With the New Year just a few weeks away, it’s time for our annual look at some of the trends that will shape where, when and how we travel in 2016 and beyond. And, of course, we have our picks for destinations we think will see spikes in popularity for Canadian travellers.
- Low-cost carriers are adding competitive heat to the domestic and international markets. Witness American Airlines jumping on the bandwagon with the addition of no-frill fares, the success of Norwegian Air, which just started serving Las Vegas and the international airfare wars driven by the growth of WOW Air, which recently added transatlantic flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to its lineup and has announced plans for service from Toronto and Montreal. This is a welcome balance to the consolidation that has shaped the North American market recently.
- The dropping price of oil, of course, has helped keep airfare competition alive and likely allowed for the pace of expansion of these international low-cost carriers. It’s also fueling the return of the extreme long-haul flights. Emirates will launch a 17-hour, 35-minute flight from Dubai to Panama City starting Feb 1., and Singapore Airlines has plans for a 19-hour flight from Singapore to New York, starting in 2018.
- Aircraft design innovations also play a role in flight routes, as well as playing a major part in the storylines of passenger comfort and, relatedly, luggage capacity. While there has been a flurry of patents set to re-engineer the entire approach to passenger seating and cabin configurations, the more immediate changes will be a bit more practical. Look for innovations like a charging pad and tablet holder alongside your tray table, and the addition of occasional extra wide seats to accommodate larger passengers or car seats for kids.
- Travelling with kids will also see some change. More specifically, travelling without kids is where the changes are afoot. Airlines have started to add tracking technology for unaccompanied minors. This allows parents follow their child’s journey every step of the way. And grown-ups traveling without kids will keep lobbying for “child-free zones” on planes. So far no North American airlines have rolled out such a thing, but expect the movement to get more attention this year.
- In an era where many people make it a mission to travel with only carry-on baggage, you can bet new approaches to luggage will be a big area of focus for travellers and airlines alike. Alaska Airlines is leading the pack, signing up to put Boeing/Boeing’s 737 “Space Bins” into service with plans to have the more spacious overhead bins in use on half of its fleet by 2017.
- Passengers can adopt new luggage technologies faster than airlines, of course. In 2016, travelling trendsetters will be sporting a mix of cool new bags. Some will feature their own compression technology to fit more into less space. Others will charge electronics on the go, and many will be self-tracking with either built-in smart technology or just smart owners who have packed a tracking beacon alongside their socks and pyjamas.
- Speaking of new technologies, there seems to be a renewed dream of supersonic flying. It will be a long time before we reach the reality of a 90-minute flight from New York to London, but with industry leaders, like Airbus and Lockheed Martin, and up and comers, like Skreemr, working on designs, maybe the future isn’t that far away.
Hot destinations for 2016
Rio de Janeiro is getting ready for its close-up. The world will tune in for the 2016 Olympics in August, and Brazil is getting ready to play host. While a trip to the Olympic Games is a dream for many, we expect to see a steady stream of visitors before and, especially, after the competition. This budget-savvy approach is a more affordable way to catch the excitement or just see Brazil in its finest hour. And the Paralympic Games, slated for September, offer their own style of inspiration. Brazil has already waived the usual visa requirements for Canadians in this Olympic year, and the Loonie looks strong versus the Brazilian Real. Two more reasons this is (or should be) a banner year for travel to Brazil.
A dream destination for many, New Zealand may be getting a bit more attainable in 2016. New competition from U.S. hubs is driving down prices. American Airlines has announced non-stop service from Los Angeles to Auckland starting in June. Air New Zealand, which already serves that route, responded with an immediate fare cut. Air Canada has created some pricing pressure of its own by expanding service to the region with a new non-stop flight from Vancouver to Brisbane, Australia, to go with its daily flight to Sydney. Add in the relative strength of the Loonie in New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why we expect to see a surge in Canadians making the long-haul journey this year.
Dublin has become one of the top European airports serving North America and, more importantly, perhaps, a hub for low-cost carriers. WestJet has proclaimed Dublin as the most successful route in the company’s history. And Wow Airlines is getting in on the action with plans to offer flights from Toronto and Montreal to Dublin via Reykjavik for as little as C$150 each way. Air Canada has just announced plans to connect the west coast with a direct flight from Vancouver to Dublin via its Rouge fleet. The new wave of flights and allure of low-cost fares will be enticing for Canadians as we get deeper into 2016, especially as celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising roll around. And for those who aren’t Irish history buffs, Guinness, castles and a less punishing exchange rate than the GPB will still make this nearby corner of the Eurozone a draw in 2016.
Direct flights to India are back in Canada. Air Canada has just begun flying non-stop from Toronto to Delhi four times a week. And while the flights are most popular with those who have family or business ties to India, they also make vacation travel to the region much more approachable. So too does the roll out of e-Visa applications that lower the cost and hassle for visiting Canadians. While travel to India requires being savvy (and steering clear of select regions), efforts to make it more welcoming to tourists is a good sign. We think India will move up the to-do list for the more adventurous Canadian travellers in 2016.
Sometimes there is no place like home. And, when you call Canada home, there is no shortage of reasons to explore your own backyard. In a time when Canadian buying power has taken a hit in the U.S. and other nearby destinations, we expect an upswing in those opting for a domestic vacation. Americans will certainly be crossing the border for more affordable skiing, shopping, dining, festivals and sporting events, and many Canadians will leave the passport in the drawer and try a new city or resort in their home country as well.
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