Britain’s tourism industry certainly hasn’t enjoyed a lucrative year. From the Icelandic volcano and its cancellation fallout to the recent stream of bankruptcies in the private travel sector, some of the nation’s leading companies are no longer the powerhouses that they once were. Some have blamed the poor tourism sector on a weak economy, although others believe there’s significantly more to it.
Some, for example, have pointed to the rising role of the internet in travel as a reason for the poor performance of many travel resellers. Others claim that the industry is suffering due to a change in consumer spending habits, one that’s likely to have been encouraged by the limited budgets many families are now forced to contend with.
Whatever the cause, the outcome has been fairly bleak. Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that the industry is of paramount importance to Britain, citing its £115 billion value as one of many reasons to work with tourism operators. But a proposed flight tax – one that’s likely to hit private tourism operators the hardest – appears to be working against his rhetoric.
Britain’s tourism industry is worth as much as the government claims, through their course of action for ensuring it survives has been met with criticism by insiders. Long haul flight taxes are projected to rise £30 – should the proposed taxes come into effect, the cost of flying to New York will include an estimated £85 in Air Passenger Duties alone.
It’s a prospect that’s leaving travel operators, and travellers themselves, feeling rather cheated. With tourism at an all-time low point and businesses continually closing doors, the flight taxes are likely to draw further criticism within the industry. For frequent travellers, we can only hope that they’re nothing more than speculation.
Say goodbye to the soul food holiday. While most of us enjoy holiday food – foreign meals, new dishes, and comforting fat-filled hotel staples, a growing number of British travellers are opting to take their own food abroad in an effort to decrease their caloric consumption. With a rising rate of obesity and some of the most nutritionally nasty food in the world, we don’t think it’s a great idea.
For most, holidays are about sampling the local culture – something that certainly includes a local take on cuisine and culinary arts. From Malaysia’s famed hawker stands to Rome’s backstreet pizza and pasta houses, food is as much a part of travel as is sightseeing. To put it simply, it’s a part of the culture that isn’t to be avoided, even if it means loosening your belt after an evening meal.
It’s not just small-time dieters that are exporting their dietary staples, either. Leading television and media personality Oprah has advised her audience – one that’s particularly diet-friendly – to pack a selection of ultra-healthy foods before they holiday internationally. It’s a tactic that, for weight loss, is likely to prove worthwhile. But isn’t it slightly xenophobic in its nature?
Part of the joy of travel is experiencing foods that other cultures have created, even if it may result in a hundred extra calories. For dieters, however, there remains an alternative – after arriving in a foreign country, make an activity out of tracking down a high-value dietary meal. Piecing together your lunch from local foods isn’t just culturally interesting – it’s fun!
With dieting very much a part of daily life, it’s no wonder so many are opting to design their own international lunch. But please don’t let it become the standard meal when holidaying overseas. A trip is equal parts culture and cuisine – two aspects of travelling that just shouldn’t be isolated.
Following the death of twenty-one-year-old Emily Jordan, New Zealand’s well-known adventure tourism industry has undergone a complete safety review. The industry was once considered safe beyond any doubt, but has seen its regulatory standards and operating procedures revised in a bid aimed at significantly reducing the amount of injuries caused by ‘adventure’ operators.
Jordan was one of several tourists aboard a ‘river-boarding’ expedition in Queenstown, one of the country’s largest adventure tourism locations. While the rest of her team managed to navigate the river’s rapids and small waterfalls without issue, Jordan drowned during the activity. The company which operated the tour was fined approximately £30,000 for failing to provide safety gear.
It’s a fine that many believe is completely insufficient. Emily’s father appealed directly to the Prime Minister – an action that is responsible for the latest enquiry into the industry’s safety standards. It’s revealed some alarming truths about adventure tourism operators, both in New Zealand and in other popular travel destinations such as Australia, the United States, and Spain.
A licensing system is likely to go into effect in New Zealand, which, alongside the new provisions and safety measures applied to adventure tourism businesses, will eliminate potential for death and serious injury. It’s a measure that many believe is necessary for the business to continue, but some of the most devoted adventure gurus feel that it may cause the industry’s thrills to suffer slightly.
In the end, it’s a difficult balancing act between providing safe service and offering an activity that still appeals to ‘adventurers’. The adventure tourism industry has built its reputation on providing a blend of thrills and adrenaline-fuelled risk. However, it’s a reputation that shouldn’t be ruined as a result of poor safety standards – adventure operators will need to give thrills without injuries.
One of the United States’ top tourism cities, the last thing San Francisco needed was a crime wave to scare away its legion of international fans. Following a series of stabbings in the city’s traveller-heavy inner districts, authorities are planning to implement measures designed to keep the city safe at night. The measures will help San Francisco’s lucrative tourism sector and boost home values.
