A Look Back At Your And My 2011 Travel Predictions

January 5, 2012 by Anil Polat  

lipscani new year bucharest 2012

At the beginning of 2011 I took a look back on my travel predictions for 2010 and all things considered, I wasn’t too far off the mark overall. When looking forward to the upcoming year that just was (aka. 2011) I invited you to join in the prediction game. Some of your predictions were bold and others more reserved but all were heading in the same general direction of more travel for more people.

Many of these trends we predicted were already in effect going into 2011 and many more will push right in to 2012 – here are the predictions you and I made and how they turned out toward the end of last year.

muscat oman coastThe Rise Of The Middle East And South America

A few of us cheated a bit here as these large regions of the world encompass enough countries that it’s easier to get right than wrong. Although complete 2011 statistics aren’t out for most places yet, early reports indicate a few countries in the Middle East saw strong increases in travelers. (I was one of them, spending much of early 2011 there.) Turkey was up about 9%, Israel 4%, but that’s likely from travelers already headed to the region changing their plans due to the Arab Spring (Egypt’s tourism industry was hit with a 60% drop last year with similar trends in Tunisia, Libya, and Syria which had 40% tourism jumps in 2009.)

As for South America, several countries on the continent saw healthy gains. Notably Colombia, as Ayngelina predicted, had 8.5% more visitors in 2011 than the previous year. One my 4 picks Chile, had something of a tourism boom in 2011. Interestingly enough, it’s not the increase in travelers to South America in 2011 (+13%), that’s as surprising; as how many more South Americans traveled beyond the continent themselves last year.

Prediction Check: So, while many countries in the Middle East saw increases of tourists, many others saw drops. It looks like more people weren’t going to the region but instead shifting where they visited in the area. We can count that prediction as one we got sort of right but when it came to South America, you were spot on.

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See You In Iraq – Travel To “Dangerous Destinations”

Places like Iraq that probably aren’t on most people’s travel lists, many of you thought, would become 2011’s offbeat galore. Although the New York Times named northern Iraq one its 41 places to visit in 2011, not many more did. That said, the ‘tourism’ revenue in countries like Iraq, last year increased several times.

sulaymaniyah mall iraq

The reason? Budget travelers might seem more adventurous and brave than business types but nothing motivates like economic opportunity. Many developing countries and “dangerous” places like Afghanistan are focusing their tourism efforts on business travelers and luxury vacationers. They aren’t getting as many people but more revenue in this efficient approach.

Prediction Check: Yes and no. More travelers – not quite – but certainly more travel revenue from those who are visiting.

Longer Trips And Travel Blog Explosion

I think most of you reading this site probably have a hunch that longer trips and more unorthodox styles of travel will become more common in the near future. When I met up in London with David Betteridge and Paul Albert to participate in the Nokia documentary Teddy Bears And Talking Drums, they exposed me to a large world of location independent entrepreneurs and designers living around the world. The success and continued momentum of programs like Meet Plan Go show we’re moving toward the notion that extended travel isn’t absolutely crazy. (I think future generations will wonder how or why so many people of our era stayed at offices when we’ve got laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.)

How To Spend A Short Trip To Vilnius, Lithuania

We were also on the same page about travel blogging – yes, there’s been an explosion of the travel blogosphere in the past 12 months. That rapid expansion as Matt guessed has drawn the attention of large national tourism boards. Jordan, South Korea, and Spain where I attended Valencia’s F1 race are among those who’ve invited bloggers next to traditional journalists for events.

Prediction Check: You were all right on this one but I think the more difficult question is where do these two trends specifically go from here?

porto portugal airportA Few More Prediction Checks And My Thoughts On 2012

  • Airline Fees, Fees, Fees – Yup, we had many more of those in 2011; mostly of the surcharge and baggage fee variety.
  • USAirways Adding Routes To South America – Nope, not one. But they did add several routes domestically in the US and a couple to east Asia and Europe.
  • Easing Of Visa Restrictions For Travelers From The Developing World – Several countries have made efforts on exchanging visa-free travel but in general citizens of the developing world  still have access to about 55% less of the world. Last year, India, Thailand, and Brazil were all deemed “newly industrialized countries” by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Whether that status will result in equal travel rights around the world remains to be seen.

What Is In Store For 2012 – I Look Into My Crystal Ball Next Week

In the last two years we’ve seen rather gradual travel trends – and not to take away from our predicting prowess – but that made our guesses a bit easier coming into 2012. What do you think will be coming up in 2012? Next week I’ll share some of my thoughts on the year of the travel shift – with a few forecasts from and for you as well.

