If your New Year’s goals include learning a new language and packing in plenty of travel, you’re in good company. In recent years, travel, recreation, and eating out made up about 20% of consumer spending while investment in durable goods like furniture, cars, and other big-ticket items continued to fall. In the last decade, consumer spending habits have undergone a shift away from owning things to cultivating experiences, both at home and abroad.
Before you dive headfirst into that 2018 bucket list of locations, take some time to review the trends currently dominating travel and make informed decisions about where to go and what languages to learn next year. From overcrowded destinations you should avoid to staying safe in exotic and remote locales, a little advice can go a long way towards fulfilling your New Year resolutions to see and experience more of the world.
International Travel is Booming
Recently released numbers from American Express indicate travel abroad is on the rise, with international bookings up 44% for the first quarter of 2018. Travel has become a huge part of the world economy making up more than 9% of the global GDP (Gross Domestic Product). A majority of 1.2 billion people who travel annually say they are looking to avoid tourist hotspots and visit new, unique destinations where they can experience authentic culture and cuisine. But where are these trendy destinations?
While you might assume a handful of well-known international cities top the most frequently booked locales for 2018, there are a few surprises on the list. The following are some of the top trending international destinations currently being booked on Airbnb:
- Gangneung, Korea
- Bournemouth, UK
- Edmonton, Canada
- Da Nang, Vietnam
- Gazimagusa, Cyprus
- Bilbao, Spain
- Matinhos, Brazil
- Oita, Japan
- Dunedin, New Zealand
- Mar del Plata, Argentina
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Mykonos, Greece
- Mazatlan, Mexico
Travel Costs Are on the Rise
As demand for travel booms, so does cost. Airfare is anticipated to increase 3.5% in 2018 while hotel costs will rise 3.7 % or more. Prices will increase more sharply in areas like Asia and Europe, where tourism demand runs high. Some countries have also instituted major fee hikes, including the US which is proposing doubling the fees for entrance to national parks.
In addition to the fiscal costs, tourism has hidden costs. Large numbers of visitors take a toll on infrastructure and can potentially damage historic sites, exposing these areas to increased erosion and other kinds of impacts. Consider practicing sustainable travel to ensure the wonders of the world endure for future generations to marvel at. This includes packing light, conserving water and energy, and respecting local traditions and culture.
Find Alternatives to Caribbean Cruises
The most recent hurricane season has brought unprecedented devastation to the Caribbean, leveling islands and damaging basic infrastructure. Until this region can rebuild, tourists will need to explore alternatives to the ever popular Caribbean cruise. Don’t write these destinations off your bucket list completely though. Many islands will need tourist dollars to revitalize their economies and bring back prosperity.
In the meantime, if cruising the open waters and hitting multiple ports of call is your thing, scout out tours along Mexico's Pacific coast, where all-inclusive resorts are relatively safe, or in Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Australia, or the South Pacific. Paradise found can take many different forms, including ports of call in colder climates such as the untamed beauty of Alaska or Canada.
Stay Safe and Informed
Certain destinations can be tricky for travelers, especially countries where travel visas are granted sparingly or not at all due to local and political tensions. Be aware that regions across Turkey, Iran, and other parts of the Middle East and Africa have restrictions on travel. Many countries issue warnings through their foreign offices regarding areas deemed unsafe. Americans can sign up for updates through the State Department's STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) to get travel advisories, embassy information, and to register international trips. Travel insurance is highly recommended, especially if you're adventuring to more remote areas. You’ll want to scout out a provider that offers not only health coverage, but also emergency transport. More remote areas can provide you a fantastic experience but it pays to be well prepared for emergencies that might require a little extra assistance. Knowing the language is also a vital component of traveling safely. Consider taking an online course like those offered by Rosetta Stone to brush up on the basics of the languages you’ll be encountering in your travels. Choose a language program that allows you to not only learn new words but to practice pronunciation and get feedback so you can ensure you’ll be understood when it matters.
And finally, a booming travel industry also means increased requests for passports so give yourself plenty of time to get approved. Some common issues that may hold up passport approval include non-compliant photos, insufficient proof of citizenship, parental consent issues, failure to pay child support, inconsistent info or missing signature, and unpaid taxes. Get on it early to ensure you don't miss out on the opportunity to experience the world and fulfill your travel bucket list in the new year.