Reason: Mountains, gorillas, and a stark decrease in violence will make this long-shunned African nation the next hot spot. And the country will even get a PR coup in 2008 (for better or for worse) when Paris Hilton visits. As people look to ever-more exotic destinations, more airlines will fly to Kigali and upscale lodges (paging Richard Branson) will start looking seriously at property.
Prediction: Love 'em or hate 'em, cell phones will come to airplanes—sort of.
Reason: European airlines like Lufthansa have offered in-flight Internet for years now, but the U.S. is catching up, with JetBlue launching limited Wi-Fi access for mobile devices in 2007. Still, most developments are happening in Europe. OnAir, a joint venture with Airbus and SITA, will conduct a test with Air France in early 2008, making the airline the first to allow passengers to make in-flight cell phone calls (other planned partners include bmi, TAP, and Ryanair). The Federal Communication Commission renewed its ban on cell phone use on U.S. flights last March, but expect time-strapped executives to pressure the FCC to remove it. However, a vocal majority of silence-loving fliers will push back, and airlines will have to resurrect the concept of a special section—not for smoking, but for yammering.
Prediction: The Europeanization of U.S. cities—even secondary ones.
Reason: No one's expecting the U.S. dollar to recover anytime soon against the euro or the pound. In other words, the British are definitely coming (back), along with citizens from all over Europe. And they're not just visiting to snap up expensive fashions at a relative bargain and leave; they're buying homes here. Expect to see businesses across the nation cater more to a Continental sensibility; zinc cafes in some of America's Favorite Cities Maybe…
Prediction: Cruising will undergo another year of double-digit growth, fueled by an increase in niche cruising.
Reason: With the ever-increasing threat of global warming wiping out threatened areas, cruises—which are sometimes the only way to explore a remote location—will become even more popular. Cruise North, which explores the Arctic, is the perfect example; expect an increase in cruises to Antarctica and the Galapagos as well.
Prediction: Registered Traveler programs will experience little growth—they may even decline.
Reason: Pre-registered airport security programs like Clear were set up to expedite the security process. But with a particularly tough financial year approaching for the airlines (partly driven by rising fuel costs), passenger traffic will decline, making the need for special lines less pressing. Programs that will forge ahead anyway will experience another hurdle: a tortoise-like TSA approval process.
Prediction: Airports delay will bring about a proliferation of on-premise distractions.
Reason: Flight delays stymied air travel in 2007 (see our list of America's worst offenders), and things will only get worse in 2008. That means more time in the airport, and really, how many Starbucks can you visit? Airport spas, led by the company XpresSpa, are invading U.S. hubs, making for easy massages and facials. Expect more companies to step in with pools, karaoke, and even Disney-like amusement parks to keep the delayed masses from rioting.
Prediction: Main courses disappear from all but the most traditional U.S. restaurants.
Reason: What the Spaniards have known for years has finally caught on in the culinary hubs of the U.S.—eating is most fun when you sample lots of different dishes. Restaurants ranging from super-upscale (Michael Mina in San Francisco and Charlie Trotter in Chicago) to pubby nooks (Spotted Pig in NYC and A.O.C. in Los Angeles) are going the small-plate route, and expect to see fewer places—especially new spots—offering traditional three-course meals.
Prediction: The Beijing Olympics will help tourism to China, though not nearly as much as the Chinese think.
Reason: Let's face it: the Chinese aren't going to let anything unforeseen happen—logistically, anyway—at the Beijing Olympics. They'll showcase Beijing as what it is: a beautiful, historic city (even if some of the historic areas are disappearing). But for Westerners, China is still a beast to navigate and will remain so: language and cultural differences make the country tough to see without a guide. And though the interest of travelers will be piqued by the Games, there won't be a corresponding number who follow through with travel plans.
Prediction: Big name travel companies will roll out the green carpet for serious eco-friendly initiatives.
Reason: As gas prices rose and and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" rang in so many ears, it's no surprise that "responsible travel" emerged as one of last year's biggest buzz phrases. This year green travel will finally go mainstream. Virgin will set the standard with the world's first clean-fuel commercial flight, and as "green" becomes the new sexy, look for even more hotels to switch to natural light fluorescents, big car rental companies to purchase more hybrids, and a flurry of eco-lodge openings.
Reason: It was only a matter of time before the blogosphere evolved and the online public's insatiable desire to share its every thought, theory, rant, and rave evolved from mere text and pictures to include video. Video web logs, or "vlogs," have grown in popularity over the past year, especially overseas in countries like France and Singapore, and the phenomena is poised to blow up in 2008. Thanks to ever-more lightweight video cameras, easy editing technologies, and an increasingly intrepid public, it's no wonder that travel video logs are so popular, with people creating them to do everything from staying in touch with family and friends on the road to hopefully nabbing TV deals. Our favorite travel vlog du jour? Aroundtheworldforfree.com.