Our travel forecast for 2018: RVs, iceberg watching and boozy bed-and-breakfasts

Hotels and home-rentals will do battle; RVs will be all the rage; everyone will have their own personal paparazzo—2018 looks to be a compelling time for travel. Here, our editors reveal next year’s top 18 travel trends. 

WORDS By Bill Kearney, Derrik J. Lang, Jess Swanson, Eric Newill, Fred Gonzalez,
December 2017

Hotels and home-shares Duke it out

Hotel chains are going after home-sharing in 2018, with new concepts and partnerships they hope can lure the Airbnb crowd. Hilton Worldwide is launching a new urban micro-brand—or a “hostel on steroids.” Rooms are expected to be small, inexpensive and interconnected. Hyatt has also invested in Airbnb rival Oasis, while One Fine Stay has been acquired by French hotel giant AccorHotels—both offer high-end services and amenities. Airbnb has counter-punched with a new range of curated travel experiences—sunset kayaking, sushi-making classes—and is set to launch Airbnb Lux after acquiring Montreal-based Luxury Retreats, with amenities and concierge service to go with their 4,000 fancy properties.

Iceberg watching becomes a thing

A record 46,000 travelers are expected to visit Antarctica in 2018­—and not only to check out those adorable penguins. In early July, a trillion-ton block of ice the size of Delaware broke away from the Larsen C ice shelf, and is now floating in the Weddell Sea. Over time, this massive iceberg will break into smaller ones, further enhancing a spectacle that is already sparking a surge in iceberg-watching cruises, like those by Ponant, which uses advanced sonar for tracking and methods of keeping the ship in the perfect position without dropping anchor, so as not to disturb the ocean floor.

RVs aren’t just for grandad

Recreational vehicles used to be as fashionable as sandals and socks. That’s all changed, as millennials find their inner nomads—Instagram feeds such as van.crush (117,000 followers) or vanlifers (245,000 followers) give a sense of the cool factor. Retro campervan rentals, via companies such as Vintage Safari Wagons, will ride the revival next year, as nostalgic travelers don’t necessarily want to drop thousands on a rig they’ll only use a few times a year. On the luxe end, companies like Bahn Camper Works will offer slick bespoke truck-camper rigs with outdoor showers and high-end interiors, while Outside Van will turn Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans into camping beasts.  

In-room role playing

“Immersion” used to mean a hot soak in a hotel tub. These days, it describes the kind of thematic overload you’ll find in the Ames Boston’s new Bobby Orr suite—named after the Bruins player—which has a faux ice rink floor, a scoreboard and stadium seats. The Watergate Hotel in D.C. just unveiled its Scandal Room 214 (above), in which Richard M. Nixon’s merry pair of burglars holed up in 1972—fixtures include a cassette player and binoculars. Next year, Jamaica’s GoldenEye Hotel marks the 110th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth; the James Bond creator lived in one of the villas here, which still contains such original items as his desk. Amateur Jedis, meanwhile, will have to wait a little longer to fulfill their fantasies—Disney’s Star Wars hotel in Orlando isn’t due to open until 2019. 

Nordic Cuisine Goes Global

Ikea food courts and Swedish meatballs notwithstanding, Scandinavian cuisine is among the most innovative and delicious on the planet, and the planet is finally showing some respect. Last year, the Great Northern Food Hall, with five pavilions serving regional fare like grød porridges, opened in New York City. Nordic-inspired eatery Jöro opened last year in Sheffield, England, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand designation. In Sydney, new Scandi-Asian fusion restaurant Sven-San prepares lobster Skagen toast. And 30 years after its New York debut, Aquavit has opened outposts in Tokyo and London, the latter of which won its first Michelin star for a menu that includes venison tartare with wild berries—oh, and Swedish meatballs.

Booze & Breakfast Hotels

The term “house-made”—familiar to hotel diners—is now spreading to hotel bars. Billed as “the world’s first craft beer hotel,” the DogHouse—created by Scotland-based BrewDog brewery—is set to open in Columbus, Ohio, next summer. Amenities include house-brewed IPA on tap in guest rooms and spa treatments with hop oils. The Tarnished Truth Distilling Company, meanwhile, is making bourbon and rye at the newly restored Cavalier hotel in Virginia Beach. And in London, the Distillery hotel lives up to its name with house-made gins and vodkas; guests are also invited to create their own spirits (with the help of Ginstructors) in a basement facility (the Ginstitute) before retiring to rooms above bustling Portobello Road.

Personal Paparazzi

It’s not just awkward arm angles and double chins threatening the selfie movement—the list of landmarks banning selfie sticks grows daily. Following a recent Instagram obsession with “plandids” (a photo planned to appear candid), travelers are elevating their filtered, not-so-random shots by hiring personal photographers. At the forefront of this trend is Miami-based Shoot My Travel, which connects travelers with photographers in 230 destinations. The service is intended to create a spontaneous feel, as if you’re taking on-the-go pics with a buddy—even if that buddy’s shots do have unusually good composition. One thing is clear: Business is booming. “We started selling one shoot a month,” says co-founder Valerie Lopez. “Two years later, we’re selling 500 and only keep growing!” 

Vacation Planning Gets Outsourced 

As destinations scramble for a slice of the multitrillion-dollar travel industry, deciding where to go is becoming complicated. An astrology company uses star signs to help people make up their minds—Berlin for adventurous Geminis, Kyoto for finicky Virgos. Meanwhile, travel agents are ditching white-sand posters in favor of virtual reality apps, which provide undecideds with immersive tastes of everything from roller coasters to resorts to entire regions. And if all that fails, there are newfangled variations on the old finger-on-the-globe thing, ranging from sites like Travel Spin, which randomly generates destinations, to Pack Up + Go, which will plan an entire trip for you but not tell you where you are going.   

