2016 has been an eventful year. With many highs, lows, and unforeseen moments, the world has been watching as history is made. Since global matters have an effect on tourism and the way the world travels, it should be unsurprising that a few key moments have affected us all.
From the good, bad, and downright unexpected, here are a few moments from 2016 that have affected the global travel industry.
1. Augmented reality in tourism
If you'd mentioned Pokemon one year ago, it would probably be as a reference to '90s pop culture phenomenons that had seemingly died out.
Yet, on July 6th, Pokemon Fever took the world over again in one of the more unexpected entertainment options of the 2010s. At 20 years after the first wave of Pokemon's popularity it was a fun time of reintroduction. However, the most surprising aspect of the craze was its affect on the travel industry.
Businesses benefited from using the game to highlight their real-world benefits in the digital reality of the game. Historic locations like museums or churches, were able to make use of the game to attract a demographic they'd previously struggled to appeal to. Tourism experts marketed locations as PokeStops and even hosted events for players to hunt Pokemon together.
While enthusiasm for the game has leveled out, it has opened the door to what we can expect in the future of the global travel industry. The future of augmented reality has potential to take travel to new heights of experience and entertainment.
2. Travel to Cuba
Americans were officially granted the freedom to travel to Cuba this year for the first time in more than 50 years. It was a big deal, especially to American travel companies. Airbnb moved in to Cuba in 2015, but this year other major companies from airlines to hotels followed suit.
Some of the noteworthy companies after JetBlue (which was the first) are Delta, Frontier, and United. Cruiselines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean International have been successful in their visits to Cuba and hotels like Marriott International have been moving locations there as well.
Through the Obama administration, the U.S.-Cuba relations have been changing dramatically in the recent years. Both Americans and Cubans are reaping the benefits of these new dynamics. However, there is anticipation about whether or not this progress will be given fair time to grow to fullness.
3. Airbnb Trips announcement
In November, Airbnb released their best-kept secret when they announced Trips, their latest feature. The concept is that travelers can now book experiences along with the places they choose to stay. They also announced a feature called Places, which markets a selection of services that can go along with Airbnb's other bookings.
The announcement was shocking for some tour and activity companies, as it opened the door for more competition. Airbnb has been working hard to establish itself as far more than a homesharing platform and with this announcement, it did just that. Only time will tell what the travel giant's newest ventures will mean for industry professionals.
On June 23rd the world watched in surprise as a historic vote took place in Britain. In a surprising turn of events, the British public would vote to leave the 28 Member State, European Union. Most surprisingly, the Brexit Vote was not a landslide. Only 52% of voters voted to leave, while 48% hoped to remain in the EU.
While this was the first of several surprising changes for the British people, the ultimate outcome is still unknown. Many experts say that the true effects may not be felt for at least two years. It will have serious repercussions on many future policies. The effects are predicted to be felt in areas from trade to immigration, and of course travel.
Overall, industry leaders in global travel have remained open-minded and aware that big changes may be coming in the near future. TripAdvisor released a statement saying:
"As a business in the global tourism industry, we will continue our work to enable every person’s ability to continue the tradition and practice of traveling to experience new cultures around the world. We look forward to working in partnership with our partners in the tourism and travel industry across the world through this transition."
5. The passing of Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on October 13th after a 70-year reign. He was 88-years old and beloved by many, in his country and worldwide. After his passing, Thailand announced a one-year state of mourning that went into effect on October 13th.
All entertainment and celebrations were muted or altogether halted for a 30-day period (until November 12th 2016). This affected travel to the country and tourism numbers as travelers were asked to respect the mourners. Along with dressing in appropriate somber colors, travelers have been expected to refrain from "boisterous performances" and expect more subdued annual events.
6. President-elect Donald Trump
Republican candidate Donald Trump's election win earlier in the year was surprising on a global level. His election night victory on November 9th was one of the more unexpected moments of the year. Amid various controversies, it seems that the travel industry is not exactly optimistic about what it could mean for the next four years (and beyond) of tourism.
However, most industry leaders are choosing to embrace an optimistic public stance about it.
"The close of this election season marks an end to a turbulent year of political back-and-forth. We are optimistic that with the election behind us, we will continue to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle to ensure travel remains a priority in Washington and in state capitols across the nation."
-Official statement from Expedia, Inc.
7. The first self-driving taxi
Whether you're an eco-minded bike commuter or a die hard auto aficionado, when you travel you'll need some help getting around. For many, a taxi ride from the airport is their first interaction with a local but by 2018, the taxi you slip into might not be driven by a human.
On August 25th the first ever "robo-taxi" took to the roads of Singapore from the company nuTonomy. Less than a month later, Uber revealed its first self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh, PA. By December, self-driving taxis took to the streets of San Francisco as well.
Companies like Google, Volvo, and Otto have been testing self-driving vehicles for years, but nuTonomy was the first company in the world to offer taxi rides. This has been met with obvious concerns for safety, but both nuTonomy and Uber have human employees in the front passenger seats to supervise the drive.
Could this be the future of global transportation? Only time will tell.
From hotel professionals to tour operators, DMOs and activity providers, it has been an eventful year for us all. While we reflect on the previous year, may it close on a positive note. We hope the coming year brings exciting new adventures for travel professionals everywhere!
Wondering what to expect in the travel industry next year? Read our 2017 Travel Trend Report and find out!
From all of us at TrekkSoft, have a happy new year!
Published by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.