After years of austerity, Brits are ready to let the purse strings a little looser in 2015 – but still have an eye for a bargain; so getting maximum value for those longer trips will be the order of the day.
Lithuania’s entry into the Euro, its famous beer and beautiful UNESCO-listed coastline – the Curonian Spit – seems set to put the Baltic Nation on the map for 2015. Yes, we expect it’ll be a little pricier post-Euro – but still represents great value for visitors.
Elsewhere on the currency front, the weakness of the South African Rand and upgrades to Cape Town’s infrastructure will make the sunshine, safaris and vistas of Table Mountain more affordable for Brits; and the minimal time difference is great on the jet-lag front.
The Caribbean will also be a little cheaper thanks to reforms to Air Passenger Duty (APD). Cuba and the Dominican Republic are amongst the cheapest islands, but it’s the spice-producing island of Grenada we’re really tipping this year, with its eco-friendly tourism approach and unspoilt beaches.
The Philippines is set to open up too – with the blessing of the Pope who’ll be visiting in January; as well as a plethora of low-cost airlines offering enticing deals and driving competition. It’s not just His Holiness either; there’s a host of festivals covering everything from food, to hot air ballooning, to Dragon Boats.
In terms of broader travel trends, we think wellness tourism will be high on the agenda – with bargain-hungry Brits getting maximum value by combining their holidays with spa and beauty treatments. At the other end of the spectrum, food will be an increasingly important differentiator for destinations, airlines and cruise ships alike – as they seek to cater to increasingly adventurous palates and ride the latest culinary trends from celebrity chefs to locally-sourced ingredients.
After a number of high-profile air rage incidents in 2014 we’re betting that “Airtiquette” will literally be high on the agenda, with airlines taking a zero-tolerance approach. So, when you’re packing for a relaxing getaway, don’t forget your manners and the right attitude; after all, the sooner you relax, the sooner the holiday starts.
For travel in 2015, comfort, convenience and connectivity are the key things passengers want – charging stations for phones and tablets, mobile boarding passes, in-flight Wi-Fi to keep on top of emails and social media. We also want luxury in the sky – chef-created food, endless entertainment and more, even in economy. But it seems some people are taking matters into their own hands and not considering others – knee defenders caused a spate of in-flight fights in 2014 and every other week it seems passengers are being tossed off flights for causing a ruckus or even causing flights to be diverted! iPad photographers are elbowing fellow passengers out of the way for a shot while others have to dodge being clubbed in the head by a selfie-stick.
So expect AIRtiquette to be big in 2015 as airlines take a zero-tolerance approach to air rage and disruptive passengers. At the same time, airlines will be fiercely competing for your hard-earned pounds by making even economy that bit more comfortable – with optional à la carte upgrades to help us exercise that sense of one-upmanship and indulge in a bit of social media boasting (smoasting).
With a greater emphasis on nurturing mind and body on their getaways, travellers are incorporating health into their holiday plans. Bargain-hungry Brits are doing this, with a twist – we want value and are seeking out conventional and alternative therapies farther afield.
At Cheapflights we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in wellness tourism for 2015. The spa industry has grown from $60 billion in 2007 to $94 billion in 2014 while the number of spas has increased by 6.7% annually since 2007 and it now estimated at over 105,000. Asia has surpassed Europe as the region with the largest number of spas, though high average costs mean that Europe is still the world’s largest spa market by revenue.
2015 will see an array of world class spa facilities open to travellers – the all-villa Chedi Club Jimbaran will open in Bali with a 25-metre U-shaped swimming pool and first class spa and health club. In Bali, the Mandapa in Ubud, located in the secluded hills of the Ayung River, will offer lush gardens, hillside views, meditative areas and meandering pathways to complement the hotel’s luxurious spa, offering bespoke treatments and two swimming pools for guests to enjoy.
Other Asian countries such as India, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Korea all have well-developed – and reasonably-priced – retreats that offer a variety of health massages and spa treatments, ranging from fish pedicures to python massages to ‘butt facials’ to give you a lift in this area, just like Kim Kardashian.
AIRLINES USING WEARABLE TECH AND LOCATION-BASED SERVICES
Airlines are increasingly using wearable tech to engage directly with their passengers and provide efficient, targeted service throughout the journey – from check-in to baggage.
Virgin Atlantic trialled a programme with Google Glass that saw their concierge staff at the LHR terminal’s Upper Class Wing utilise the technology to update passengers on flight information, weather and local events at their destination. It is expected that in the near future, passengers will be benefit from similar technology by advising staff of any dietary requirements for their upcoming flights ensuring arrangements are made.
