Out with the old, in with the new!
Every December, as I prepare a year-end column examining travel trends, I'm surprised at how much different influences are slowly modifying the dynamic of the travelling public.
An international market research firm, Euromonitor, just released a major report on how social and economic changes are shaping the travel industry. It's a fascinating study that predicts many shifts in the world travel market.
For example, it had become the pronounced trend for properties around the world to include wi-fi and other technologies to help us easily keep in touch with home or office. Now, there's a move to unplug all these conveniences, in no small part in reaction to what is referred to as a lack of tech etiquette.
With cellphones creating their own music of sorts on beaches of the world, more and more properties are instituting no-phone policies for their pools and shorelines.
On the other hand, while many may still crave the quietest of vacations, there has been substantive growth in the popularity of shopping hotels in many parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East.
While hotel development near malls is common, new hotels in places like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are being integrated into the mall itself as a key component,
Remember the days when Japanese was the language, after English, that you would hear most frequently at major tourist sites around the globe? It's time to train your ears for new sounds and expressions as new monied classes from Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC countries, take their place on the world exploration ladder.
The economic growth of these countries has already shifted the marketing plans of tourist boards, and more training is being provided to front-line staff in the hospitality industry and at tourist sites and major retail corporations on the cultures and most popular expressions of these new visitors.
As attractive as Canadians and Americans think our countries are as destinations, it's predicted that the early surge of BRIC visits will take place to European cities like Paris, London and Madrid.
And while only in the formative stage, major brand names are starting to appear on hotel properties, just as they have on arenas and stadiums around the world, You will soon be able to stay in a Lamborghini Hotel in China, an Indian Motorcycle Hero property in India, an Armani Hotel in Milan or Dubai, and at any of a number of Aston Martin properties around the world.
As well, countries one might never expect to be viewed as emerging destinations seem to be drawing interest from baby-boomers from developed countries.
Myanmar, for example, a nation that is still judged for its human rights violations, is gaining traction as a 'should consider' nation. Formerly the British colony of Burma, it has gone through years of instability and military rule. And while it's recently held elections, many question how free or fair they were.
Still, Myanmar is the second-largest country in Southwest Asia, has a long, uninterrupted coastline bordered by India, China, Laos, Thailand and Bangladesh, and offers hundreds of temples and pagodas that visitors find fascinating.
Similarly, while Nigeria has not been on my bucket-list of must-see countries, it is reputed to have the second-largest film industry in the world, rivaling that of India. Patterned after India's Bollywood, its own Nollywood Eko International Film Festival draws thousands every year.
Hollywood may still draw massive interest because of its award shows and distribution through North American theatre chains, but its film industry, especially those movies produced in Los Angeles itself, is dwarfed by a number of competitors around the world.
As pressure is placed on U.S. legislators to loosen policies relating to Cuba, more and more Americans are finding ways to holiday in that country, often via Canadian tour companies. There is no doubt in my mind that in the near future, Americans will far outweigh Canadian visitors to that idyllic beach nation.
From a Canadian perspective, there are concerns that an economic downturn influenced by events in Europe and the U.S. could affect travel decisions at home. However, especially with sunspot travel, the Canadian psyche seems to be focused on escaping winter, even from the less-frigid provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.
Whatever the new year holds I hope all of your travels, near or far, will always be safe ones.
For my part, I've totally enjoyed receiving reader questions each week, and have learned many new facts about travel issues while researching them. I also appreciate the many comments I receive about this column from people I meet at work and on the street.
Wishing each and every one of you a most prosperous and happy new year.
Forward your travel questions to email@example.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca .