2013 Travel trends

2013-01-08 11:35

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Last year was an eventful year for travel with the UN World Tourism Organisation confirming more than 1 billion travellers crossed international borders – the highest figure ever for a single year. So what could 2013 have in store? We take a look at some of the hottest trends affecting your trip planning.


All indicators show that airlines are expected to be the most challenging in 2013. Typically it is your primary concern when it comes to finding the best deals – and with operating costs including the hefty price tag of fuel and those back-breaking taxes, this industry leads the charge in innovation in order to make money.

Despite a tumultuous year in 2012 – locally velvet sky and 1time went belly up - there appears to be a glimmer of hope with the launch of the first Pan-African low cost carrier, Fast Jet. The airline has subsequently bought 1time and will this year operate three of the former airline’s 12 planes under new lease agreements once approved. The acquisition could also mean increased route networks from South Africa into the rest of Africa. And it goes without saying the more competition we have on domestic routes, the better. One thing is certain though, airlines across Africa are going to be working more smartly in order to grow market-share under threat to foreign airlines that have access to more fuel-efficient planes – hopefully translating into better pricing for you.

In 2013 you can also expect more airlines to start bringing in ancillary services, formerly included in the cost of your ticket. SAA and Kulula already use piece baggage systems with hefty fees for offenders, there is nothing new on the cards as yet but keep an eye out for them as it could affect your costs if unnoticed.

Long haul economy

There is consensus that conditions in the back of the plane are unlikely to improve. According to Smart Traveller, many airlines are either ordering new 777s with ultra-tight 10-across seats or converting present nine-across planes to the tighter arrangement.  Essentially it means less leg room in economy. International airlines have already monetized your comfort by offering premium economy – while it’s not quite business or first class an additional fee buys you a few more centimeters and enhanced cabin service. Lufthansa is the most prominent local operator to announce this service. But word has it most long-haul airlines will try to ease the discomfort with more elaborate in-flight entertainment systems. Sleeping tablet anybody?

Flash sales and short-term savings

To call last-minute a trend seems silly as it’s been around for a number of years now. In 2013 flash sales and deal alerts may also be one of the key ways to secure the best deal. These give you a few days to buy but several months to travel – so sign up to key players within the industry. The airlines are especially good in communicating these via deal alert newsletters as well as well as online travel agencies (OTAs) such as SouthAfrica.to and Groupon. This is very much a case of you snooze, you lose.

Opaque booking is increasing in popularity as it continues to offer you the best deal when it comes to hotel and car-hire – offering the lowest price but it does means you cannot have your heart set on any specific hotel as the supplier is only revealed at the end of the sale. The terms and conditions are absolutely essential though – if it doesn’t say included, you should expect to pay for it.

Cutting out the middleman

Travel suppliers will also be on a mission to draw you directly to their websites though, airlines in particular. Locally Kulula has revamped it website to allow you to do more than just purchase airline tickets. Internationally, some airlines appear to be ring-fencing the up sell by making sure customers receive less frequent-flier miles if you buy through an online travel agency instead of their own website. Whether this is fair or not has yet to be decided.

Mobile vs Desktop pricing

The smart phone and tablets have been big game changers in the way we research and plan our trips and travel suppliers agree that mobile has increased customer activity. Expedia was instrumental in launching one of the biggest trends - exclusive mobile deals. The industry still seems undecided on whether or not you should price differently on mobile and desktop – accessibility and usage will ultimately decide this end game.

Plastic or elastic payments
Some suppliers will try to wean you away from using your credit card that has them paying as much as 4 percent. Low-fee or no-fee debit cards or other payment options such as PayPal could see an increase in "cash discounts" offers. Credit cards do however offer benefits when booking with airlines or hotel chains linked to frequent flyer programmes – causing a bit of conflict but one thing is for sure, moving forward suppliers will need to provide a full range of payment options that provide adaptability to Passbook and ultimately make your life easier.

The ‘nonline’ traveller

The multi-tasking, multi-screen traveller has come of age. EyeforTravel reports that Google’s managing director of advertising and marketing travel sector Rob Torres says 2012 was the first year of ‘nonline travel’.  He believes you are the smartest traveller he has ever seen – driving the digital revolution and no longer seeing a line between online and offline as you integrate every stage of your travel from dreaming, researching, booking, experiencing and sharing.

For Google, travel suppliers and OTAs, and travellers will continue to make connections online that could previously only have occurred offline. More and more information that is important in making travel booking decisions - detailed photos, information about fees, coupons, information about amenities, narrated reviews now need to be online in order for travel suppliers and OTAs to stay competitive. “In short, offline information will be the new set of table stakes for the industry,” says Torres.

Gadgets and Gizmos

We will be turning to the portable concierge in our pockets or bags more and more when it comes to booking excursion trips, restaurant reservations, flight changes and so on. Expect an influx of mapping technology, video and easy-to-use mobile websites and apps to accommodate this.

Airbus recently revealed the 9 000kg of potatoes it took to get the groundbreaking data required to allow you to use your laptops, tablets and such when in the sky. Mango is currently the only local airline that offers the service. As the review process to determine whether use of these devices impairs a plane's navigation and communications systems continues you might not have to wait until you reach cruising altitude to break out the gear.  Take a look at this useful BusinessTraveller wi-fi Chart to see which airline offers the service.

Hitting cruise control

Everybody wants to go cruising it seems and the trend will continue in 2013.  Mass-market cruise liners are expected to follow the airlines’ lead as they unbundle services previously included in the original cost in order to show you the lowest entry price. It makes sense to keep an eye on all additional costs. Read and re-read the fine print is all we can say. With that being said it, do not overlook the more up-market cruise liners who will stick to the one-price model. While they may appear more expensive, it can’t hurt to do the math on popular cruise trips

Destinations to love or lose?

The Arab spring and continuing global economic pressures ‘removed’ a few popular spot off the travel radar. If things continue along this vein you might want to set your aspirations on destinations other than Greece, Egypt, Portugal, Jordan, Spain, Turkey and southern Thailand. For the brave few or those with short purse strings – the alternative is to make the most of great deals offered by countries suffering from a tourism knock. Trends show travel to the US and UK will continue to plateau while Northern Europe (Benelux) and the Nordic appear more attractive. BRICS countries will continue to see growth though.

All in all - unless the price of oil drops far below what anyone thinks it will, expect to pay a bit more if you are planning to travel in 2013. Cruise lines, hotels, and rental-car companies will all feel the pressure on their prices, with little chance of overall reductions. But with careful planning there is no need to sit on the sidelines.

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Read more on:    flights  |  travel south africa  |  travel international  |  aviation

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