7 Ways that Travel Changed in 2017

From translating ear buds to devastating earthquakes, the past year has been full of major developments that affected meeting professional road warriors. We saw some changes coming, while others took us totally off-guard. Here are seven developments in 2017 and a forecast of whether or not they will have a lasting impact.

Recovering from Natural Disasters

Unquestionably, 2017 was one of the most challenging ever in North America due to several natural disasters, which included several powerful hurricanes severely impacting the Caribbean and southern United States. Add to that major wildfires in California. These disasters significantly impacted the meetings and events industry by forcing the cancellation or postponement of many gatherings, but thanks partly to the industry’s efforts, most of the areas hit are recovering much more quickly than initially anticipated.

Forecast: Climate changes could leave the Caribbean and southern United States vulnerable to hurricanes, while continued building in high-risk fire areas will leave some parts of California vulnerable to large blazes. It will be important for planners everywhere to have contingency plans.

Unplugging

It could have been the need to get away from an increasingly buzzing world, simply a desire to experience exciting new areas—or a combination of the two. But 2017 saw a definite shift to groups and individuals wanting to unplug by traveling to more remote or unfamiliar locations, including small islands and rural areas.

The desire to unplug also resulted in a shift from massages and facials to holistic wellness and mental well-being, as seen by Four Seasons Hotels and Seabourn Cruise Line introducing mindfulness and meditation programs.

Forecast: Unplugging is likely to accelerate as meeting professionals and others face increasing demands in a high-speed world.

Enhancing the Cruise Experience

Some cruise companies made a big effort to lure younger travelers by offering more adventurous and innovative choices. These included everything from Seabourn’s open-water kayaking off the Alaska coast to Carnival Cruise Lines’ interactive entertainment experiences.

Forecast: The trend is likely to continue in 2018, and integrate more cutting-edge technology into customized options.

Navigating Multiple Travel Bans

New security regulations have made it difficult or impossible for people from North Korea, Venezuela and six countries with predominantly Muslim populations—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—to travel to the United States. This triggered a response from some organization and groups, such as more than 6,500 Canadian academics, to boycott U.S. meetings as long as the ban exists.

Forecast: Whether the ban will continue in the future is uncertain, but as long as it exists it could have an adverse effect on participation in U.S. meetings.

Introducing Basic-Economy Fares

The good news is that United, American and other airlines began selling cheap, basic-economy tickets. The bad news is that the fares came with a host of tight restrictions, such as allowing only one small item aboard per passenger.

Forecast: The basic-economy seats haven’t generated much interest, but they’re likely to remain because they’re driving travelers to buy main-cabin tickets, which generally are higher than they were previously.

Treating Passengers Better

It took a high-profile case in which a passenger was dragged off a plane for refusing to give up his seat on a United Airlines flight to change the situation, but United and other airlines finally began taking steps to treat passengers better by making its bumping policy more client-friendly, among other things. On the other hand, critics complain that many other new policies—such as British Airways’ requirement for those who buy the cheapest seats to board last and Jet Blue Airways’ decision to reduce seat size in the main cabin—are increasing class disparity.

Forecast: Overall, airlines will continue to feel public pressure to treat passengers better, which will result in additional positive changes due to fierce competition in the industry.

Translating Ear Buds

Google’s Pixel Buds were created to translate other languages in real time, which potentially can boost communication among traveling meeting professionals and others.

Forecast: The initial launch of Pixel Buds has been a bit rough due to technical problems and the limitations of Google Translation, which powers the devices. But the concept is here to stay, and inevitably new products will emerge that are substantially improved.