Lima becomes a culinary capital

When it comes to food, New York, London and Paris get most of the love. In 2018, make room for Lima, as Peru’s capital fully establishes itself as a bona fide dining destination. Lima ranked highest on this year’s Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list thanks to spots such as Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Maido and Virgilio Martínez’s Central. Next year, Martínez is expected to open new concept Mil beside Incan ruins on the outskirts of Cusco in the Andes, taking the country’s cuisine to even greater heights.

Everyone’s a curator

Hotels have always sought to acquire stuff to hang on the walls, but it’s getting to the point where even the business centers look like The Met. The Hotel Lungarno in Florence recently beefed up its 450-plus art collection, which includes works by Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. In Dublin, the Merrion Hotel has started offering audio tours of what is said to be the largest private collection of 19th- and 20th-century art in Ireland. And while New York’s Surrey Hotel has long set the standard for edgy hotel art, it is facing stiff competition from London. The wall-to-wall collection at the new Mandrake Hotel (above) includes work from famed surrealist sculptor Bushra Fakhoury, the mother of owner Rami Fustok. Its artist-in-residence events kicked off in October with tattoo artist Mark Mahoney setting up a temporary parlor near reception.

Motor City is revving up

Detroit continues its comeback in 2018. The 100-room boutique Detroit Foundation Hotel (above) opened last spring inside a former fire station, and the Gothic GAR Building, built as a club for former Union soldiers in 1898, now houses a pair of fashionable restaurants, an event space and a digital company. Concerts and sporting events, meanwhile, have a new downtown home at Little Caesars Arena, which connects to surrounding commercial buildings with a clear roof. And Harmonie Park, in an area once riddled with crime, is now a downtown hot spot for live music surrounded by swanky dining destinations.

Train travel goes glam

This year saw a proliferation of posh railway lines with amenities rivaling those of high-end hotels. For 2018, trains up the luxe even more: Rides on Japan’s new Suite Shiki-shima—with cypress wood bathtubs and a menu from Michelin-starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura—have sold out a year in advance; Pritzker Prize-winning architect Kazuyo Sejima will unveil an “invisible” train that blends with the landscape via a mirrored skin, much like the one she used for The Louvre Lens museum in France; and Golden Eagle Luxury Trains will launch the Grand Alpine Express from Budapest to Venice by way of the Swiss Alps and Lake Como.

Star watching gets a whole lot easier

It’s always a thrill to spot a celebrity, and various hotels are expanding on that idea with starry programs. Sports enthusiasts will have a field day at Miami’s JW Marriott next summer, as Dwyane Wade leads a “basketball camp” on the hotel’s NBA-approved court. Golf legend Annika Sörenstam—who has more wins than any other female player—regularly appears at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe to lead a golf clinic. And the Wynn Las Vegas will offer meet-and-greets with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty—the Swamp Ultimate Package allows guests access during concert sound check and a tour of his guitar collection.

Old is the new new

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, luxury hotel construction in Japan is at an 18-year-high, with more than 10 hotels slated to open in the next few years. These new properties are ushering in a shift of aesthetics, with Marriott International leading the way. Where Western-style design once set the bar for luxury, the latest building boom favors traditional elements: outdoor onsens rather than swimming pools and tatami mats instead of plush carpets. Meanwhile, fourth-generation innkeeper and Hoshino Resorts CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino has expanded his family’s brand of opulent, traditional ryokans from one property to 37 resorts in the past two decades, and recently opened their first locations outside Japan with the Hoshinoya Bali and the Hotel Kia Ora Resort in Tahiti.

Events get splashier

As cities get more crowded, the leisure industry is taking to the high seas! And rivers! And lakes! Norwegian engineers are currently building the Brova Pearl—a ring-shaped, moveable floating resort. In the U.S., Lake Tahoe skateboarders can attempt to injure themselves on new waterborne trick ramps. Singapore’s Float at Marina Bay is the world’s largest floating sports stadium, while Bregenz, Austria, will host a concert series next summer on The Seebühne, a circular floating stage set before a 7,000-seat venue. Finally, New York City has The Floating Food Forest, a barge-turned-park and apple orchard docking on the East River.

Office spaces evolve

Folks will find new ways to blur the lines between travel, home and work. Companies like WeLive, Common and Roam offer a sense of community with open-ended stay options in several cities—travelers get their own room but share communal spaces. Roam is adding San Francisco to its list, and WeLive is expected to have 69 destinations by the end of 2018. The proliferation of co-working outfits like WeWork will reach critical mass next year. The firm is establishing new spots in Lima, Nashville and Austin.

Hospitality goes Howard Hughes

You occasionally hear of celebrities booking blocks of hotel suites, or even entire floors, but L.A.’s new Kim Sing micro-hotel goes a step further: Guests are required to rent out the whole place. A night at the Kim Sing won’t break the bank (rates start just north of a thousand bucks), and for that you get your own courtyard, a conversation pit and (at last!) the right to claim you have something in common with previous renter Katy Perry. Hoteliers will be watching closely—as kooky as all this sounds, it may point to a way for them to muscle in on the Airbnb market, an industry-wide imperative.

Hipsters get cabin fever

As with RVs, cruises have a rep for drawing an older crowd, but in 2018, several lines target younger passengers. French cruise company Ponant is debuting the industry’s first-ever underwater lounge, a slick space featuring two mammoth portholes. Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Edge is full of modernist design cues and has a lounge suspended off the ship’s side. The new U by Uniworld European river cruises, meanwhile, will only be available to passengers age 21 to 45, and will feature activities like silent discos and mixology classes.


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