Soon travel pundits will reflect on year-to-date industry happenings and issue their “2010 top travel stories” lists. They’ll talk about airline fees, dissect TSA regulation changes and recap mergers and acquisitions.
We’ve sprinkled some of these items into our own top 10 list, but we’re all about the sensational stuff – the stories that shocked you and rocked you.
From a monotone musical instrument’s rise to global stardom to one very teed-off Jet Blue employee, 2010 was certainly a year chock-full of stories that made us say “whoa!”
Hotels Hail the Return of Luxury: Luxury hoteliers breathed a sigh of relief at the start of Q1 when data released by Smith Travel Research showed the segment had seen a 17 percent sales increase over the same period in 2009. The increase didn’t necessarily translate to huge profits, as rates continue to remain relatively low, which meant consumers got great value on luxury hotel purchases in 2010. The positive indicators also prompted luxury brands to add cool new amenities to rooms, like The Berkley in London, which added iPads to select suites earlier in the year.
Megaships Change the Cruising Game: In 2009, Royal Caribbean launched Oasis of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship. This year, Allure of the Seas – its sister ship – set sail, officially giving Royal Caribbean’s competitors a one-two punch and changing the cruise game for good. Whereas cruising used to be all about visiting multiple ports of call, megaship passengers are more concerned with the ship’s plethora of attractions and activities, all of which couldn’t possibly be experienced in one trip.
Chilean Calamity turns into Tourism Boost: It’s not often that a story about 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground for 69 days ends well. Fortunately for Chile, theirs did. The triumphant rescue catapulted the country into the global spotlight as the unanticipated media exposure put Chile at the tip of everyone’s tongue. Tour operators are already citing an increase in Chile vacation sales.
Travel Sample Sale Sites and Location-Based Social Media Tools Take Over: Once upon a time, if you wanted a good travel deal you called your travel agent. Until recently, you’d also search a few travel websites. Nowadays, the resources are limitless. From Vacationist.com to Gilt Group’s Jetsetter.com (the site that started it all in 2009) and “Gilt City” – a localized, upscale Groupon-esque daily deal generator, travel-related “sample sale” offers are the new black. And with the rise of location-based social media tools like Foursquare (and the impending rise of Facebook Places), travelers can snag additional retail, service and dining deals along their jaunts.
Eyjafjallajökull and Friends Get Antsy, Stalls Flights: The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, a virtually unknown landmark prior to April, got a bit antsy last spring. Although its eruptions were subtle, its ashes caused the largest flight disruption since World War II. Since then, rumblings in other volcanoes like Shiveluch, Russia; Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island and (the latest) Mt. Merapi in Indonesia are making us think – have we done something to upset you, volcanoes of the world?
Introducing the Vuvuzela: Cultural symbol – yes. Fad – definitely. Musical instrument – say what? Soccer fans’ initial disdain for the incessant buzzing of vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup games quickly transformed into an obsession once the media became fascinated by the mysterious noisemaker with the catchy name. Soon enough, everyone wanted one and Juilliard-trained vuvuzelist Donald Frederick Gordon even got some free publicity out of the deal.
United and Continental Get Married; Have Very Big Baby: As if the Delta-Northwest 2008 merger wasn’t enough to catapult the consolidation of the airline industry, United Air Lines and Continental joined forces in October to become the world’s largest carrier. The resulting impact on the industry continues to be higher flight prices, which is pushing consumers to rely on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) for the best air travel deals.
Full-Body Scanners: Now, Someone Can See You Naked: Travelers weren’t quite sure whether to be relieved or unnerved when the first full-body scanners hit U.S. airports in March. Some praised the TSA for its heightened security measures, while others complained the device is a privacy violation. After all, their naked x-ray pictures are essentially being scrutinized by an unknown person in a secret room. What’s worse, we learned that if you refuse to use the scanner, you’ll endure the most intricate pat-down you’ll probably ever receive.
BP Destroys Coastal Treasures with Largest Accidental Oil Spill in History: We’re still not sure whether we were more shocked about the fact that almost 5 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, eventually spanning the coastlines of four states, or about the fact that, for three months, the multi-billion dollar oil company that caused it just couldn’t seem to stop it.
Jet Blue Flight Attendant Does What We’ve All Been Dreaming of: Every fed up worker in America who has fantasized about flipping a rude customer the bird and sauntering off their work premises (permanently) cheered when Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater gave an unruly passenger a piece of his mind and disembarked the plane like the fearless divo he is – via emergency exit with two beers in-hand. Steven, we salute you.