Just like fashion, food and pretty much any other hedonistic pursuit, travel experiences trends. As something of an authority on travel, Hg2 has the inside scoop on what will be hot – and similarly, what won’t be – for 2011. Read on for ten trends that will shape the coming year – remember where you heard it first.
1. The ‘Unhotel’
As Dorothy once said, there’s no place like home, and in 2011 you can extend that sentiment not only to your own humble abode, but also to the homes of locals while they’re out of town. This trend isn’t about unlawful squatting, but rather the ‘unhotel’. Coined by London-based company OneFineStay.com, the firm places at your disposal some of the most chic and stylish homes in London, from swish apartments in Mayfair (see above) to warehouse conversions in the East End. If your budget doesn’t extend quite that far, try SwapMyCityPad.com and CrashPadder.com, both of which offer rooms rather than entire properties. A travel trend that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘Your place or mine?’
2. Slow Travel
Gone are the days of racing off to the airport at 5am, elbowing your way to the front of the express check-in queue, scurrying to your seat as you wipe beads of perspiration from your brow and landing at the other end just in time to be carted off to a hospital. In 2011, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, whether you’re sipping a cocktail bound for New York on the Queen Mary 2 (see above) or breaking up your travels by car or train with a night in a luxury boutique hotel or two along the way. Why not map your own grand tour across Europe, using the Hg2 city guides to take advantage of the best hedonistic pursuits the continent has to offer? How about London-to-London via Paris, Zurich, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon? Check out Seat61.com for non-flying travel options to destinations all over the world. Talking of which, this brings us neatly to trend three…
Harking back to the glamorous Golden Age, 2011 will see the nostalgic return of rail travel. With lower fares on the ground than in the air, the increasing pressure to decrease our carbon footprint and a growing appreciation of getting somewhere slowly, the traincation is thundering down the trend track. Think smuts on your nose, moustachioed Belgians in patent leather shoes and grisly midnight murders. Travel from London-to-Paris on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, where you can enjoy a four-course meal in one of the original 1920s carriages with their Lalique glass panels, wood burning stoves and Art Deco marquetry.
4. Erudition, Enlightenment and Edification
Rather than returning from your travels with a suitcase weighed down by curios and keepsakes, 2011 will see you coming back in possession of new skills and experiences. The question is no longer ‘where do I want to go?’ but ‘what do you want to do?’ Try Beldi Country Club, just six kilometres from the Pink City of Marrakech. Not only is this an eco-friendly, botanical masterpiece of rose gardens, olive groves, restaurants and swimming pools (the work of 150 local artisans), but the hotel also gives guests the chance to take traditional cookery classes (with pottery classes for the children). Give a man a tagine for dinner, and you feed him for a day; give a man the skills to make his own tagine, and you feed him for a fragrant, delicious lifetime. Design Hotels is also offering education experiences across its portfolio of plus properties.
5. Cultural Hotels
Time for a quick personality test; you find yourself in Rome, gelato in one hand, slice of courgette pizza in the other, espresso fizzing through your veins. The heat of the day is getting to you, and it is time to return to your hotel. As a fully paid-up, card-carrying hedonist, have you booked a room in;
a) Exedra, harking back to days of the Roman empire’s lavish excess and sweeping unapologetically across the entire corner of the Piazza della Repubblica, facing the baths of Diocletian.
b) The Portrait Suites, newly-opened and situated in the same elegant palazzo as the Ferragamo’s Men’s store, set to be a fashionista magnet with décor reminiscent of a fashion designer’s atelier.
c) Inn at the Forum, looking out over the ruins of the Trajan market, with a Roman subterranean crypt from the remains of marketplace excavated on the ground floor.
If your answer was a), b) or c), congratulations, you’re the trendiest hedonist in the plaza! In 2011, chain hotels are out (to be honest, when were they ever in?) in favour of those that offer a cultural ‘experience’ that mirrors the character of the city you are exploring. Elsewhere, try Canal House in Amsterdam, with its winding passages and staircases mimicking the alleyways and canals of the city, or the historical Pera Palace in Istanbul, once host to every visiting star and dignitary that mattered.