It’s certainly an odd situation in a city regarded as one of the country’s most safe and universally tolerant. Crime in San Francisco has typically been significantly lower than in its surrounding city areas, and even lower than that observed in metropolitan areas in Los Angeles and San Diego. The city’s recent crime ‘wave’ is rather unusual, and it’s beginning to gain a place in the city’s psyche.
The ‘crime wave’ – as local media are calling it – stems from a series of stabbings and vicious fights which occurred within the city centre. San Francisco’s large central city is generally safe throughout the night, with few tourists or locals affected and all-round crime figures low. A stabbing near Coit Tower – one of the city’s tourism hot spots – has set things off, with another attack following it.
City government has already taken steps to address the problems, increasing police officer visibility during the night and encouraging tourists to take care when in unfamiliar areas. While the reported crime wave is taking up newspaper space, it’s something that isn’t that unusual. Given the history of unusual murder in San Francisco, the city may in fact be enjoying a period of relative safety.
For tourists, it’s certainly off-putting. San Francisco remains one of the United States’ most dynamic and interesting tourism destinations, and it’s unlikely to disappear from the map due to a short series of crimes. However, it sits at a relatively difficult junction now – with local authorities wondering if its reputation for tolerance and peacefulness may take a public relations hit.
Florida’s tourism industry may be in better shape than many predicted. The gulf state, which brings in over $20 billion annually through tourism, has reported that visitors are coming in numbers that fall within traditional targets. Tourism spending throughout the state has actually grown by around three percent since the disaster, although analysts had expected greater growth before the oil spill.
The positive growth is being seen by many in the gulf region as evidence that local tourism will regain strength over the next year. With oil washed ashore on many Gulf of Mexico beaches, the region’s largest tour operators had previously questioned its ability to survive as a tourism spot in North America. While Florida’s industry leads that of other states, it’s certainly a good sign.
Tourism throughout the gulf is still relatively low, with Louisiana and other states reporting steady, albeit lower than usual, returns. The state’s capital – New Orleans – is aiming to continue is famous tourism and hospitality industry throughout the five-year Hurricane Katrina anniversary. Earnings have been down across the region compared to predictions, although growth may occur shortly.
For Florida’s tourism-dependent businesses, the surprising boost in tourist spending is certainly a welcome sign. The state had previously worried that its service-driven industry may suffer in the decline, with tight consumer spending and poor environmental conditions combining to eliminate the state’s lucrative tourism income.
Analysts have pointed to a number of events as reason for the sudden tourist surge. Some have used the President’s recent visit to the gulf as a reminder of its suitability as a family destination, while a range of leading newspapers have pointed to aggressive online advertising. It’s tough to know which cause was responsible, but both have certainly lead to a major re-brand for Florida’s tourism spots.?
For most travellers, long haul flights are an uncomfortable nightmare. From small seats to limited service, the average long distance flight is a task that few wish to repeat. Until last year, travellers had just one option to relieve the stress and discomfort of a long haul flight: buy a first-class ticket and simultaneously triple their fare – a solution that few were willing to pay for.
But Dubai-based airline Emirates Airways may have found the ultimate solution. Priced in excess of £9,000 and aimed at travellers with an eye for extreme luxury, the airline has introduced its private seating range – a collection of onboard private suites that offer travellers privacy and untouchable comfort. The suites are available on a limited number of long-haul flights and special charters.
With a £9,000 base price, they’re certainly not for budget travellers. But what they lack in frugality is more than made up for by the luxury features on offer. Standard private suites include a complete recliner-bed combination seat, a twenty-three inch television set, and over six-hundred channels of on-demand visual entertainment, radio programs, and satellite broadcasts to tune into.
If that’s not enough, they’re also a versatile business centre. Plug in your laptop and you’ll run into free onboard internet service and a private power supply. The suites are aimed at luxury travellers and high-end businesspeople, and it shows – alongside the reclining seat is a desk and small private workspace. While it’s unlikely passengers will be able to work, it’s certainly a nice addition.
It’s unlikely most travellers will step inside an Emirates private suite. It’s even less likely that they’ll even get to spend an entire flight inside one. But for the travel world’s true high roller class, it’s one experience that’s unlikely to be forgotten.
Five years ago, one of the United States’ most prominent tourism destinations suffered a major PR meltdown. Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, destroying a significant portion of city property and forever associating the large town with – you guessed it – disaster. New Orleans had previously been a major centre of tourism within the country, particularly in its Gulf Coast region.
But today, New Orleans is on the way back. The city is welcoming President Obama for his first tourism-based visit, aiming to raise awareness about the city’s current state and welcome visitors from other regions. The South’s party centre appears to have lost little of its charm despite being wrecked by the disaster – many of its residents believe the city has simply gained character.
However, the city has also had to contend with severe population and infrastructure changes in the wake of the disaster. Many of those who fled Louisiana are unlikely to return, both because of the immense damage to their property and the psychological effects of the disaster. The city, however, hasn’t taken the population change poorly – it sees it as an opportunity to start anew and change.
