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2023 Travel Year in Review and Looking Ahead to 2024

Travel Disrupted: Weather and Natural Disasters
Travel Disrupted: Weather and Natural Disasters

As the calendar pages turned from January to December in 2023, travelers around the globe found themselves grappling with an array of challenges caused by weather and natural disasters. From unseasonal storms and extreme temperatures to volcanoes and wildfires, the year brought forth a variety of environmental patterns that impacted travel plans, safety, and overall experiences. Here we take a look at five of the top weather and natural disaster news trends of 2023:

  1. Unpredictable Storms: The year 2023 witnessed a surge in unpredictable storms, disrupting air travel on a global scale. In the Pacific region, an unanticipated typhoon season caused major disruptions to flights connecting Asia and Oceania. Airlines struggled to reroute passengers, and airports faced congestion as they implemented safety measures to ride out the storm.
  2. Extreme Temperatures: Unprecedented temperature extremes forced locals and tourists alike to adapt to unfamiliar climates. In Europe, a summer heatwave shattered temperature records, forcing tourists in popular destinations like Rome and Barcelona to contend with temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit, typically unheard of in the region.
  3. Wildfires: Those extreme temperatures set the stage for wildfires to become a prevalent issue this year. Travel disruptions were the least of the worries as hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and wildlife lost vast swaths of habitat, not to mention the lives of both people and wildlife that were lost. In the western U.S., wildfires prompted the closure of iconic national parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone. In Hawaii, a destination not typically fraught with wildfires, the island of Maui experienced flames that leveled an entire town and cost the lives of nearly 100 people. And record-shattering wildfires raged across much of Canada, from Quebec in the East to British Columbia in the west. Areas not impacted by the fires themselves were choked by poor air quality, even down into the United States below, causing many to pull out their trusty COVID masks and change travel plans.
  4. Floods: Torrential rains and widespread flooding in some areas disrupted ground transportation networks, making roads impassable and causing delays in bus and train services. In Southeast Asia, monsoon rains led to severe flooding in low-lying regions, impacting the reliability of transportation systems. Travelers had to navigate alternative routes, sometimes facing detours and extended journey times.
  5. Volcanoes: Volcanic activity made the news quite a bit this year, but volcanic activity is actually quite common, with 72 confirmed eruptions from 69 different volcanoes around the world this year alone, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program. In Iceland, a destination that has grown considerably in popularity over the last few years, a volcano that had been threatening to erupt for weeks, finally erupted on December 18, but according to visiticeland.com, "The eruption does not pose immediate threat to people and air traffic to and from Iceland is operating normally."

RELATED: Travel Insurance Guide: Travel Insurance and Bad Weather

Workers Strike Back
Workers Strike Back

Throughout 2023, worker strikes around the world impacted travel. Europe experienced a series of strikes that significantly impacted travel plans for tourists and locals alike. Transport strikes, particularly in major cities, disrupted public transportation services, including buses, trains, and subways. For example, labor strikes in Paris paralyzed the city's metro system, leaving travelers scrambling to find alternative means of transportation. Airport personnel strikes in key European hubs, such as Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, resulted in canceled flights and long delays, causing frustration for travelers navigating the already complex web of international connections.

The strikes in Europe had ripple effects that extended beyond transportation. Workers in the hospitality industry, including hotel staff and restaurant employees, participated in strikes, impacting the overall travel experience. Tourist attractions faced closures or reduced services due to strikes by cultural institution staff. These disruptions highlighted the interconnectedness of various sectors in the travel industry and underscored the importance of staying informed about local labor conditions when planning trips. Travelers were forced to adapt their itineraries on short notice, emphasizing the need for travel insurance in the face of unforeseen events that can influence the travel landscape.

Will travel insurance help if a strike impacts my travel plans?
It can, if you have the right type of plan. It's important to highlight that given the predictable nature of these strikes, opting for a travel insurance policy such as Safe Travels Voyager, which offers optional Cancel for Any Reason and Interrupt for Any Reason coverage, is the most reliable choice for safeguarding your trip. A basic travel insurance plan lacking these optional features is unlikely to provide coverage in the event of trip cancellations, delays, or interruptions caused by strikes.

Air Travel Made More Transparent
Air Travel Made More Transparent

This year saw the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg call upon airlines to “improve their customer service commitments to passengers, which all have done to varying degrees.” Several Airline Customer Service Dashboards were created to bring transparency to what airlines are doing – and not doing – to help consumers.

One such dashboard, the Family Seating Dashboard, indicates which U.S. airlines do and do not have a commitment for “fee-free family seating.” This helps families discern which airlines are committed to parents sitting with their children aged 13 or younger without additional fees or last-minute scrambling. Hint: Alaska, American, Frontier, and JetBlue all do, while Allegiant, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, Spirit, and United do not. Secretary Buttigieg also proposed to Congress a requirement that airlines must provide fee-free family seating.

Additional dashboards concern Controllable Airline Cancellations and Delays. These dashboards offer passengers a glimpse into what each airline provides “to mitigate passenger inconveniences when the cause of a cancellation or delay was due to circumstances within the airline’s control." What, you may ask, is a controllable delay or cancellation? Essentially, it is a delay or cancellation caused by the airline, such as maintenance or crew problems; cabin cleaning; baggage loading; and fueling, according to the dashboard.

If you do experience delays or cancellations for which the airline does not offer compensation, travel insurance can help.

Learn more and get a quick trip cancellation travel insurance quote.

