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.

A Look Inside Lahore's Weekly Opium-Fueled Sufi Festival

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.)

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.

A Potterhead Shares 5 Things You Must Do When Visiting Harry Potter World In Orlando

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.