Today, the city is approximately eighty percent populated. Numerous homes that were completely destroyed in Katrina remain, almost untouched since the disaster itself. If New Orleans represents anything today, it’s a destination full of hope and optimism. Despite the immense damage, few of the city’s long-term residents seem bitter or unhappy. Simply put, it’s still charming.
It’s that charm that many hope will bring tourists back to New Orleans. The city has continued to attract tourists from within the United States and internationally, albeit a significantly lower level than it had before the disaster. Given the town’s reputation for opportunism and friendliness, it’s almost an inevitability that New Orleans’ tour firms will see an eventual return to health.
Over the last decade, the medical tourism industry has grown at double-digit rates. Spurred by the rising costs of adequate healthcare in the West, a series of high-quality international hospitals have seen their bookings more than double as residents of the United Kingdom, the United States, and other major population centres such as Australia search for safe, reliable, and affordable care.
But it’s not just medical tourism that’s moving overseas – it’s ‘fertility tourism’. The latest boom in international medicine has seen a growing number of UK and US-based couples travel overseas in search of reliable fertility treatment. It’s set to become a multi-billion dollar annual industry and, if it survives the PR onslaught many Western hospitals are preparing, a revolutionary health leader.
Spain is one of the world’s most popular fertility tourism destinations – a vibrant country with one of Europe’s most reliable health systems. Due to the prevalence of clinics and the high prices given to egg donors (many are paid over €900 for their eggs), the country is Europe’s most visible centre for fertility treatment, hormonal medicine and artificial conception.
The fertility tourism industry represents a chance not only to conceive, but to do so at a significant discount when compared to the options available in Britain. The cost of treatment in the UK tends to exceed £20,000 – a fee that’s often given for surgical procedures that don’t guarantee fertility or hormonal stability. Going overseas represents a financial saving and an increase in clinic quality.
While it seems unlikely that the industry will grow to the size of the medical tourism industry, it’s likely to become a major healthcare playing piece over the next decade. The medical tourism world has grown dramatically in the last five years, with more ultra-luxury hospitals appearing in nations such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and the United Arab Emirates.
While the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has come to an end, the large amount of environmental damage is likely to affect the region for decades, local environmentalists have claimed. BP has pledged to assist local communities and regional cities in cleaning up from the disaster, with a series of funds and private grants issued to cities that have seen their environment and economy hurt by the spill.
Mississippi, one of the states most heavily affected by the spill, has been given a $3 million grant from BP to encourage tourism-based advertising and promotion within the state. While the state’s coastline has been largely cleaned, the spill has caused a public relations nightmare for coastline tour companies, accommodation providers, and regional transportation businesses.
BP’s donation seems in many ways to be a symbolic gesture – the company has spent billions of dollars cleaning the gulf itself and ensuring that the well no longer leaks into the ocean. With the tourism industry slowly recovering – most visibly in Florida – it seems unusual that such a small grant is likely to have any effect on a national level.
For Mississippi’s struggling tourism industry, however, the grant is certainly a welcome gesture from the oil major. Visitors to the state have been surprisingly high, albeit still below targets that were set preceding the disaster. Local governments are aiming to use the funds efficiently, setting the bar relatively high and looking towards projected figures as a potential target.
The grant comes alongside a $15 million donation made to state authorities earlier in the year, one of several paid out within the United States. Fighting a public relations disaster, the oil company is looking to the affected states as a recovery opportunity, vowing to help move their tourism sectors back to profitability, stable occupancy, and environmental health.
As more Britons arrange their holidays independently, holiday rental homes are becoming sought after in greater numbers than before. Properties throughout Mediterranean Europe have seen their bookings and enquiries increase significantly over the past three months, as higher room rates and occupancy targets in the hotel industry have pushed traditional lodging out of peoples’ price range.
It’s not the first time the holiday rentals industry has seen such a surge. With the rise in property marketing outlets throughout the last five years, a significant sector of the industry has seen levels of interest increase due to online exposure. Some of the county’s biggest rental agencies have made the switch to digital marketing almost exclusively, citing its ability to find high-value tenants.
And for the industry, things are soon to become even better. Private rentals are likely to grow in the UK as the London Olympics attracts visitors. Tourism experts have used the 2000 Sydney and more recent 2008 Beijing Olympics as a model for the city’s private accommodation market – in both of the most recent cases, the demand for private property rentals soared preceding the games.
It also caused a surge in prices, one that many homeowners are hoping will allow them to monetise their properties during London’s Olympic period. With the Olympic Stadium currently being built in Stratford, a number of homeowners in the area are expecting to see a significant increase in their potential rental earnings alongside a long-term value increase due to the new buildings.
For the hotel industry, it remains a growing annoyance. New York City’s recent decision to outlaw holiday home and apartment rentals has left homeowners somewhat displeased, while Paris’s same legal ruling is likely to compromise the value of inner city homes. For London’s holiday apartment and home owners, it’s important that policy remains supportive of the private rental market.