Travel has changed more in the last two decades than in all of the 20th century combined (well, except for that conquering flight thing). With more people traveling now than ever, the ways we fly, cruise, and overnight are going to change in even bigger ways in the next decade. As we look specifically at 2021, here are five trends we expect to impact travel more than any others.
As recently as five years ago, space tourism seemed like a pipe dream. Companies like Space X and Virgin Galactic are making good on their promises to take regular (albeit well-heeled) travelers beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Courtesy of his Blue Origin project, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is promising to launch the first crewed test flights of its New Shephard shuttle into orbit this year. Space X already has plans for 2023 to take one lucky Japanese billionaire around the moon. Last summer, NASA announced that the International Space Station was officially open for business to paying overnight customers. Beyond that, the first-ever purpose-built space hotel — the Von Braun Rotating Space Station — is set to open by 2025. The new space race is clearly on.
Higher-end hotels have long been judged by the size and opulence of their rooms and lobbies. Now, more upscale travelers are looking into smaller, more purposeful rooms at hotels with essential designer amenities. Boutique designer micro hotels like NYC’s The Jane Hotel and CitizenM have been around for years. But, with this year’s launch of Motto by Hilton, which focuses on small but efficient rooms with designer decors and high-tech amenities, it’s clear the trend is set to take off in a big way.
Travelers are more conscious now than ever of their impact on the planet. We can no longer hide from the fact that the international air travel boom is among the worst contributors to pollution and climate change. With the growing viability of carbon offsets and political push from surprising sources like Greta Thunberg and even airlines like KLM, travelers will no doubt begin traveling less. Thankfully, as electric technology continues to take off (pun intended), all-electric planes may become a reality sooner than we expected.
Since forever, airport food has been a punchline on a par with, well, airplane food. Today’s travelers demand better, and they’re willing to pay for it. In response, airports around the world are launching destination-worthy restaurants and food courts that make passengers forget all about their layovers. Chee Kei — a Michelin-recommended wonton purveyor — launched at Beijing Daxing International in September. In 2019, the ultra-cool, retro Paris Cafe debuted at the new but equally retro-cool TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK Airport. Singapore’s massive Jewel Changi Airport also hosts dozens of legit gourmet dining options like Burger and Lobster.
Until now, cruises were for cheap Spring Breakers, retirees, and middle American travelers. While that’s still true in many cases, ocean cruising is looking to get a whole lot sexier for 2020. This year marks the debut of Richard Branson’s highly anticipated Virgin Voyages. The all-new line touts high-end designer staterooms, craft brewpubs, vintage vinyl shops, and the world’s first onboard tattoo parlors. The first ship’s go-to restaurant, Razzle Dazzle, will even offer craft CBD cocktails and Impossible Burgers. Call it a “hipster cruise” if you want, but we’ll take it any day over midnight chocolate buffets and another afternoon conga line around the lido deck.
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