Since travelindependent launched a lot has changed...
The world moves pretty fast with technology especially driving huge changes in the way we travel and our experience of it. From 2000 when the first notes for travelindepedenent.info were drafted and 2002 when it went live, to the last updates a few days ago, these are the major trends observed in the world of travel driving how we all do and experience it:
Well to be fair how easy it is to get a visa does depend on what passport you have, but if it is issued by a main developed nation (Japan, Australia, Canada, USA or a EU country) life is getting easier. Many of the former communist bloc states now have dropped visa [in advance] requirements (for many) – Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to name a few. And many other countries are moving to e-visas to save time on arrival and/or hassle in getting to embassies. This is happening mainly in the most frequently visited regions to boast tourism; sadly the philosophy has not come to Russia and West Africa. Given all this visa costs (or reciprocity fees) are not getting any cheaper.
In historic terms the number of conflicts and problems globally has never been lower and travel to almost all of
the world's most popular destinations has never been easier and safer.
Yet as buildings collapsed and wars started in the Middle East coupled with the rise and rise of twenty-four hour media
and sound bite news, you could be forgiven for thinking stepping anywhere in the Muslim/Arab world
(or even on an airplane) would see you risking your life.
Not to mention the risk from (you name it) Ebola, bird flu, ISIS, swine flu or some other epidemic.
Travel or indeed anything in life is not risk free, but it is simple to cut the risk to a very small factor (in probability terms). It is worth remembering that road traffic accidents are still the biggest global killer - way ahead of all the scary things the media feeds your mind.
The great wealth created in India and China in the last ten years and
the rise and rise of its middle class has unleashed a wave of new
travellers. This wave is slow moving from domestic travel to regional and inter-continental. The strength of the domestic
currency does have an effect on numbers. Chinese travellers (apart from
London and Paris shopping trips) typically stay close to home with Taiwan,
Macau and Hong Kong being the favourites, but now are found as backpackers in South East Asia
(were they are gaining visa free access).
Indians aspire to Europe and Dubai or Singapore, but just like the Chinese (and Russians) every year you see more and more adding to the numbers in tourist/traveller hotspots globally. The numbers will only grow putting pressure on resources. Those with any doubts of the impact of this should have a go at travelling in China during Lunar New Year or stop by some of the Swiss mountain locations used in Bollywood movies in Switzerland during the summer months. Thailand and the [often irresponsible] development of ‘mass’ resorts are ground-zero.
On the ground as a fellow traveller/tourist you will see dramatically increased crowds at key attractions and behaviour that will have you hanging your head in shame of the human race. Although generalisation is a terrible thing, the class (newly rich) of Indians and Chinese travelling for the first time have high expectations and demands on those serving them.
Budget airlines are nothing new in
Europe and North America, but there explosion in Asia and growth in Africa
and South America is (not to mention the easier way we can all book/search
Getting to previously out of the way destination where difficult
long journeys or expensive air fares were the previous barrier is now easy. In
many parts of Asia (as in Europe) it now has becomes cheaper to travel by air.
In India and China internal flights are a huge time saver and
The result: airport capacity under strain, increased delays, regional travel becomes affordable for huge new segments the local population, increased crowds at fly-in destinations/attractions and travellers can save a great deal of time, money and effort jumping from one attraction to another, while perhaps becoming lazier and missing destinations where more effort is required to get to and some of the essence of travel in that it is the journey not the destination that rewards.
Long establish in some
countries such as Israel where the norm is to travel after/before military
service, the notion that travel is a rite of passage that you must do before
college/university or full-time employment has furthered the number of budget
travels on the road and reduced the average age considerably. Most will
gravitate to the ‘safer’ destinations such as Australia or Western Europe
(where costs are often underestimated), the in vogue countries or will join
organised ‘backpacker’ tours. Those with a conscious of not wanting to
waste time travelling or a consideration of how it may look on a resume/CV may
join a volunteer project of which a whole (often for profit) industry has grown
to accommodate (Peace Corps and VSO not such).
To editorialize, it is worth remembering that just because you start work or college/university does not mean you can never again travel or you can't travel if it is not for a long duration - not all travel is equally rewarding or worthwhile.
Long present in developed
countries, budget accommodation in the form of hostels aimed at budget travellers
(often with a focus on fun and partying) have opened up in more and more
parts of the world.
Often set up by expats on the ground or run down hotels
converted. These accommodation options easily found and booked using booking
websites have brought a welcome dependence of quality and have ever
increasing standards. Peer reviews and ratings force greater
Within the developed world hostels are becoming increasingly more sophisticated with sometimes mind-bogglingly high standards. Boutique hostels have opened in several locations and lower cost, smaller – or pod - room hotels (e.g. Tune Inn) are bringing cheaper accommodation to a new generation that would not normally go anywhere near a hostel. As cities get more expensive and the number of budget travellers increase, expect more.