In 2015 expect to see a greater rollout of tourist tech – in-flight as well as on the ground. For example; Vueling, the Spanish airline, has partnered with Sony to create the concept of a smartwatch-based boarding pass.
The ability to arrive in a city and find a late deal is also increasing in popularity with budget-minded travellers who are not fixed on a particular hotel or brand – and can be flexible; just make sure you check out foreign data costs in advance otherwise all your accommodation and flight savings will be for nought. Some good news on this front for European travellers from December next year, when mobile phone charges become standardised across the EU.
GREATER SEGMENTATION / PERSONALISATION ON FLIGHTS
2015 is all about the ‘c’ word – choice, choice, choice. Even bargain hunters will be indulging in some “bespoke boasting” with the ability to personalise and upgrade your flight and tweak options to suit your needs.
Airlines will create special pods in their economy classes giving families and couples greater privacy – if not oodles more legroom. Thomson Airways’ newest 737 MAX jets will feature booth-style seating at the back of the plane that can accommodate four to six people. Duo-seating includes a third seat that can transform into a table. This follows Air New Zealand’s Skycouch, which offers Premium Economy seating at something closer to Economy prices.
More airlines are expected to offer the sort of perks once reserved for First-Class flyers – think the Flying Nannies on Etihad Airways’ long-haul flights – although butlers for bargain hunters may be a way off yet.
We’re also betting that hotels will strive to differentiate themselves against peer-to-peer lettings sites such as Airbnb with value-added services (concierges, for example) and establish themselves as destinations in their own right. Expect more opt-in extras and ‘value packs’ as hotels look to woo higher-spending customers. Kids go free, pet nannies, helicopter rides, tour tickets, children’s activities, hangover butlers and staff to buff everything from your sunglasses to your gadgets. At the other end of the scale, sharing-economy accommodation sites will upscale and add features to compete with hotels.
FINE FOOD AND DRINK
The restaurant marks 250 years in 2015. The year was 1765. The city was (where else?) Paris. The restaurateur was Monsieur Boulanger. And the house speciality was soup.
Food has always been a key part of travel it’s true, but with the increasing influence of TV chef programmes, celebrity chefs leading tours (on land and on cruise ships) and airlines – such as Etihad – hiring food and beverage managers for long-haul flights food will continue to be a draw card for travellers in 2015.
While for many foodies, travel is a time to enjoy the finest restaurants, research suggests that many travellers will boycott expensive restaurants in favour of eating meals, or taking cookery classes in the homes of local people, for an authentic taste of regional cuisine.
For drink enthusiasts, a number of artisanal gin and whisky distilleries, as well as boutique vineyards have recently opened their doors to the public, making 2015 a chance for oenophiles, whisky connoisseurs and gin enthusiasts to enjoy the first fruits of their labours next year. Visitors to the Holy Vale vineyard on the Isles of Scilly – described by world-renowned wine expert, Michael Broadbent, as “one of the most beautiful vineyard sites in the world” – will be able to sample the fine Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in daily tastings from early 2015. The Lakes Distillery – Cumbria’s first whisky distillery – also produces its own Cumbrian gin made with local botanicals. Located near Bassenthwaite, England it will have a café, restaurant, shop and a visitor centre offering supervised distillery tours, open from December this year.
DESTINATIONS FOR 2015
From April 2015 reforms to Air Passenger Duty, the flight tax, will take effect and flights from the UK to the Caribbean will become a little cheaper (to the tune of £56 for a family of four).
Cuba and the Dominican Republic (British Airways are currently flying there direct twice per week from London) are amongst the cheapest islands to visit in the Caribbean. Other gems in the Caribbean include the spice-producing volcanic island of Grenada that we’re tipping as a magnet for adventurous travellers. Alongside unspoilt beaches, Grenada is also winning plaudits for its eco-tourism centre – and the islands’ tree-to-bar Grenada Chocolate Company operation is proving a popular pull for holidaymakers with sweet teeth.
St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is a favourite docking point for cruise ships, but venture away from Charlotte Amalie and you’ll find value and seclusion. Curacao is another pound-stretcher. Lying off the Venezuelan coast, it benefits from the oil and financial industries, leaving its tourism industry (outside Willemstad, the capital and yes, another cruise-ship magnet) lovely and laidback.
