Project Vacation

Those most valued days of the year are already being painstakingly planned by tourists on their smartphones. In the search for more adrenaline and endorphine highs, these devices will play an ever-lager role. 

There are countless ways to design a trip. Photo: Fotolia - alphaspirit

There are countless ways to design a trip. Photo: Fotolia – alphaspirit

A train journey, standing in an open-plan carriage, sipping tea and eating a ham sandwich. A travel agent suggesting such a vacation wouldn’t be in business for long nowadays. But in the middle of the 19th century, this idea was considered revolutionary. Thomas Cook was the name of the man who organized this trip in 1841. He is considered the founding father of package tourism. His teetotalers’ excursion to a temperance rally in Loughborough cost merely one English shilling and was even affordable for regular workers. 570 People took him up on his offer.

Gradually, Cook developed group travel into a lucrative business. His idea was as simple as it was brilliant. He booked train tickets in bundles and sold them on with a minor added fee. In return, he would organize catering and brass band music for the group. Soon, he was sending travel groups outside the British Isles to locales such as Italy and France, even organizing affordable Nile cruises and tours of the new world for the average worker.

Travel as a Privilege of Nobility

Until Cook’s groundbreaking concept came along, travel for leisure and recuperation was reserved for nobility and the upper echelons of society. From the 16th to the 18th century, the so-called “Grand Tour” was considered a key part of a young aristocrat’s education. This trend also began in Great Britain, before spreading through the aristocracy of Europe. The journey, which lasted years in some cases, took young noblemen and -women to the important cultural and historical sites of Europe, predominantly to Italy and the courts of France, Germany and the Netherlands. Even then, there was a bustling market for equipment and accessories for these tourists. This included tour guide literature, cartography materials and vocabulary lists. Local tour providers and mountain guides offered their services at the destinations.

A Journey Through Travel Trends

Once the middle class had established itself in Europe – comprising academics, officials and wealthy traders – the aristocracy’s monopoly on travel was over. However, in order to retain their prestige and distinguish themselves from the middle classes, they discovered new forms of travel. Spa resorts and mineral baths sprang into existence, where the nobility could be among themselves. Places such as Baden-Baden in Germany, Spa in Belgium or Karlovy Vary in the Bohemia region in today’s Czech Republic all hail from this period. Still today, recuperation is the main reason for vacationing, however there is the secondary goal of experiencing something extraordinary during the trip.

Asian tourist groups are often viewed curiously due to their penchant for attempting to take in all of Europe in merely a week. There is certainly no rest or relaxation on these trips. Rather, the focus is the kick of being in these places and sending the photographic evidence back to those at home in real time. Another trend from China is that of lavish shopping tours, which are often the fancy of very wealthy tourists. Due to the high luxury goods taxes back home, the prices Europeans see as astronomical are a bargain to them. The famed Parisian department store Lafayette has even opened an extra branch for Chinese travelers. While it doesn’t exude the charm of the original store, the Lafayette Welcome Center features signage in Chinese, and the product assortment has been tailored to Asian tastes.

Top 5: Share of Overnigt Stays on Trips to the 28 EU Member States by Traveler Nationality. Graphic: DEKRA

Top 5: Share of Overnigt Stays on Trips to the 28 EU Member States by Traveler Nationality. Graphic: DEKRA

Tourism Transforms Industries and Vacation Destinations

Also in other parts of the world, travel is all the rage. Annually, two million Muslims make their pilgrimage to Mecca and challenge the local infrastructure. According to an analysis by the World Travel Monitor, approximately 60 percent of the world’s Islamic population is under thirty. They are just as keen to see the world as their peers from other beliefs but are not willing to break their religious precepts to do so. Several travel agencies and booking websites therefore offer specially tailored packages with alcohol-free hotels, halal restaurants, and resorts that feature special pools or bathing areas for Muslim women.

While travel in days gone by was reserved for intrepid explorers and the highly privileged, budget airlines and websites that allow one to book a room or transport virtually anywhere on the planet have made it a mass phenomenon. It isn’t just easier to book a trip, but also do one’s research – finding out the intricacies of the accommodation and local area, viewing photos and reading reviews.

Overtourism: A Big Problem of the Tourism Industry

However, travel as a mass trend also has its downsides. Popular areas are simply overrun, and their original character is lost. The UN World Tourism Organization has declared that so-called “overtourism” is one of the travel industry’s greatest problems. It named 2017 the international year of sustainable tourism in order to draw attention to CO2 damage and environmental protection.

Top 5 Reasons to Select Sustainable Travel Accomodation. Graphic: DEKRA

Top 5 Reasons to Select Sustainable Travel Accomodation. Graphic: DEKRA

Places such as Venice and Majorca have long battled an unregulated deluge of visitors. Digital networking has only made this negative trend more pronounced. Selfies at worthwhile locations spread through social networks virally, bringing even more visitors. Apartment sharing platforms such as Airbnb, through which anybody can easily book a room at a coveted tourist destination online in seconds, have resulted in wild rental price inflation, as apartment owners and agencies can earn more from tourists than they can from long-term tenants. Residents complain about the constant partying of their temporary neighbors, and the round-the-clock cacophony of wheeled suitcases on cobbled streets outside the bedroom window.

