As the sun prepares to set on 2014, our thoughts turn to the glowing horizon of 2015 and all it might reveal.
Predictions can be a dangerous thing, especially in the capricious world of travel, but here is what I’m expecting to see when the sun rises on the New Year:
With travelers seeking ways of trimming their budgets, without cutting their comforts, next year will be all about sharing.
When it comes to accommodation, from crashing on a stranger’s couch to sleeping in a luxury penthouse, there are options to suit all pockets. Now pioneers such as AirBnB are being joined by some interesting newcomers: OneFineStay focuses on upscale properties; while you can probably work out the propositions of Couchsurfing and CampInMyGarden.com yourselves.
Sharing a ride is the next logical next step. Uber’s growth is matched only by its notoriety, but it’s not the only game in town. For the traveler, the likes of Relay Rides, Flight Car, and GetAround help you avoid the hassle of renting a car.
Once you have your room and your car sorted, you’ll need to eat. Avoid the chains, and try some home cooked fare instead, in the company of a local host: Feastly, Cookening and EatWithALocal all offer just that.
Then, when you’ve had your fill, you can meet up with another local to share their knowledge: from walking tours of street art in San Francisco, to night photography in Paris websites such as Vayable can help you tap into a rich seam of local insight.
One thing you’ll want to leave to the professionals, however, is your aircraft. Airbus and Boeing’s rivalry is set to soar in 2015, with the launch of the Airbus A350. Its fuel efficient carbon wings and fuselage will see it challenge Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner in the long haul market.
Japan hasn’t had a commercial plane of its own for around half a century, but 2015 will see Mitsubishi joining the fray, with a spacious, quiet and efficient new jet to rival Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier.
And when these shiny new jets have deposited you on the runway, you’ll be pleased to hear that technology is smartening up airports too: Shanghai, Miami, and Copenhagen have been testing technology that can trigger useful information on your smartphone.
There are some handy things, like displaying your boarding pass as you approach check-in, and some nakedly commercial ploys, such as sending promotional coupons as you pass through duty free. It can even send you updates on boarding gates, or tell you from which carousel to expect the arrival of your baggage.
Once free of the airport, sometimes only the sanctity of the traditional hotel will do, and there are some sparkly new ones to look forward to: from this month, visitors to Beijing can stay in the spectacular Kempinski Sunrise; encased within ten thousand glass panels and lit at night by LEDs, it looks rather like a rising sun.
Two distinguished hotels – on opposite sides of the Channel Tunnel – will reopen after long refurbishments. In London, The Lanesborough returns after an 18 month refit; while the long-awaited revival of an old friend – the Ritz in Paris – is almost upon us.
The man who practically invented the boutique hotel, Ian Schrager, is extending his Edition hotel range in partnership with Marriott. On the heels of Istanbul, Miami and London, New York will join the line-up in 2015.
For travelers with shallow pockets, but lofty expectations of style, there’s always the “Poshtel’ – a hybrid of the hostel and hotel. The likes of the U Hostel – a restored 19th century palace in Madrid, or the Maverick Hostel – a former Hapsburg manor house in Budapest, are just for you.
Technology will continue to revolutionize the way we book and stay in hotels. Marriott is trialing 3D headsets for an immersive virtual reality experience; instant messaging apps such as WeChat in China and Line in Japan can now book rooms; room keys are appearing as phone apps; and for the ultimate in technological pampering, Starwood Group is trialling “the Botler”, a robotic butler.
If you’re pondering where to go in 2015, there are one or two new destinations to consider.
Abu Dhabi wants to be the cultural capital of the Middle East, and is spending big to achieve its goal. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is due to open in the Emirate’s Saadiyat Island District in December, while plans for the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim are hot on its heels.
Culture is easier to come by in Europe, which has chosen two capitals of culture for 2015: the Belgian mediaeval city of Mons expects to welcome 2 million visitors to arts events and museum openings; while the Czech Republic celebrates the cultural claims of Pilsen. Famous for its beer, the west Bohemian city will be alive with street festivals featuring giant puppets and modern circus acts, to the sound of its restored cathedral bells.
Meanwhile, cruise liners will be gliding down South East Asia’s rivers next year. Companies such as Viking, Haimark, and Avalon Waterways are extending their fleets to the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers, bringing passengers to destinations like Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Finally, before the sun rises on 2015, you may already want to think about it disappearing, albeit fleetingly. The Faroe Islands and the Norwegian island of Svalbard are the only two places where you can watch next year’s total eclipse of the sun. It won’t happen again in Europe until 2026, so book your ticket now.
Richard Quest is a CNN anchor based in New York, host of the one-hour program “Quest Means Business”. Follow Richard on Twitter @richardquest