6. Social Media
There’s no escaping technology these days, and the travel world is no exception. On the morning commute, it’s suited-and-booted businessmen staring soulfully into their Kindles, at last week’s Golden Globes, The Social Network was the evening’s big winner, and in the world of travel, the big online trend of 2011 looks set to be location-logging applications such as Foursquare, which uses a ‘check-in’ system to publish your whereabouts to those who ‘follow’ you. As soon as you’ve pressed ‘enter’, travel tips start to pour in from followers, and you’re furnished with local business details to keep you firmly in the loop. There’s also Tripatini, an online network of globe-trotters sharing their experiences and travel tips, described as The New York Post as ‘Facebook for travellers’. Travel-focused social media sites and apps are the travel extension of established social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which allow you to share statuses with friends and followers around the world. Facebook has recently extended this by launching ‘Hotel Me’, an application where friends are able to make informed recommendations that allow you to plan your next trip. Be sure to take Hg2 with you when we launch our mobile apps later this year.
7. The Green Scene
2011 is the year to give Mother Nature a big old hug, hedonist-style. The watchwords are responsibility and sustainability; there’s no point in a holiday spent communing with mountain gorillas or scuba-diving in the coral reefs if, in 50 years time, the gorillas have joined the ranks of the dodo and the coral has been reduced to a couple of pieces of pink rubble at the bottom of the sea. October 2010 saw Europe’s first eco-tourism conference held in Estonia, and hot topics included zero-carbon hotels in Europe and Asia and ‘voluntourism’, with volunteer activities integrated into green and sustainable travel programmes. And it’s not just hotels that are getting on board; if it’s a motor you’re after, car rental companies such as Avis and Hertz are your people, adding more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles to their fleets than ever before. So, in 2011, you can feel doubly smug for being both on-trend and ethically conscientious.
8. Living Dangerously
Despite the recent tourist-exodus from Tunisia (something to do with the small matter of a civil uprising and the overthrow of the Tunisian government), 2011 looks set to be a big year for travel in the more dark and dangerous regions of the world. When we say ‘living dangerously’, we’re not talking not brushing your teeth before bedtime. We’re talking about popping over to North Korea for a spot of kimchi, topping up your tan in Zimbabwe, or jetting over to Iran for a good deal on a Persian rug. Or, at least, something along those lines. In light of this trend, Hg2 recommends Jo’burg; crime is indeed high – there’s no beating around the African bush – but this is a city you should see before you die rather than a city you go to die in.
9. The Return Of Globetrotting
We might still be living in austere times, 2011 will see the return of globetrotting. The value of the pound may be plummeting, but the cost of living in some places is so low it can still be excellent value for a holiday. For example, the Turkish Lira might be stronger than in the past, but there are lots of all-inclusive deals to be had and the standard of hotels and amenities is high; check out our guide to Istanbul for more travel ideas. Alternatively, if you fancy a jaunt to the land of the midnight sun, Iceland’s spectacular economic crash has made this northern land of ice and fire a haven for bargain-hunting tourists – anyone for a puffin burger? Look out for our forthcoming article in the Independent: 24 hedonistic hours in Reykjavík.
10. 2011 Hospots: Non-Eurozone
Finally, turning to 2011’s destination hotspots, it’s perhaps not surprising that travellers are set to favour places where they can get the most bang for their buck (see trend number nine). Non-Eurozone countries are top of the list; Turkey and Iceland have already got a mention, but Hg2’s big tip of the year is Beirut, where Middle East meets West. If any city has skeletons in its closet, then it’s the Lebanese capital; its volatile past has seen it transform from millionaire’s playground to war-torn hellhole and back again. Today, Beirut has re-established a heady nightlife scene set against colonial ruins sprayed with bullet holes, with steel and glass skyscrapers springing up amongst older, Parisian-style architecture. Our pick of its hedonistic hotels is Le Gray, a stunning temple to decadence. Check out our interview with its charismatic owner here.