10 Travel Predictions for 2017

Dec 21, 2016

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By the end of 2016, the majority of the prophesies from “Back to the Future Part II” will have all been fulfilled — the Cubs won the World Series, hoverboards exist and tablet computers, video calling and fingerprint ID are all commonplace. With no predictions left to rely on from the ’80s cult classic, here’s our list of 10 travel trends we’ll probably be seeing more of next year.

1. Three-Cabin Aircraft Will Come Full Circle

Not long ago, aircraft featured three separate cabins with three distinct features:

  • Coach: narrow seats that barely recline
  • Business: roomier seats that partially recline
  • First: luxurious seats that lie completely flat

Over the years, these have changed. Coach was eventually renamed “economy” to make us feel better about being cheap. Business-class seats were made to fully recline. With no need for two lie-flat seat cabins, business and first were combined and referred to as business, first, or the extra-creative BusinessFirst. The need for a product between lie-flat first-class luxury and the economy sardine can was recognized, which Delta and American have since fulfilled by creating the “premium economy” class. In 2017, all of this innovation will leave us with three-cabin aircraft once again, with a breakdown that looks like this:

  • Economy: narrow seats that barely recline
  • Premium economy: roomier seats that partially recline
  • Business: luxurious seats that lie completely flat
On the left, a retired seat from UA's antiquated business class. On the right, a revolutionary seat from AA's innovative premium economy.
There isn’t much difference between a retired seat from UA’s antiquated business class (left) and a brand new seat from AA’s “innovative” premium economy (right). Images courtesy of airlines’ respective websites.

2. They’ll Pave Paradise to Put up a Marriott 

Those will be the lyrics to the 2017 remake of Joni Mitchell’s classic which, after becoming the rallying cry of the sharing economy, will be renamed “Big Yellow Uber.” The worldwide hotel boom is progressing — in 2014, Marriott alone promised 1,300 new properties by 2017. However, travelers will instead migrate toward “local” experiences, choosing neighborhoods and apartments over shiny new hotels. Services like Airbnb will continue to shake up the industry as well, with the brand’s new “Experiences” platform connecting customers directly with locals for activities.

3. “Last-Chance Tourism” Will Heat up Faster Than Our Planet

The Great Barrier Reef is bleached and dying. The ocean is slowly swallowing up the Maldives. Major ice caps are breaking off of Antarctica. Polar bear habitats are quickly disappearing. And a new phenomenon called “last-chance tourism” means travelers are looking to “get there before it’s gone,” resulting in a push of people flocking to all of these places so they can tell their grandchildren what a glacier looked like.

The overwater bungalows at the Sheraton Maldives may become underwater bungalows. Image courtesy of Sheraton Malidives website.
Those overwater bungalows at the Sheraton Maldives may soon become underwater bungalows. Image courtesy of hotels.

4. More Wallets Will Pack a Premium Credit Card

The idea of having to pay a $450 annual fee used to scare off most credit card customers, but 2016’s release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve has helped bring premium credit cards mainstream — that hefty price tag effectively becomes $150 once the travel credit kicks in while the card’s wide range of benefits easily makes it worth your while. This phenomenon will open the door to other premium cards once consumers realize the value in signing up for them. The Citi Prestige card’s $450 annual fee effectively becomes $200 after the airfare credit and can pay itself off after one 4th night free stay. The Platinum Card from American Express’ annual fee (also $450) effectively becomes $250 after the airline fee credit and can be justified with the new 5x points on airfare perk and access to Amex Centurion Lounges worldwide. With more travelers taking advantage of their premium credit card benefits in 2017, though, you could end up seeing longer lines for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry and crowded Priority Pass lounges.

5. Savvy Travelers Will Follow the Falling Currencies

We’re always on top of the cheapest ways to get places, but what about the cost of things once you get there? In 2017, smart travelers will continue to follow currency trends in destinations where they’ll get the biggest bang for their buck. The British Pound might have taken a dive against the USD in 2016 but the UK overall remains a relatively expensive destination. In Venezuela however, one US dollar will get you a whole lot of bolivar. Argentina’s peso is also USD-friendly, and the lira will be too thanks to Turkey’s current economic state.

