6 Travel Predictions for 2018

Dec 9, 2017

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Most of our prophecies for 2017 held up well, so once again we’re looking at the year ahead. Many of these predictions would have seemed implausible just a few years ago, but with the rapidly changing global landscape — especially in technology — we find ourselves on the cusp of several travel revolutions.

1) Cruises Will Attract More Than the Fanny-Pack Crowd

A couple of ambitious cruise companies are shaking up the image of a stereotypical cruise passenger. U by Uniworld’s European river cruises features activities, offerings and itineraries specifically targeting a millennial crowd that “likes to travel in packs and be together.” The company just completed its maiden voyage in October, and it’s already offering six experiences through six countries.

Virgin Voyages is still a series of teasers, but Richard Branson admits that he’s targeting “people who’d never dream of going on a cruise ship” with his adults-only superyacht-inspired cruise liners.

Credit: Courtesy of U by Uniworld
The B isn’t your average cruise ship. Image courtesy of U by Uniworld.

Skeptics can look at the reverse tetrapod evolution of music festivals from land to water to see that it’s possible. Atlanta’s Sixthman, with its wildly popular Festivals at Sea, boasts that 73% of its customers are new to cruising, and that half return for more. Florida-based Cloud 9 Adventures has managed to lure the granola crowd onto its ship for 16 years with its annual Jam Cruise. The stigma has been shaken for festival goers, and non-music cruises will soon follow.

2) Artificial Intelligence Will (Help) Plan Your Travel

For years, the right blend of man and machine has eluded the travel industry when it comes to booking trips. That will change in 2018 as the team behind the business-travel app Lola says they’ve finally learned when computers are better than humans for the task at hand, and vice versa. Computers will make recommendations based on your personal preferences, travel history and the patterns of like-minded travelers, while humans stand by 24/7 when that isn’t good enough or plans go bad. 

Created by Kayak founder Paul English, the app was recently re-branded to target business travelers, but expect vacationers to catch on as well. Purists will tell you this isn’t truly A.I., as there isn’t any actual machine learning, but no smart marketer is going to pass up using a good buzzword. Regardless of the semantics, reliable travel recommendations will soon come from more than your free-spirited cousin who sporadically has Wi-Fi. As futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted, the singularity — the point at which human and machine intelligence merge — is nigh.

3) Travelers Will Avoid Hurricane Alley

This was a devastating year for many Caribbean islands that rely heavily on tourism, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Rebuilding is underway, and the islands may be ready for visitors again soon. But as hurricanes will only worsen with rising ocean temperatures, travelers will begin to avoid Hurricane Alley — the most storm-wracked region of the Atlantic — like a dark city alley.

The good news is this actually makes the destinations people avoid because of hurricanes more attractive for the rest of us. After a few calmer seasons in the Caribbean, tourism will return to normal, but until then savvy travelers will beat the crowds and get to the islands, pumping tourism dollars back into communities that desperately need it.

Credit: RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images
Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, but the island will rebuild. Image courtesy of RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP/Getty Images.

4) Unhappy Prices at the Happiest Place on Earth

Disneyland’s claim to be “the happiest place on Earth” will soon reach the Galaxy’s Edge, the much-anticipated Star Wars additions to the parks in Anaheim and Orlando, but regulars will feel the heat. Even though the new attractions won’t open until the following year, 2018 will see a number of unwelcome ticket changes as Disney prepares for the massive uptick in attendance to their already-overcrowded parks. The Southern California annual passport has been discontinued, and there will be fewer discount offerings and higher ticket prices. Plus, the entire Disney landscape will change as the crowd grows beyond little girls who dream of Princess Jasmine to include grown men who still dream of Princess Leia.

Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disney Parks via Getty Images
Star Wars will be coming to a Disney park near you … eventually. Image courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disney Parks via Getty Images.

5) Borders Will Tighten

And not just our borders. As the US continues to roll out travel restrictions for visitors from select countries — President Trump’s travel ban is currently making its way through the courts — those countries will reciprocate: Iran is denying visas to US citizens at the Tehran airport in response to the travel restrictions against Iranians, and Venezuela has also vowed tit for tat.

Those restrictions won’t impact too many Americans, but if US policy changes, so could the rest of the world’s. When the US denied visa-free travel for some EU countries, the European Parliament cast a mostly symbolic vote requiring American to obtain a visa for EU travel. While that recommendation hasn’t been implemented (and was later walked back), the EU hasn’t entirely ruled it out. And if the Trump administration’s threat to pull out of NAFTA materializes, many Americans working in Canada or Mexico on a NAFTA visa may get sent home.

6) Electric Cars Will See Their Tipping Point

While mass-market, consumer-friendly electric cars have been around since the late ’90s, their image has teetered between sci-fi and luxury, and they’ve often been mocked as impractical. That will change with rollout of the mass-market Tesla Model 3. Despite production delays, Elon Musk pledged that 15,000 Model 3s will hit the streets every month by early 2018, putting just a dent in the over 400,000 preorders. Also, the number of charging stations is supposed to double to 18,000 next year.

Credit: Courtesy Tesla
Image courtesy of Tesla.

By the end of 2018, seeing an electric car on the road will no longer warrant a special mention. What will? The recently announced $200,000 Tesla Roadster, when it’s released in 2020, which will go from 0 to 100 km per hour (60 mph) in 1.9 seconds.

Illustration by Eirian Chapman

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