I like to use the final column of the year to look ahead to the coming one. By analyzing trends and surveying research results that examine worldwide travel indicators, I try to conclude what will be emerging in the world of travel for the coming year.
Here are my top 10 predictions for 2014.
1. It will be less expensive to visit Europe but more costly to get there.
While the price of fuel has stabilized, airfares will likely be somewhat higher than last year -- even though 2013 already brought a number of across-the-board price increases for many European destinations.
At the same time, the economies of many of EU countries are still stalled, so you'll be able to find some bargains.
2. U.S. hotels prices will rise.
Other than in cities like New York, where there's been a recent hotel-building boom, most U.S. properties will likely raise their rates by up to five per cent. Las Vegas will still offer attractive stay offers to entice travellers to their casinos, but the rest of the country will be able to get back on track with room pricing after a number of tough economic years.
3. House-swapping as a way of travelling and saving money will grow.
This is a newer trend that people living in mutually attractive tourist destinations are really starting to embrace. For example, www.homeexchange.com boasts a list of almost 50,000 available homes in more than 150 countries. Anyone wanting to visit our new Human Rights museum or other attractions might be excited about the possibility of an exchange.
4. Europe river cruising will expand even more.
Dozens of new ships are being added every year to the inland rivers of Europe. Itineraries connecting cities such as Prague and Paris, that don't even have waterways, have become popular as launch or disembarking points. Transportation via high-speed trains and motor coaches has allowed passengers to see more while still capturing the allure of the genuine river cities.
5. Be prepared to pay more for car rentals
The past few years have seen a consolidation of brand ownership in the automobile rental industry. While the major players will argue there is still plenty of competition, fewer options may arguably be the reason why rental prices will go up from two to five per cent.
6. Canadian airline fares may actually go down.
It's projected that short-haul economy fares will decrease by as much as six per cent. While the same is predicted for trans-border fares, some experts predict even greater savings of up to 11 per cent for long-haul flights.
This may be is a reflection of fuel prices that have leveled off, or that millions in new revenue is coming in from ancillary charges for extra checked bags, preferred seating and other on-board services.
7. Free WiFi will become standard.
While the high-end hotel properties are having difficulty in responding to consumer demand for complementary WiFi, more and more chains have begun to crumble. Even cruise lines are considering including WiFi in certain cabin classes. And as chains like Sofitel, Shangri-la, and more recently the luxury chain Rocco Forte, eliminate WiFi charges, the others will be forced to follow.
8. Air passenger taxes and fees will continue to rise.
Governments and facilities have found that visa charges, security fees and airport-improvement fees are a convenient (and mostly hidden) means of grabbing extra revenue from travellers. This year, the champion of increases may be the United Kingdom, which doubled passenger duty surcharges to a whopping $325CAD.
Even our own James Armstrong Richardson International Airport chose to increase its improvement fees by $5 to $25 per passenger last April. In Canada, it's all these combined governmental and private extras that have been driving people to the nearest U.S. airports to save money.
9. South America will see significant tourism growth.
Destinations like Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Peru are gaining popularity for their culinary offerings, progressive cities and (generally-speaking) relative safety for visiting tourists.
As formerly prime destinations like Egypt struggle with tourism losses associated with civil unrest and uprisings, South American destinations will reap the benefits.
10. Canadian tourism will experience modest growth.
The domestic accommodations sector is projected to gain an average of about two per cent from domestic, trans-border and international travel in the coming year. While this may not seem like a huge increase, it's a positive indicator that travel to and around Canada is heading in the right direction.
I wish to thank all of you who read this column every week. The questions and comments I receive by email and personally are very much appreciated.
To all of you, I offer my best wishes for a very Happy New Year, and may you always experience safe journeys.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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