The dollar will benefit from Turkey's currency gamble, making 2017 a great time to visit Istanbul and its Blue Mosque.
The dollar will benefit from Turkey’s currency gamble, making 2017 a great time to visit Istanbul and its Blue Mosque.

6. Loyalty Programs Will Continue to Experience Devaluations

While we’re on the topic of poor performing currencies, airlines and hotels have been printing miles and points like unscrupulous third-world dictators. These points are then sold to credit card companies who offer them back to consumers in the form of huge sign-up bonuses. With more points in circulation than award space to redeem them, airlines and hotels systematically increase the amount of points needed for redemption, thus completing the cycle of inflation and proving why points and miles make a bad long-term investment. The trend shows no sign of slowing in 2017 and we’re betting some frustrated consumers will be shifting to more stable reward programs or to cash back credit cards as a result.

7. Drivers Will Take a Backseat to… Cars?

“Back to the Future” may have been wrong about us having flying cars by now, but vehicles that drive themselves may soon be in our immediate future. Audi is set to release the A8 in 2017, which is hyped as the world’s first fully autonomous passenger car — and Tesla, Volvo, Ford, Honda and Subaru aren’t far behind. Autonomous cars are already being tested to shuttle Uber passengers in Pittsburgh — the company is also attempting to launch this service in San Francisco — and employees at Google’s campus. The technology is there — the paperwork just needs to catch up.

The Audi A8 claims to be the first fully autonomous passenger vehicle. Image courtesy of Audi USA website.
If it’s looks like no one is driving this Audi A8, you’re right. Image courtesy of Audi USA website.

8. The Floodgates to Cuba Will Stay Open

2017 will be the first full year that the doors are open to Cuba after a number of US airlines and hotels resumed business there for the first time in more than 50 years. You can embark on a seven-night cruise aboard the Fathom Adonia or, starting next year, sail to Havana with Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. The embargo is technically still in place, but no one is waiting for Congress to catch up to reality. Fare sales are making the Cuban lure hard to resist, and come 2017, plenty of Americans won’t.

The streets of Cuba will have a lot more Americans wandering them.
The streets of Cuba will have a lot more Americans wandering them soon. Image courtesy of frankix via Getty Images.

9. “Lost Cities” Won’t Be Lost Anymore

If your Facebook profile picture hasn’t yet featured you at Machu Picchu, you are in the minority. As travelers “discover” this well known lost city and others like it, you’ll need to trudge deeper and deeper into the jungles to escape the crowds. An excellent alternative in South America is La Ciudad Perdida in Colombia, which lacks the awe factor of Machu Picchu, but the rigorous jungle trek and nights slept in hammocks make it a true rustic ruins experience. For lesser-visited Mayan ruins, head to Tikal in Guatemala or Copán in Honduras if all the tour groups from Cancun at Chichén Itzá start getting to you. For a better ancient temple experience in Southeast Asia, venture into Myanmar to explore Bagan or head to Cambodia and check out Angkor Wat.

My old Facebook profile picture featuring me (left) and my friend Joe at Machu Picchu.
My old Facebook profile picture featuring me (left) and my friend Joe at Machu Picchu.

10. Americans Will Take a Hiatus From America

Lots of changes are in store for the US in 2017, and not everyone’s happy about it. Instead of the standard 2-3 weeks of vacation most of us take each year, extended stays abroad will become much more common, an idea other countries are already opening up to by the way. Canada has indicated it will make its immigration process easier, and starting next year, Australia is raising the age limit on its one-year working holiday visa from 30 to 35 — and dropping the fee $50 — encouraging more millennials to stay in the land down under longer.

What trends do you think we’ll see in 2017? Sound off, below!

Featured image courtesy of VallarieE via Getty Images.

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