Cutting-edge travel trends for 2014
This might shape up to be the year in which tourists finally are launched into space, but even if your plans are more modest, you'll be inspired by what's on offer, whether it's travelling to new frontiers such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Faroe Islands, Ecuador, Albania or even North Korea, pursuing a unique experience like storm chasing or revisiting the glam-again haunts of the 1960s jet set.
All this and more was showcased at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes in December.
The market is an annual invitation-only event for the global luxury travel market, which brings together premium tour operators, hoteliers, travel agents and selected travel media for a stimulating program of exhibitions, forums and events.
The trends revealed during the four-day event at the Palais des Festivals, where the Cannes Film Festival is held in May, are not only for the luxury traveller but for anyone who is thinking of going places in 2014. Here's a sneak peek.
Remember the movie Terminal, where Tom Hanks got stuck in the terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York for nine months?
Well, some travellers will be happy to spend more time at the airport, with efficient new terminals and swank new lounges opening this year, including new Silver Kris lounges from Singapore (the first just opened at Sydney airport) and new Qantas lounges in Hong Kong and Los Angeles International Airport.
Most eagerly anticipated, however, is the new Heathrow Queen's Terminal T2 opening on June 4, which will be the hub for Star Alliance airlines. Gates will be arranged around a central courtyard, so passengers will be only a short walk from their plane.
Uniformed passenger ambassadors will be on hand to help out, Wi-Fi will be free and passengers will be able to tweet their order for sushi while in line at security and collect the meal at the other side (providing they get through, of course).
Virtuoso travel agents have noticed a revival of interest in the glamour resorts of the jet set, notably the French Riviera, Capri and cities such as Rome.
Maybe travellers are in a 1960s' mood but the places you would have found Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot in their heyday are back in style, now that everyone's done Eastern Europe.
The French, Italian and Swiss Alps are fashionably on piste again with a swag of new hotels - the Chedi in Andermatt, the W in Verbier and L'Apogee in Courcheval.
Build a trip around one of the many fashion outlets outside large European and American cities, such as the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in New York, with regular bus transfers from New York City.
The Chic Outlet Shopping group, which has outlet villages near London, Dublin, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich and Suzhou Shanghai, offers chauffeur-driven service and high-end shopping packages that include gift cards, spa treatments and cultural and sporting experiences.
McArthurGlen, with five outlets in Italy, offers genuine bargains on high-end Italian brands.
Smart travellers go with an empty suitcase on an airline with generous baggage allowances.
"Multigenerational" may have been the travel buzzword last year, but in 2014 children will be getting more attention than ever. Various hotel and tour groups are devising programs just for them that go beyond the kids' club concept, from luxury experiential travel company &Beyond's new WILDchild conservation program to Asia's first kids' hotel at the just opened Iniala Beach House near Phuket.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel group is ahead of the pack here, rolling out its new Ritz Kids program for children aged four to 12, which offers an array of environmentally focused activities in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Future Society.
Ritz Kids is offered in Ritz-Carlton city and business hotels, as well as its resorts.
Four Seasons Resorts has developed a Family First program.
Also, watch for an increasing number of hotels developing family-friendly villa accommodation.
UP THE RIVER
River cruising, especially on the already crowded European waterways, has surged in popularity in recent years, because of its gentle rhythms and the accessibility of multiple destinations and experiences along the riverbank.
In 2014, expect those waters to get even more crowded, with about 25 new ships being launched in Europe, including the S. S. Catherine, Uniworld's newest entrant at the luxury end of the market, which will have her maiden voyage along the Rhone and Saone in the northern-hemisphere spring.
In Asia, there's excitement about Aqua Expedition's Aqua Mekon, which will be launched in September, bringing the cruise company, known for its luxury Amazon cruises, to Asia for the first time.
Upping the ante even further, celebrity chef David Thomson will be devising fine-dining menus that highlight the region's cuisine.
In February, the luxury river ship Abn Rajmahal will be launched on the Ganges at Patna, taking passengers as far as Varanasi during periods of high water.
ALL AT SEA
Expect seafaring adventures to become more exotic. While an increasing number of people are discovering the joys of ocean cruises, those who have been there, done that are looking for more intriguing itineraries and immersive experiences.
Venture on Silversea's newest expedition ship, the 120-passenger Silver Discoverer, to the Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Russia, or join the inaugural voyage of Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion on a cultural journey through the Solomon Islands.
Or, if travellers want to replicate the adventure of passengers on the Akademik Shokalskiy, stuck in Antarctic ice during the new year, you can sleep in the world's only hotel boat frozen in ice, the Noorderlicht, a 100-year-old schooner that each winter is frozen in sea ice in Tempelfjord, Norway, as a base camp for viewing polar bears.
You only live once, which is why an increasing number of travellers are looking for unique experiences in 2014. Some experiences, such as flying G-force in a MiG jet over Russia, are for daredevils only. ("Soft" adventure was so last year.)
Adventure travel specialist Mantis eXtreme offers a portfolio of extreme experiences to get your heart racing: diving with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, heli fishing in Bella Coola, British Columbia, extreme golf in snow in Lapland, snowmobile safaris in the Svalbard Islands, white-water rafting down the Zambezi River, tracking the elusive snow leopard in Nepal and diving in the deadly sardine bait ball off the coast of southern Africa.
