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Here's What's Trending in Travel for 2012

January 9, 2012

Carol Pucci, The Seattle Times, January 8, 2012

I'm not sure I'd pay $15 to pitch a tent in someone's garden. And I don't plan to use Facebook or LinkedIn to pick my seatmate on a flight to Amsterdam. But I'm high on travel to Cuba after spending two weeks there recently, and Myanmar is also at the top of my list.

What's trending in travel for 2012 -- all of the above and more -- may or may not be for you, but it's nice to know the poor economy hasn't dampened the creativity of those whose jobs depend on keeping us moving in new directions.

Here's a look at what's up and coming in the new year:

Sleeping with the chickens: Garden camping is the latest lodging idea out of Britain. JWT, a New York marketing firm specializing in travel trends, predicts it will catch on in other countries.

Similar to the Airbnb concept of renting out spare rooms to travelers, Camp in My Garden ( offers visitors the chance to pitch a tent ($7.50-$15 per person) per night in orchards and backyard gardens from Devon to Cornwall. Some of the owners will do your laundry or throw in the evening meal for a little extra.

Caution: Only the adventuresome need apply. One listing notes that "you'll be sharing the garden with our chickens, but don't worry, they are not fully free-range."

For women only: With more women traveling alone, it's not surprising that JWT reports more hotels will be adding floors for women only. Locally, the Georgian Court in Vancouver, B.C., has 18 rooms on the 10th floor set aside for female guests, and may add more, says general manager Lisa Jackson. The rooms are popular with business travelers, Jackson reports. They appreciate the security and the extras such as curling irons, high-power blow dryers, nail polish and yoga mats.

Room rates: Hotels will experience higher demand than in 2011, and rates will increase, says Clem Bason, of the online ticket seller Hotwire. In the Seattle area, Smith Travel Research forecasts hotel occupancy will be flat in 2012, but average daily rates will rise by 4.5 percent.

Next destinations: Tour companies are selling out trips to Cuba and Myanmar. Both countries are still led by repressive regimes, but they're easier to visit this year due to political changes in Myanmar and an easing of U.S. government restrictions for Americans going to Cuba.

Agents for Travel Leaders report strong interest in Croatia, Vietnam and Panama. Their top picks among U.S. destinations are Las Vegas, Orlando, Maui, Alaska (by cruise ship) and New York.

My take on where you'll find the best values in foreign travel: Eastern Europe, Turkey, Mexico, China and any of the Latin American countries.

Fares and fees: Expect higher airfares, even if fewer people are flying.

"Airlines won't see growth in demand, and may even experience a loss of demand, but will continue to raise ticket prices," predicts Bason.

Ancillary revenue -- money from everything from checked bag fees to sales of premium seats -- nearly doubled to $12.5 billion last year among the major U.S. airlines.

"I think the next move is going to be not so much in introducing new fees as in new methods for managing fees," says Jay Sorensen, CEO of IdeaWorks, an airline-consulting company. Airlines may test out charging varying prices for premium seats or early boarding, depending on the length of the flight.

"Fees will rise and fall with demand," Sorensen says, and more airlines will look at selling annual subscriptions for services, similar to what United offers under its premier baggage plan.

Social seating: Dutch airline KLM will roll out a "meet and seat" service this year that will let you choose seatmates based on Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

The idea is that people with similar interests might want to meet and chat on long flights. Will this fly? Given the other criteria people use for choosing seats -- more legroom, preference for aisle or window, etc. -- I doubt it. What do you think?

Have a question or comment?

Contact Carol Pucci at [email protected].

On Twitter @carolpucci.

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