With a gateway to the world of information (a smart phone or laptop/tablet) in most bags of most travellers, having a guide book no longer becomes necessary. The Lonely Planet 'Bible' status is falling away by those who look for an easier, cheap and lighter (those things are pretty heavy to carry around) life. Guidebooks are replaced by Google maps, wikitravel, Trip advisor and recommended as guidance on internet blogs. As great as these are, they cannot replace the detail, background, insight and history a great guide can provide. Moreover, so much of discovering a place is found in sitting around hostels/guesthouses and talking with those on the road, swapping story, asking questions, getting feedback or recommendation. With Wi-Fi more than often on tap it is depressing that you now see groups sitting around - in total silence - looking for answers on the net rather that talking and asking each other!
Although the Covid pandemic killed a lot of travel and there were a few years with few crowds, more and more people want to travel and the world is opening back up fully. At the peak of the pandemic in April 2020, there were still more flights than in the early 1990s. Compared to years past the major global attractions have seen
visitor numbers explode. There are many reasons for this from the reduced
cost of flying and better connections to 'rite of passage' travel,
availability of information and more travellers from developing (mainly
Asian) countries. The world gets smaller ever year and the technology we all
travel with has had a great affect in prompting main activities and images
in our collective minds. We all want to walk the Inca Trial, climb
Kilimanjaro or experience a 'full moon party' (identifying them with ease
from photos) long before we even know where these places exactly are.
A photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa or Forbidden City feeds our travel egos and drives our desires to travel. Yet with more and more travelling and all making bee-lines for the same destinations, - which in many cases are sinking under the footfall - making a much less pleasant experience, damage, advance booking required or in the case where authorities step in to limit numbers, greatly increased costs for admissions and permits to capitalise and force numbers down. In many cases increased popularity has led to better management and more funds to plough into restoration and research. In many others it has led to mayhem and the emergence of extreme narcissism and the worst effect travel can bring.
We get it, it is nice to have somewhere booked before you arrive and to get the 'best' place. So with Internet booking engines you can now do so, and so will everyone else pushing those that are unable or unwilling to pay the sort of fees and agree to the strict terms that booking.com, hostelworld and many other demand out of business. New York or London are very different that small town Nepal or Uganda where there are many accommodation option which are not on a booking engine. Booking engines drive as many customers/visitor away from a destination as to it.
Along with Booking.com and peers came trip advisor. As the 'if it is not in the book, it can't be worthwhile' mentality diminished with the fall in importance of the print guidebook, the notion that something/somewhere must have a good rating/review to be worthwhile mentality has grown. Like popular guidebooks Trip Advisor and any website with peer (other user) reviews there is as much to love as to hate. Founded in 2000 the rise of Trip Advisor has been phenomenal, a listed company (once part of Expedia) it is now worth more than any hotel chain and many airlines. A free guide with plenty of reviews, how can you fault that? With such a high value it is clearly not free and what you see (in terms of information) is selective if the business owners have paid. Likewise review are rarely comparative and there are plenty of removed, edit, bias and plain faux reviews.
Nevertheless the success of internet booking engines and sites
like Trip Advisor plays to the fact - human nature - that we all want
a thumb's up (a rating) from peers before we do anything and if that
can be a rating 'out of ten' or rank order - even better. Only, on the
whole, life can never be this simple/perfect.
Note we are fully aware of the irony that we rank destinations 'out of ten' on this site! Plus the fact that we love it if you book a hotel or hostel through one of the search engines referenced on our where to stay page - since the income keeps the resource going.
When the road gets bumpy, you know you are earning your travel strips; heading somewhere few would make the effort to go.
Giant potholes slowing you down just long enough to take a picture of to show other travellers and your family just
how adventurous you were.
Actually, shitting roads – weather unsealed or tarred and full of potholes – become a lot less adventurous
and a lot more painful and annoying pretty quickly.
For the locals and those bringing goods in or out it also adds a huge cost.
Not long ago getting between even two of Southeast Asia's major attractions (Bangkok and Angkor Wat) or around much or East Africa's safari circuit was bumpy and painful. In the past decade, in large part due to huge Chinese funded road building efforts in Latin America, Asia, but mainly Africa – things have improved greatly. Equally, a period of economic boom in many developing countries went into improved roads.
Finding a terrible, washed out bumpy road is still very easy right across the world (just turn down a rural road), but for those who travelled ten years ago you won't believe just how much major roads in the developing world and especially some in the poorest parts of Africa, China and Southeast Asia have improved.
It is easy to forget ten/fifteen years back there were few cell phone and no Wi-Fi.
You had to hunt down and Internet cafe and often on a painfully slow connection log-on to a webmail account.
Today Internet cafe still exist, but there are fewer and
fewer of them - most converting to places where locals can touch up resumes/CVs or play
the latest computer game at any hour.
If you need to let someone know where you are, send an SMS, if you need to get your e-mails or
look something up by a local SIM
card or find a Wi-Fi connection (most cafes and backpacker targeted accommodation have one).
It is all very easy and having things like a translator or maps on your phone is super useful. Long may it continue and get faster and faster.
My girlfriend told me sex when travelling was so much better - that was a hell of a postcard to get!