"The future ain't what it used to be," declared Yogi Berra.
Indeed, a short decade ago who would have thought that we'd have smartphones that can translate languages, make dinner reservations and never let us get lost--let alone have over 17,000 travel apps. That we'd have digital cameras and Instagram family and friends instead of sending postcards; or crowd-source our vacations instead of use a travel agent. And that ATM's would be on every corner of every city of the world eliminating the need for travelers checks.
We take for granted all this creative destruction, disruptive technology and travel game changers.
No one can predict the future of course, but looking into my crystal ball as I travel the world, I see a confusing few mash up trends that are my best bets on the coming future of travel in 2015...and beyond.
The Non-Travel Travel Index:
When you mash the Travelers Misery Index (long lines, flight delays, cramped seats, 85% load factors, uncivil passengers, 87% hotel occupancy, overcrowded destinations, etc.) with the Airline Rip-Off Index (being nickel and dimed, lied to, unilateral changes to frequent flyer programs, dismal costumer service, etc.); this ever growing avalanche of indignities and expenses is turning many travelers off creating the Non-Travel Travel Index.
It occurs when great travelers like Pico Iyer now suggest that we not travel anymore and just "enjoy stillness in our lives". Isn't space tourism really the ultimate trip to nowhere? Up and down and no good restaurants! Even Marriot is offering virtual reality travel experiences. Maybe the staycation was the beginning of the trend. Is travel to become a thing of the past in 10 years? Will the Xbox360 3-D, the Virtual Vacation system, create immersion vacation-like experiences in the privacy of our own homes, so you don't have go anywhere? Time will tell.
The Selfie-Drone Nexus Index:
Selfies have gotten way out of control. From a fun once-in-a-blue-moon Facebook post to annoying 3-a-day habits to outright reprehensible narcissism. Anybody who's ever taken one in a bathroom or has more than 50 posts on Instagram is suffering chronic selfitis. Travelers are just as bad with their ego-gratifying I-Was-There selfies. Well, when selfies and GoPro's are mashed up against the growing privatization of drones--the genie is out of the bottle.
Forget the use of silly selfie sticks, private hobby drones on the market are already testing commercial pilot's patience about once a day according to the FAA. It should come as no surprise that when travelers en mass start taking pocket drone seflies from more extreme angles, at higher heights and from more exotic geographic destinations (a site called Dronstagram flaunts them!)--what could possibly go wrong? Aside from the obvious privacy issues, it is not if, but when a tragic accident occurs. Things could get ugly. Word to the wise: Don't be taking your pocket camera drones into countries that don't share our sense of humor.
The Competitive Travel Index:
It is said that the more mundane our daily lives the more ambitious our adventures. And once again, life imitates art. Young-at-heart empty-nest Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials alike, all want authentic in the age of reality TV, They are no longer satisfied being force-fed on dull cruises or taking sleep on the beach vacations. Adventurous travelers want participatory experiences (site-doing) and to be challenged. It may have started with the fictional "Around the World in Eighty Days" but it was The Amazing Race reality TV show that drove travelers into the arms of a new exotic sport--that of competitive travel.
Travelers are all would-be Magellan's and braggers at heart: "Sure I've been there. But have you been there?" "How many countries have you been to?" And new and exciting travel adventure products have begun to fill their soul-aching void, like: the regional rickshaw rallies of Southeast Asia, and the granddaddy of all competitive travel, the annual world travel championship known as The Global Scavenger Hunt. Competitive adventures like these, allow the most jaded and adventurous travelers to test their savvy and Travel IQ against the world's best. Maybe we'll see travel as an Olympic sport in 2024?
The Travel Destination Rationing Index:
Tourism is booming. Over one billion people crossed borders last year! Every global middle class consumer wants to experience Machu Pichu and Angkor Wat, see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and hike Half Dome in Yosemite. Demand is skyrocketing. And the obvious impacts of climate change is making people want to see the last-chance spots (Galápagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the glaciers of Patagonia) before it's too late. Tourism evenly distributed shouldn't be a problem; but the growing effects of vacation time inequality (America's Vacation Deficit Disorder) is creating not only a scarcity of time but a scarcity of place too.
Look for hotel capacity limits and infrastructure overload to take place, especially during peak travel periods like during traditional summer vacations and the Christmas and Easter breaks. Look for not only time and date-sensitive reservations to be de rigueur, but for world heritage sites to start limiting daily attendance--some ski resorts have for years. Look for lottery systems to start popping up allocating scare tickets; and then for scalpers to start buying up excess prime hotel rooms in places like New York, London, Paris and Venice to resell to the highest bidders. And you thought concert tickets where getting expensive!
I see three other lessor travel trends potentially bursting out in the next few years: Protest Travel (socially conscious travelers using their social media to be mobilized into spontaneous local protests for human rights issues while traveling); Boomerang Tourism (occurs when locals get so pissed off with tourists and their negative spill-over effects that they pushback by passing anti-tourism laws in order to protect their cultural integrity); and finally, Underwater Tourism (with novel-seeking travelers wanting to experience life on weeklong submarine voyages, pulling a James Cameron by exploring the deepest and remotest parts of the Earth in submersibles, or by staying in one of the many soon to open sub-aquatic hotels.)
Yogi Berra may be right about the future, but I prefer 70's punk band The Clash's view of it, that "the future is unwritten." And oh so exciting. Happy trails in 2015.