The Duchess of Cambridge was due to make her first solo trip aboard to this tiny Mediterranean nation earlier this year – but was forced to cancel due to severe morning sickness. We can expect to see the popular royal heading here with baby number two in tow at some point in the New Year.
Malta is amongst the sunniest spots in Europe – and offers culture vultures the opportunity to tour a variety of roman ruins alongside centuries-old religious artworks. The region has also kept the paparazzi busy of late with the Jolie-Pitts filming a new production, By the Sea on the island of Gozo.
The Maltese capital, Valetta, will see the opening over several chic new boutiques including restores palazzos that will keep shopaholics busy for days.
Making the destination that much easier to travel to from the UK, Jet2 will launch a new route from Newcastle Airport early next year.
Lithuania will adopt the Euro on 1 January 2015 bringing the Baltic country into the single-currency club – there’ll be no more messing around with litas! Prices are expected to rise – in line with other countries that joined the Euro – but visitors can still expect plenty of bang for their buck, especially compared to more established tourist spots.
Its beer is legendary, its cuisine hearty, cheap and local – Cepelinai (potato and meat dumplings) and Balandėliai or Little Doves (minced-meat-stuffed cabbage leaves) are national dishes. Its coast – the Curonian Spit – is UNESCO-listed and balmy in the summer time. And its culture comes with a side order of quirky.
Užupis is a bohemian, independent republic with a 12-man army and a statue of Frank Zappa (they tore down their statue of Lenin and replaced it with Zappa in the mid-1990s). Visitors to the independent country will be rewarded with a stamp in their passport, one of the best souvenirs for travellers.
The relative weakness of the Rand and lower on-the-ground costs are a perfect opportunity for bargain-hungry holiday-makers considering travel to South Africa. Upgrades to Cape Town’s public transport and infrastructure are making it a much more tourist-friendly city, while Johannesburg was voted the second more inspiring city after Hong Kong in the 2014 Good City Index.
More than nine million visitors touch down in the Rainbow Nation each year. It’s a mid-range flight with no jetlag thanks to being on almost the same time zone as the UK and its weather is at its best exactly when the UK winter is at its worst. Along with its 3,000km of coastline, buzzing cities, great outdoors, wine trails and stirring history, it’s an increasingly affordable place to visit.
The country covers all the holiday bases. The beaches and safaris offer legendary holidays and life-long memories, but what we’re seeing developing in South Africa now is that health tourism is a burgeoning industry – for visitors as well as locals. The country is considered to have the best medical facilities in the continent. Many visitors undergo a procedure in Cape Town or Johannesburg and follow it up with a relaxing break by the beach or at a game lodge – although if you are thinking of pursuing this, do your research and make sure you’re covered on the insurance front.
The safari industry too is welcoming the wellness trend with safari lodges adding massage or an entire spa into its suite of services. This is something that local businesses have been quick to tap into, using local ingredients such as Kalahari melon or mongongo nut in their products.
News that England will play a four-Test series against South Africa next year has excited the Barmy Army, particularly as the matches will take place during their summer.
2015 will be an unprecedented year too for cruise-ship travel in South Africa. The biggest lines in the world are responding to demand from travellers for SA ports. Eight major cruise lines including Cunard, MSC, Costa, Holland America and Crystal will visit South Africa’s most popular ports such as Cape Town, Durban, Richards Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London all of which are gearing up for an influx of visitors. Book now and see it first.
2015 is set to be an exciting year for the United Kingdom with another royal baby on the way plus the election. It will also be the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta with a Bank Holiday having been created on 15 June to mark the occasion.
It will also be a big year for sport lovers with the 2015 Rugby World Cup – the world’s third largest sporting event – set to attract fans from around the world in September and October. Thirteen stadia around the country will host games over 44 days including London, Manchester, Newcastle, Gloucester, Exeter, Milton Keynes, Brighton and Cardiff with Twickenham home for the grand finale. Hosting the event is estimated by Deloitte to add £2.1bn to the British economy.
On the other side of the globe, Australia and New Zealand will be attractive options for sport lovers as the antipodeans host the ICC Cricket World Cup in February and March 2015. Christchurch and Melbourne will host the opening matches and the final will be held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Making travel that much simpler for cricket fans, preferential new rules on visas will mean the Barmy Army needs just one visa rather than two. A new agreement inked for the tournament means that between 26 January and 5 April New Zealand will grant an automatic visa on arrival to visitors holding an Australian one.
