Our 2016 Travel Predictions
Robots, roadtripping, cheaper airfare... At Jetsetter, we know travel — and 2016 is looking mighty good for those looking to journey far and wide. Here's our forecast for what's ahead.
Virtual Reality will become a reality
With Facebook’s Oculus Rift expected to hit the market in early 2016, this year you’ll be able to travel by headset alone. The new technology allows users to experience a completely immersive environment without actually going anywhere (care to hit the beach in Bali?). Last September, Marriott entered the augmented reality game with VRoom Service, a feature that allows guests to order VR headsets en-suite and take interactive trips to Chile, Rwanda and Beijing. And more innovations are in the pipeline⎯you’ll soon be using VR to preview travel experiences with everyone from Dubai’s Burj Al Arab to Uniworld’s luxe cruise line.
New millennial hotels will take over your ‘gramming feed
We all know 2015 was the year of the millennial, and old-school hotel chains are seriously gunning for the generation’s business. This spells good news for fans of free Wi-Fi, great design and artisanal cold brew coffee. Expect to see hip new spin-off brands like Moxy by Marriott, Canopy by Hilton and Radisson Red by Radisson, along with slick revamps by stalwarts like the Four Seasons. Traditional B&Bs are making a play for the younger set, too. Case in point: the Urban Cowboy Nashville, where the classic sense of community has been adapted to include live music, chef pop-ups and hipster craft nights.
RELATED: 13 Amazing Hotels Under $250
Travel companies will know what you want (before you do!)
Love it or hate it, technology continues to evolve and companies are learning more about your likes, dislikes, future plans and deepest and darkest secrets. The upshot? The more they know about you, the more they’ll proactively send you information before you know you want it. Google Travel, for example, can analyze your past Internet searches and behavior and use geolocation to serve up destination specific restaurants, events and more. While it’s scary to think that Google may know you better than your friends and family, we don’t think you’ll mind so much after booking that trip you didn’t know you (absolutely) needed.
Business trips will turn into vacations
Say goodbye to the traditional business trip model (flying into a city, staying just long enough for meetings, then flying home, that is). More and more young professionals are opting to extend their business travel by taking a few vacation days on either side of a trip (especially for far flung locales). With Americans taking less vacation days, it’s also getting more popular to bring friends and family along. Even if they have to pay their own way, who doesn’t want to hang with a buddy after a day in a hotel boardroom?
Lost bags will come back (fingers crossed)
Good news: There’s a greater chance your long lost luggage will find its way back to you this year (even if it took a detour to Papua New Guinea). In 2014, there were 7.3 bags mishandled per thousand. A new resolution set by the International Air Transport Association hopes to reduce that number to 4.3 by 2018. To reach this goal, airlines are testing new tactics for more efficient bag tagging, including permanent RFID chips and GPS. Even better, you can take matters into your own hands, thanks to new built-in luggage technology being sold directly to travelers. The new Blue Smart Carry, for example, has a GPS-locating device which connects to your smartphone so you can track its whereabouts.
Group tours will be cool again (Solo travelers rejoice!)
Gone are the days when group tours were synonymous with inauthentic touristy excursions. Travel companies have gotten the hint and are creating new, often bespoke, itineraries using on-the-ground expertise for insider experiences that travelers would never have access to on their own. A highlight: El Camino Travel crafts immersive trips to destinations like Nicaragua, Colombia and Mexico City for like-minded boho types. A pro-photographer even tags along on each trip to document the experience so travelers can temporarily disconnect from their iPhones but still have shots to ‘gram at the end of the day.
Roadtripping will be bigger and more affordable than ever
Get ready to hit the road this year. Gas prices are expected to dip in 2016 (we’re talking a national average of $2 per gallon), and that means traveling by car will be more affordable. Plus, apps like Waze — so long, traffic! — and Roadtrippers, which maps out the coolest sites on your route, are making driving a much more attractive alternative to bumping knees with your less than courteous plane neighbor(s).
RELATED: 9 Ultimate Weekend Road Trips
Airline seats will get better….and worse
If you’re willing to swap airline comforts for cheaper fare, this year you’re in luck. Following Delta’s lead, American Airlines’ will roll out its "Last Class" seating category by late 2016. The new option offers budget prices in exchange for less legroom, unassigned seats and minimal customer service (and you can’t exchange or get a refund). On the flipside, for those who still appreciate a little class in the skies (count us in), US carriers like Alaska and American will be incorporating premium economy seating. It’s a step up from coach⎯and slightly more expensive⎯but you get additional legroom, free drinks, on-demand entertainment and noise-canceling headphones at a fraction of the cost of a business class ticket.
Robots will be the new hotel concierges..and bartenders..and baggage handlers
Last year, robots checked us into hotels, stored our luggage and delivered towels and toothbrushes to our guestrooms. In 2016, robot technology will reach new heights. Coming to an airport near you is Spencer, a 6’2" bionic man with external cameras, sensors and laser beams, designed to help passengers check-in and navigate unfamiliar airports (simply enter your flight info on Spencer’s touchscreen, and he’ll escort you to your gate, baggage carousel or customer service counter.) Our new friends will also hit the high seas in 2016, starting with Pepper, a Japanese robot who will debut on Costa Cruises’ entire fleet by next summer. One of the only prototypes with emotional intelligence, Pepper will be on deck to greet guests, offer recommendations on restaurants and provide info on events and excursions.
RELATED: Check into a Robot Hotel
Air travel will be cheaper
Attention, Jetsetters: Airline tickets were eight percent cheaper in 2015 (the busy summer months of July and August saw a 13 and 10 percent price decrease, respectively) and Expedia predicts they will continue to drop in 2016. Make sure you book domestic flights two months — 57 days, to be exact — in advance for the lowest prices. And forget the myth that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the days to buy; it turns out that the best deals actually roll out on Saturdays and Sundays.
Off-the-radar destinations will become more accessible
Thanks to higher security, new tourism regulations and expanded flight routes, countries like Iran, Cuba and Myanmar are more accessible than ever. In Iran ⎯ home to 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites ⎯ the number of tourists increased by 12 percent in the past year due to less stringent visa rules and a recent nuclear agreement between the Middle Eastern country and the UN Security Council. With fewer travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, American and JetBlue airlines have started offering non-stop flights to Havana from LA and NYC, while Carnival and Haimark cruises have plans to set sail to the Caribbean island later this year. Looking for a more secluded strip of sand? On the other end of the world, nearly three million people visited Myanmar (Burma) in 2015, a giant jump for a region that was once completely off limits for American travelers. Now, President Thein Sein aims to boost the tourism economy by opening 1,100 hotels and branding 2016 "Visit Myanmar Year." Get your passports ready.