Earth tours in New Zealand, even years after the Lord of the Rings franchise had its debut. This year, we're seeing trips themed after the novel-turned-TV show Outlander in Scotland and of course Disney's hit animation Frozen both at home and abroad.
9. More tenable super-luxury.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Entrepreneurs have been capitalizing on the fact that big discounts during times of low demand is good for everyone -- even when it comes to experiences as ritzy as traveling by private jet. We've shared how JetSuite.com has offered fares like Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas for four people at $499, filling up a "repositioning" flight that would otherwise be empty. More recently, we learned about JetSmarter, an app that among other things keeps travelers abreast of what they're calling "empty leg" deals. And that's not to mention private island rentals. Excessive? Perhaps. Accessible? Most certainly.
photo: Etihad Airways