However, there’s plenty of sport on apart from cricket. There’s football too. The biggest football tournament Australia has ever hosted will start on January 9 when the Socceroos play Kuwait at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in the Asian Cup. Sixteen countries including Japan, Iraq, China and South Korea will compete against each other in front of more than 500,000 football-mad spectators.
For those wanting more than sports, Australia’s array of fine food festivals are an absolute treat. The Melbourne Food & Wine Fair in February and Sydney’s Good Food Month in October offer an endless supply of events, fairs and other delicious activities to treat your taste buds with.
THE SWISS ALPS
Topographically speaking, we’ll all be high in 2015. July will mark 150 years since the first Matterhorn ascent and Zermatt is celebrating with open-air performances, festivals and sporting events. The Hörnli Hut, which has stood for 101 years at 3,260m as the starting point for a Matterhorn ascent, will reopen after a refurb.
The coming ski season will see the opening of wellnessHostel4000 in Saas Fee and the launch of new flight routes from the UK to Bern-Belp airport which is only 45 minutes from Interlaken – the gateway to the Jungfrau. The new flights will be available during winter and will be operated by Intersky from East Midlands, Norwich, Bournemouth, Humberside and Southend while Skywork will operate flights from Southend.
Beyond skiing, travellers to the Swiss Alps will be able to enjoy the Ice Palace in Jungfraujoch or the ‘Top of Europe Ice Magic’ – an ice skating winter wonderland in Interlaken until late February. For those that don’t have a problem with vertigo, the Peak Walk offers views of the mountains at 3,000m above sea level and includes a 107m long suspension bridge with views of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
This tiny Central American country – literally, ‘rich coast’ – is sandwiched between the warm waters of the Caribbean and Pacific. More than half of it is carpeted in lush, green forest. There are more than 60 national parks, reserves and refuges. And it teems with wildlife housing 5 per cent of the world’s species. That’s almost 1,000 species of birds, 1,200 species of orchids, more than 200 species of mammals and 400 kinds of amphibians and reptiles. UNESCO even declared Costa Rica’s Diquis Stones a World Heritage Site in June 2014.
Did we mention that there are 300 beaches along its two coastlines?
Costa Rica is a magnet for wellness-minded travellers, looking to kick back without breaking the bank aided further when the new APD banding comes into effect. A family of four will save about £50 on the cost of flights, and it’ll be quicker to get there too with Thomson Airways launching the first direct flight from London Gatwick to Liberia in November 2015.
Where the Pope goes the faithful follow and we’re betting that’ll be the case when His Holiness visits the Philippines in January. Pope Francis is due to spend time in Manila and Tacloban on his ‘Mercy and Compassion’ themed voyage.
The Pope’s visit will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Manila World Youth Day, at which around five million young people congregated to pray with St. John Paul II – the largest ever papal event.
The Philippines has had a chequered reputation and official travel advice has not always been positive, but tourism is front and centre for 2015. An initiative called ‘Gawad Kalinga’ invests in the regeneration of local resource to build Philippine communities.
There are thousands of new hotel rooms coming on stream in Manila and the country’s Department of Tourism (DoT) is unveiling new star ratings for hotels and resorts in a bid to make the Philippines more competitive globally. The DoT has signed marketing agreements with global travel brands to showcase the islands’ offerings to audiences around the world.
More airlines are flying there and in the Philippines low-cost carriers – such as Cebu Pacific, Tigerair Philippines and AirAsia Zest – are looking at domestic and international routes from Ninoy Aquino International and Mactan-Cebu International.
The province of Cebu is returning to the tourist radar after 2013’s earthquake and typhoon. Quieter than Manila and less developed than Boracay, Cebu is a regenerated paradise island. Tourists will find more than 1,000 new hotel rooms, luxury housing developments and a convention centre ready to greet them. There’s a new resort airport that’s due to open in the next couple of years too. Silk Air, Singapore Airlines’ regional offshoot, flies to Cebu from Singapore for example.
Bohol, home to the deliciously named Chocolate Hills, is on the comeback trail too. The province has launched Visit Bohol 2015, a campaign aiming to revitalise tourism following 2013’s earthquake.
With more than 7,000 islands the Philippines has a diverse offering for 2015. Apart from the Pope’s visit, the country will mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation, there are hot-air balloon and dragon boat festivals, APEC summit meetings and it’s also bidding to host the 2015 Paragliding World Cup.
(Feature image: GollyGforce – Living My Wo)