Die Vokabel "Overtourism" bringt die Probleme im Jahr 2017, z. B. in Venedig oder Barcelona, auf den Punkt. Foto: Marco Bottigelli

The new concept of overtourism covers problems in places such as Venice and Barcelona in 2017. Photo: Marco Bottigellit.

The problem isn’t the huge rush itself, says Alexis Papathanassis, Director of the Institute for Maritime Tourism in Bremerhaven, but the lack of management of tourist movement. Many of the more frequented destinations have begun implementing countermeasures. Venice has limited berthing approvals for cruise ships. Technical innovations also help direct the streams of tourists. Visitors are able to use an app to track how busy it currently is at the popular Piazza San Marco, so that they may find a quieter time to view it. The city administration is also considering charging entry to the city center.

Such measures are not unusual. In China, visitors must pay to enter the historic old city of Lijiang in the southern province of Yunnan. The Peruvian government also wishes to reduce the visitor numbers to world heritage site Machu Picchu. Recently this had climbed to more than 2,500 per day. Nowadays, tourists may only follow three predetermined routes, and must book a ticket for either a morning or afternoon visit.

The Top 10 Travel Destinations 2017. Graphic: DEKRA

The Top 10 Travel Destinations 2017. Graphic: DEKRA

Instagram-Butlers Accompany Visitors to Photogenic Locations

The millennial generation – those currently between their early 20s and late 30s – travel more than ever before. This was confirmed in the FutureCast Report “Travel and Lodging” by Barkley. Millennials account for 70 percent of all hotel guests in the USA. But traveling to those places that are popular with everybody else is increasingly considered “out.” The trend is towards finding the most extraordinary and individual experiences possible. It is not rare for travel to be combined with outdoor sport.

Instead of classic package holidays, planned trips with individualized tours at the destination are in demand, as are overnight stays in boutique hotels rather than giant hotel complexes. Even social media is playing a large role: Young travelers aren’t just seeking a special experience for themselves when staying in alternative accommodation such as tree houses or luxury yurts, they are also looking for something to impress their followers on Instagram and Pinterest. A hotel in the Maldives has begun offering a dedicated Instagram-Butler, who accompanies visitors to photogenic locations.

Travel Abroad, Travel Market. Graphic: DEKRA

Travel Abroad, Travel Market. Graphic: DEKRA

In the USA, there has long been the trend of extending business trips by a couple of days to enjoy the area. There is even a term for it, “bleisure,” a portmanteau of “business” and “leisure.” However, in a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, more than two-thirds of Americans admitted that they do not view these trips as true vacations. Short trips and city breaks are, however, still very popular. But even long-distance travel is getting ever easier, thanks to the longer ranges of commercial airliners. Since March, the connection from Perth to London has been the world’s longest non-stop route. Flight time: approximately 17 hours.

Technology Revolutionizes Travel

Even Thomas Cook could be considered a technological innovator – using the recent invention of railways to his entrepreneurial gain. Nowadays digital technology is having an ever-growing effect on the travel industry. Even the travel preparation stage is a veritable experience. Through virtual 3D trips on their computers, vacationers can explore their destination before even leaving the house. Many hotels already use this possibility to attract new customers. Cities such as Houston, Texas, try to present themselves as worthwhile destinations by giving potential visitors the ability to explore the city in 3D. On the Turkish website “3D-Mekanlar,” one can visit historic locations such as the Egyptian pyramids in a virtual tour or have a look around historical Turkish bathhouses. Even museums are increasingly offering 3D tours, such as the British Museum in London or the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Augmented reality apps, which allow physical visitors to these places to overlay handy information over their smartphone camera image, will have more and more applications in travel.

Short trips with virtual reality headsets from the comfort of one’s sofa may become a trend in their own right. Even today, these headsets impress users with their ability to display virtual worlds in which the wearer is fully immersed. The sense of space is very pronounced, although the screens do appear quite pixelated due to the magnification. This is even the case when using new smartphones of the latest generation.

2016: Made out of cardboard for your phone, or a stand-alone high tech device – virtual teleportation is possible with the VR Headset. Photo: Olaf Rössler

2016: Made out of cardboard for your phone, or a stand-alone high tech device – virtual teleportation is possible with the VR Headset. Photo: Olaf Rössler

Virtual Travel has a Measurable Recuperative Effect

Before we are at the level portrayed in such films as Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Ready Player One,” in which the protagonists can barely distinguish between the real and artificially generated world of their VR headsets, several generations of screen technology will come and go. It is very possible that Hollywood isn’t entirely wrong with its technological predictions of the near future – the film is set in 2045.

While science-fiction film “Ready Player One” is more about distraction from a depressing reality, current studies by NASA indicate that virtual travel even with today’s technology has a measurable recuperative effect. In a research station in Hawaii, NASA simulated a mission to Mars, in which six scientists lived in a reconstructed space station in isolation. Through VR headsets, they were able to go on minibreaks to rest and relax. If you wish to go the other way, and experience a trip to Mars, you can do so via VR apps such as “Hello Mars.” Through simulations based on the original calculations performed by NASA, users can experience entry into the Martian atmosphere and landing on the red planet. It seems that – virtually at least – travel in 2018 has no limits.

Related articles
 
Magazine Topics
 
Newsletter