The Bear Grylls Academy, which offers five-day survival skills courses in the Scottish Highlands, will get you ready for the year's adventures.
Virgin Galactic is set to launch as early as the end of 2014, with more than 600 brave souls already signed up (by "space agents") to hurtle into space at speeds up to 4288km/h, and float in zero gravity for a few minutes before returning to Earth.
Soon after, Bloon, a helium-propelled pod, will be launched in 2015 from a base in Spain, carrying up to four guests and two pilots above the Earth's atmosphere into near space, enticing travellers to float above the Earth's curvature in comfort, no training required.
If you'd rather go down than up, OceanGate is working on a carbon-fibre submersible craft, the Cyclops, that will take passengers three kilometres below the sea surface in an hour-long trip. Adventurers will have to wait until 2016 for that.
Google's digitally enabled wearable computer, Google Glass, is expected to be available commercially this year, allowing travellers to take photos and videos, share images, download maps, have their words translated and send emails and messages, all by voice activation.
Because the lightweight glasses are hands-free, the need for physical maps, guidebooks or any kind of hand-held device is suddenly eliminated, potentially revolutionising the way some people will travel.
Smartphones, smartwatches and phalets (a smartphone-tablet hybrid) will be used for everything from boarding passes to hotel keycards. Innovative technologies, such as Hotel Insider, a concierge service that connects members with their exact hotel needs, are being developed to take advantage of travellers' increasing reliance on mobile devices.
Holidaymakers are getting tired of being hit with an account at the end of the cruise or stay at a resort, where incidentals tote up to more than the room rate itself.
Some Australian luxury resorts, such as Saffire Freycinet and Emirates Wolgan Valley, offer inclusive prices, as do cruise lines such as Silversea and Regent Seven Seas, but in 2014 others are catching on to the Club Med model, notably Hyatt, which has begun to roll out all-inclusive hotels, the first being the Hyatt Zilara Cancun (families) and the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (couples only) in Mexico.
Hotel beds may not have changed much in recent times but the walls that hold them have, spectacularly in some cases. Expect to be staying in more hotels that resemble strange sea creatures or a stack of boxes piled unstably on top of each other, simply because architects can.
The new Intercontinental in Davos, Switzerland, for example, looks as if a spaceship has given birth to a glowing pod on the side of a mountain.
If this trend is too blingy for you, you can always stay in a mirrored cube up a tree at the Tree House Hotel in Harads, Sweden, a 1950s Airstream trailer in Vintage Hotel, Brussels, or a 1960s' era bubble in the Museumotel in France.
Concerned travellers are looking for experiences that allow them to tread lightly on the planet.
Enter the concept of "responsible luxury", which will be taken to another level later this year with the opening of 35-villa The Brando on Marlon Brando's private island, Tetiaroa, 50 kilometres north-east of Tahiti.
Brando was a passionate proponent of ecological conservation and designed his own ecological innovation, Sea Water Air Conditioning. In keeping with Brando's wishes, the concept has been developed to a fully functioning system that converts chilled ocean waters into low-energy, high-efficiency airconditioning.
The resort uses natural gas, has a biofuel thermal power station and harnesses solar energy via photovoltaic solar panels, with the ambition to make the hotel the world's first net-zero carbon impact resort.
An eco-station centre for scientists and researchers, where guests can participate in sustainable fisheries and public outreach programs, is also part of Brando's big vision.
From the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in Sochi, Russia, from February 7 to 23, to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, this is shaping up to be a big year for international sport.
More people will be planning vacations around sporting events, leading up to the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015 and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Annual events such as Wimbledon, the Monaco Grand Prix, the New York marathon, Masters Golf, Test cricket and the Tour de France are increasingly becoming focal points for travel, with a surge in the more actively inclined seeking endurance sport packages.
The writer was a guest of the International Luxury Travel Market.
TRAVEL TRENDS WE REGRET
OPEN BATHROOMS IN HOTELS Most of us don't travel solo, so we've never figured out why bathrooms without walls (or with glass walls or screens) have become so common. Give us some privacy, please!
PILLOW MENUS AND BATH BUTLERS Very nice, but who ever uses them?We don't need a butler to draw our bath, especially when there's a hefty fee involved.
EXCESSIVELY HIGH-TECH HOTEL ROOMS This is probably the traveller's No. 1 hotel bete noir. Fiddling around trying to get an all-in-one room controller to work is particularly irksome.
SKINNY SEATS Yes, the new planes such as the Boeing 787 and the A380 are impressive, but they're notmuch chop if it's just an excuse for the airlines to cram more seats into economy. DVT, people!
TRAVEL TATTOOS Holiday romances are fine, because one can move on, but that Maori ink on your neck is permanent. What seemed like a good idea in a bar in Rarotonga... don't.
BABYMOON Enough with the cutesy hybrid names. (''Mancation'' and ''flashpacking'' are just as bad.) You're having a holiday, OK?
FOOD FORAGING The trend for cooking schools and going to local markets with chefs is just dandy, but it's a bit rude to expect us to pay to go out into the bush and pick our own.