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  1. Sherry Ott says:

    It’s quite sad about Middle EAst tourism – but I doubt anyone could have predicted the revolutions that happened! I wish we could figure out a way to measure the increase in extended travel. It feels like it’s increasing, however it may just be that we are more aware of it thanks to social media. Thoughts?
    Looks like you did pretty well on your predictions! Looking forward wo your 2012 ones!

    • Anil P. says:

      It was a very good guess, in fact in most Middle Eastern countries the number at the beginning of the year were much higher than normal. I think if you had predicted widespread uprisings in the Arab world in December 2010 people would have said you were crazy 🙂

      As for extended travel, I think it is happening, although measuring it is very difficult like you say. I suppose you have to look for the outliers on any survey to get good numbers. But when I met up with documentary folks they were telling me about hundreds they had met all over the world doing extended travel/location independent lifestyles. Many, many more than they had expected when they set out to meet those people. What was interesting is how popular it’s becoming in the third and newly developed world countries.

      Any plans for Meet, Plan, Go! to work on compiling statistics on extended travel in the near future?

      • Sherry Ott says:

        No – no plans for a survey at this time – but I’d love to. We started talking about it last year – but to get a really wide audience – it’s hard and we gave up at that time as we had to focus on other things. We’ll see what comes up this year and see if we can partner with someone to do it! If you have any suggestions – let me know!

        • Anil P. says:

          I was thinking one of the larger think tanks might be interested in doing some research on extended travel – and potential economic benefits somehow. I will definitely send you any contacts I come across.

      • Dave Brett says:

        I would have to say the same it would sound crazy, But your podcast interview with Chris @AmateurTraveller really changed my mind on Iraq and I would love to visit. The Northern Kurdish area sounds like a real adventure. Have you seen the top gear episode when they go to Iraq? Download it for sure you would love it. They take off there bullet proof vests when they understand they don’t need it in Iraq but put it back on when they are in Turkey! very funny show.

        • Anil P. says:

          haha, I’ll have to download it. Yes, many people I’ve seen on travel shows going there have bodyguards, and survival training. Once you’re there though you immediately realize how absurd that is!

  2. Julia says:

    I think Turkey also benefitted from the issues with the Eurozone in 2011. British travellers chose Turkey over other places because they got more Turkish Lira for their Stirling at a time when the Euro was (and is) not offering a lot and prices in the eurozone countries are increasing. The good that will hopefully come out of that is people will realise Turkey isn’t another planet…and therefore the rest of the world is not another planet. Hmmm, let’s see. 😉

    • Anil P. says:

      And it looks like the Lira will be even more attractive now as it continues to sink. Btw, I love this quote of yours:

      “The good that will hopefully come out of that is people will realise Turkey isn’t another planet…and therefore the rest of the world is not another planet. “

  3. JoAnna says:

    Regarding your predictions on the visa restrictions: I’ve spent some time in conference sessions this year learning about the U.S. Travel Association, which is essentially the lobbying arm for travel in, to and around the U.S. The visa restrictions in the U.S. are so stringent, that we are losing out on a ridiculous amount of revenue, particularly from visitors who live in Brazil and China. There is a big push to ease visa restrictions, and it’s just a matter of getting the issue heard in Washington, DC.

    • Anil P. says:

      I read somewhere recently about how much potential money the United States is losing due to the extremely restrictive visa policies it has for travelers. I agree with you that there’s easy money to be made with a change like that and I think it’s also much better for US foreign policy in the long run. Many people I’ve met traveling who haven’t had favorable impressions of the US are those who’ve never visited it 😉

  4. Dave Brett says:

    Was just going to tweet you about the Nokia video, what an amazing project to be apart of. Looked really kool! the future is looking good for sure. The possibility that mobile technology can bring for those who are wise enough to use it in the right way.

    It was great to see such a large presence of Arab tourism destinations at WTM, I think this year Abu Dhabi will have a large impact. Iran had a section as well this year which was great to see.

    London is going to be very hot this year with the olympics but for tourism I think not. After reading the DCMS report advance 2012 summer bookings are down 80% compared to last year. Its going to be massive for TV content but I fell the tourism impact might follow in 2013. Well with flats renting for £27,000 a week, its understandable for backpackers to avoid the city.

    • Anil P. says:

      Thanks Dave, it was fun to be a small part of it and hopefully I can share the full length documentary soon.

      It think Dubai has the edge in the region, it’s a city designed for tourism really; plus it’s stable and rarely has any negative press.

      As for London, those prices are ridiculous! Guess tourism will hurt even further as the Euro slips against the pound.

  5. I was so sad that USAirways didn’t add some more routes. I had inside info that they were, as well as routes to Asia as well. Boo!