Direct Flights Soar in 2023
Direct Flights Soar in 2023

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, 2023 brought an array of exciting new direct flight options for travelers around the globe. Airlines are expanding their networks, connecting previously distant destinations, and enhancing the overall travel experience. Take a look at some of the noteworthy direct flight options introduced in 2023 here.

One of the most anticipated developments that came in 2023 was the introduction of new direct flights that bridge continents. For instance, airlines are now offering non-stop routes between major cities in North America and Asia, cutting down travel time significantly and providing passengers with a direct link between these two dynamic regions.

In response to the increasing importance of technology hubs around the world, airlines are establishing direct flights to connect major tech cities. Silicon Valley, for example, is now directly linked with other global tech hotspots, fostering collaboration, and facilitating business travel for professionals throughout the industry.

For those seeking a touch of luxury in their travels, 2023 has seen the introduction of exclusive direct flights catering to high-end clientele. These flights offer premium services, personalized experiences, and amenities that redefined the concept of luxury travel. Passengers can now reach their destination in style and comfort without the hassle of layovers. Emirates is always one of the top ranked airlines for luxury travel each year with 5-star service starting before you even step foot on the airplane.

Direct flights are not limited to major cities; airlines are also unveiling routes to lesser-known destinations, uncovering hidden gems that were previously overshadowed by more popular tourist spots. Travelers can now explore these off-the-beaten-path locations with ease, opening new opportunities for cultural exchange and discovery.

While direct flights make it easier for the traveler, there can still be room for error and delay with these flights as well. A trip cancellation/interruption travel insurance plan will always be your safest bet when wanting to protect your upcoming trip, no matter how many legs there may be. These plans provide pre-departure benefits in case you must cancel your trip before you have the chance to take it, and post-departure benefits such as travel delay, trip interruption, and emergency medical expenses to protect you during your travels.

2023 was undoubtedly a milestone year for the aviation industry, with the introduction of diverse and innovative direct flight options. Whether it's connecting major global hubs, offering luxury travel experiences, or tripling the number of direct flight options, these developments are reshaping the way we travel. As airlines continue to expand their networks, passengers can look forward to a future where the world is more accessible than ever before.

What are the travel trends and the best places to go in 2024?
What are the travel trends and the best places to go in 2024?

Expedia Group's travel predictions for 2024 highlight emerging trends as travelers evolve post-pandemic. Set-jetting, the act of visiting iconic film and TV filming locations, is expected to surge, with destinations like Thailand, Paris, and Malta becoming popular choices for fans of shows like 'The White Lotus' and 'Emily in Paris.' Tour tourism, combining vacations with live music experiences, is on the rise as world tours make a post-pandemic return, attracting superfans seeking unique travel experiences.

Another trend, dubbed "Destination Dupes," anticipates travelers seeking more affordable and less crowded alternatives to famous destinations. This includes choosing places like Paros over Santorini, Perth instead of Sydney, and Taipei in lieu of Seoul. "Dry tripping" reflects a growing interest in low to no-alcohol holidays, with over 40 percent of surveyed respondents expressing a likelihood to book detox trips. The trend toward experiential stays continues with a shift toward hotels offering specific vibes, such as retro, quirky, or modern, and an increase in unconventional occasions for travel, like "puppymoons" or "first-date-iversaries." Outdoor amenities, generative AI travel aids, and unique occasions like celebrating milestones or promotions are among the factors shaping travel plans for 2024.

National Geographic's Cool List for 2024 highlights 30 exciting destinations around the world, offering a diverse range of experiences for travelers. Europe dominates the list with 13 entries, including Pompeii in Italy, and an unexpected contender, Wales. The latter is predicted to become a popular travel destination due to its centuries-old whisky tradition, which has undergone a renaissance, drawing attention to distilleries in Cardigan Bay and Penryn.

Beyond Europe, the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico captures attention for its historical significance as the site where the meteor that wiped out dinosaurs landed. Mérida, the state's largest city, also earns a spot, aligning with Booking.com's trend of the region as a noteworthy destination. Sierra Leone makes the list with increased accessibility thanks to a new airport, attracting nature enthusiasts with its stunning beaches, mountains, and native chimpanzees. Other notable destinations include Sikkim in India, offering breathtaking views of the Himalayas, and Victoria in Australia, known for its thermal hot springs accessible via a new road trip. National Geographic's Cool List thus serves as a diverse guide for travelers seeking unique and intriguing experiences in 2024.

Cruise Wave Season 2024
Cruise Wave Season 2024

As 2024 approaches, so does Wave Season. If you aren’t familiar with wave season – this writer wasn’t until working in travel insurance – it happens every year from January – March, and it is when cruise lines offer some of their biggest discounts of the year. 2023 saw cruises come back in a major way, and the trend will continue into the new year. According to Travel Market Report, European destinations, popular in 2023, continue to dominate, with a rising interest in European river cruises. Additional noteworthy destinations include Alaska, where cruise tours for 2024 are in high demand. Far-flung destinations are also gaining traction, with travelers seeking unique experiences, such as polar cruises.

In terms of cruise preferences, there's a growing interest in transitioning from mainstream to premium or luxury cruises. Many travelers are exploring longer cruise durations, as well, driven partly by a desire for more in-depth exploration of destinations. The booking window is expanding, with travelers planning well in advance, even into 2025. And wave season offers the perfect opportunity to book that cruise for first time cruisers and experienced cruise afficionados alike. So, once you make it through the holiday craziness, what cruise will you take to unwind?

Once you get your wave season cruise bargain, don’t forget to add cruise insurance to protect your investment and cover you for unforeseen events, travel delays, and more.

RELATED: Seven Things to Know About Cruise Insurance

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Hispanic Heritage Month
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