Travel predictions for 2017
The calendar has turned over into 2017, and with new resolutions also comes new travel trends.
Steve Glenn, with Executive Travel, released his predictions for travel changes that could occur in the coming year.
According to Glenn, 74 percent of his predictions have become a reality over the past 14 years, and on Wednesday, he released Part One of his 60 anticipated changes.
Last year I thought this would happen but when Marriott announced they were purchasing Starwood Hotels (Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton, etc.) it prevented the fee from happening. In 2014 Hilton Hotels started testing charging a $50 cancellation fee for any reservation cancelled after being booked. Marriott did not go along as they did not want to ruffle the feathers of the government officials who they needed to approve their Starwood acquisition. Now that the purchase of Starwood has been finalized “Katy bar the door” as the new $50 cancellation fee will spread like wildfire to all the major hotel chains in 2017 as they are being hammered by last minute hotel web sites who take existing reservations and move them to lower priced hotels a few days before arrival. The hotels think the $50 will drastically prohibit last minute rebooking from happening.
For the last four years I have been predicting this will happened and I have been way ahead of my time. But there is too much money on the table for the airlines to keep ignoring this golden egg. Airlines pay anywhere from 2-4% of the cost of your airline ticket to credit card companies when you charge your airline ticket to a credit card. Charging a small fee to use your credit card is actually being done now in Europe by some airlines. During the last four years the airlines have been printing money but things are changing fast with the airlines. Their profits are about to fall off a cliff. They are spending like drunken sailors. Airlines have been giving 30% pay raises, buying billions of dollars of new planes and now their fuel prices have almost doubled in the last year. Credit card fees are the next big pot of gold the airlines can attack to move profits back in a positive direction.
Low-fare European airlines are finally getting approval to fly to the U.S. and they plan to bring with them low airfare prices ($69 to $99 one way) that will shock Americans into flying to Europe in 2017. Norwegian Airlines is about to add 4 more planes to their fleet in April and spread the good news across America with airfares so cheap that the cost of the taxi cab to the airport will cost more than the price of the ticket for many New Yorkers and those in major airline hubs around the country.
Over the past four years the former low-cost airline has dramatically raised their fares. They hide this fact from consumers as they do not allow their airfares to be listed on other airfare comparison sites. Every time I compared their airfare prices in 2016 with those of American, Delta and United one if not all three offered lower fares than Southwest. In 2017 your “bags fly free” on Southwest but as a trade off you will often pay a much higher price for your airline ticket.
The mega purchase in 2016 by Marriott of Starwood Hotels (St. Regis, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotels, Le Meridian, etc) had left Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) frequent stay members scared to death they would be a casualty of this mega merger. Marriott quickly allayed many fears when they announced that SPG points would be worth 3X of every Marriott point. It appears that Marriot is planning to put on a full court press in 2017 to try to make sure all former SPG members love the new Marriot Rewards program.
The airlines continue to make major changes to their frequent flyer programs. So much so that for over 80% of the flyers who do not fly enough to gain preferred status will find belonging to an airline’s frequent flyer program is probably worthless. The airlines no longer award points based on miles flown but on how much you paid for your ticket. For the average person this means you will have to take almost twice as many flights to earn a freebie. If you fly twice a year it could take you 10 years to earn a free ticket. The only way most people will earn enough miles for a free ticket is if they have a credit card that offers 2X points for the groceries and gas they charge.
This is the year you will want to travel to Europe. The price of the Euro has fallen almost 34% from its high in 2008 and now Americans can take advantage of some of the best deals of their lifetime when traveling to Europe in 2017. Add to the low Euro the great airfare deals coming our way and you better start packing for the deals of the decade.
In 2017 I will do what was heretofore impossible. I will take a flight for a business trip and leave my wallet, cash and credit cards at home. With my iPhone and Apple Pay I can pay for my gasoline, buy a sandwich at Subway or McDonalds, buy medicine at Walgreens and clothing at JC Penney. I can also have Uber pick me up and drop me off at the airport. Using a travel company like Executive Travel to prepay for my airline tickets and hotel lodging before I leave town all I need to take with me is my smart phone (iPhone) and a driver’s license to get through airport security. Finally, technology makes my life easier! P.S. Just don’t lose your iPhone!
2017 will be the year that the hotel industry finally stops beating the dead horse by charging for in room Wi-Fi. Just by signing up for a hotels frequent guest program today allows for free Wi-Fi at most hotels. I think Marriott is trying to build a positive vibe with all their new members they acquired from Starwood Hotels and will be one of the key domino’s to fall to offer free Wi-Fi.
The Internal Revenue Service has decreased the allowable vehicle reimbursement rate for business travel from 54 cents in 2016 to 53.5 cents in 2017. This is a drop of 4 cents per mile since 2015. This is the first time in many years that the allowable vehicle reimbursement rate for business travel has actually gone down for two consecutive years.
Plastic Hotel key cards will soon go the way of the paper airline ticket as many hotel chains have started offering keyless entry using your smart phone. Now what started as a trickle is turning into a full tsunami. Using your smart phone to unlock your hotel room is the next big thing in the hotel industry. The reason that all the hotels want to move rapidly to replace the old plastic key cards with wireless Bluetooth using your smartphone is that this forces the travelers to download the hotel app on to their smart phone. Once you have downloaded their app they have many more ways to “touch” you in 2017.
Many people have been lulled to sleep thinking that the Zika virus has come and gone. Not so fast my friends. This virus still has massive negative affects on anyone who is pregnant or even childbearing age. I think in 2017 anyone traveling to a Zika infested zone (most all of the Caribbean, Central and South America) will be given a disclosure statement outlining the risk of this mosquito born disease. Keep in mind that this disease can be sexually transmitted so even a college male on spring break to the Caribbean can infect his girlfriend when he returns.
Travelers in 2016 actually saw airfares decline during the year and we will actually continue to see the airfares slowly continue to decline again in 2017. However, airfares today make up only about 75% of the cost of your travel as airlines will “get you” with a litany of new fees for everything from seat assignments to baggage fees. So in 2017 that $300 airfare you buy will be added to the $100 in fees you pay for your bags, seats, and dozens of other fees. Bottom line is that the total cost you pay to fly will be higher in 2017.
In 2017 most international airlines will put the finishing touches to complete installation or upgrading of in-flight internet service on international flights. This will be one of the best service enhancements of the decade for international business travelers as it will allow those on 8-15 hour flights to be able to work and play on their computer using the internet. I think some crafty travelers will also figure out ways to use it to make calls during flight using Skype, WhatsApp and other internet calling Apps.
For a $100 fee a traveler can purchase a five year pass that puts you in the express lane when re-entering the U.S. and clearing immigration. This pass can save you as much as 60 minutes of waiting in line to get through immigration and customs. It also can be used as a TSA pre-check card for express lines when clearing the security check-points at U.S. airports. On a recent trip returning from Europe it took me 60 seconds to clear immigration while over 300 people stood in line for hours without a Global Entry Pass. It’s the best $100 you will spend if you fly more than twice a year domestically or once internationally.