In 2018, more than ever, we were travelling for the ‘gram.
More than one billion of us took to Instagram to pose and post everything from where we were raising a glass to our pedicured toes on the beach.
The site, created in 2010, isn’t just where we put photos of our fabulous vacations, it is how we make decisions on where to go.
“I feel that Instagram has given me itchy feet!” says Vancouver-based video producer, director and photographer Amanda Palmer. “It’s made me want to #getoutside and travel as much as possible. I get excited looking through my feed at all of these beautiful places, but if I’m being honest with myself, there’s also a bit of jealousy tucked in there. It’s a love-hate relationship.”
The trouble is some of those photos are of places that don’t actually exist.
“2018 ushered in a rise in overly staged travel photos,” says award-winning Stockholm-based author and travel photographer Lola Akinmade Akerstrom.
Fittingly, it’s the Instagram page @insta_repeat that has drawn attention to the fact that photos are beginning to look alike as a result.
“There are photos out there that are so ridiculously fake, it makes me laugh,” Palmer says. “I assume that people can see through the overly edited images, but I’m not always so sure.”
There has been an outcry against Instagram from destinations as well, as visitors in search of picture perfection create overtourism nightmares and destruction of some of the very places they’ve come to see. Case in point: This summer a Hamilton sunflower garden was shut down when amateur photographers carrying suitcases full of clothing changes became overwhelming to locals.
It can also be dangerous.
“I’ve seen people try to hike in flip-flops and dress shoes,” Palmer says.
In recent months, three popular social media influencers died after slipping at Shannon Falls in British Columbia and two others fell 240 metres to their deaths in Yosemite National Park.
Beyond concerns about safety, always looking for the next photo opportunity means we’re often missing out. “The main advantage [of Instagram] is that it’s inspiring more people to get out there and see the world,” Akinmade Akerstrom says. “The main irony is that they may end up not seeing as much of the world with their backs turned towards it.”
Other travel trends in 2018
Love-hate relationship with Trump’s America: Canadians have raged against “Muslim bans” and comments about shoe “smuggling” from U.S. President Donald Trump, but it didn’t stop us from visiting. While a “Trump Slump” or decline in travel to the United States in protest of the President took hold in other countries, Canadian travel to the U.S. is up.
Families first: Air Canada and WestJet both took steps to seat parents with their minor children on flights. The move is being lauded by family travel advocates especially since, despite Congress passing a law in 2016 requiring it, missing U.S. Transportation department regulations have stalled the process south of the border.
Cheap flights: Flair took over NewLeaf in 2017, but in 2018, it was joined by WestJet-owned Swoop in turning up the heat in the ultra-low cost carrier space. Watch for Jetlines (2020) and Norwegian Air (2019) to add to the space focused on cheaper flights and less frills.
Baggage woes: It cost you more to check a bag in 2018. Both Air Canada and WestJet raised baggage fees for some fare classes this year. Pegged as a means of offsetting fuel costs, the increased rates affected flights across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico.
Haves and have-nots: The disparity between offerings in the front and back of the plane grew too. Cotton pyjamas (Qatar Airways), gel pillows (United), baked-on-board cookies (Air Canada) and more, have made first and business class passengers feel even more at home. In the back, reduced snack options and the pleasure of feeling a knee in your back for most of your flight continues.
Passenger rights: In May, the federal government passed Bill C-49 requiring the Canadian Transportation Agency to introduce regulations to help Canadian travellers address issues such as overbooking, lost baggage and flight delays. Cross-Canada consultations are complete and last week the CTA released the first draft of a set of recommended regulations. If approved some of those inconveniences could net passengers up to $2,400 in compensation. Canadians have two months to offer input and the final draft will require cabinet approval.
High flying: The legalization of marijuana in Canada introduced a travel first: The legal transportation of the drug on domestic flights. Passengers (over 19) can carry up to 30 grams of cannabis (in carry-on or checked luggage) for personal use.
Caribbean comeback: Hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc on the Caribbean in 2017 and put the 2018 season in jeopardy, but by year end most of the islands hardest hit were making a rapid road to recovery. Most islands are either back to business as normal or expecting to return to full hotel availability in 2019.
Overtourism and climate change concerns: Some destinations faced a new problem in 2018: How to turn travellers away. Overtourism in places lsuch as Peru’s Machu Picchu and cities such as Dubrovnik and Barcelona threaten to damage the landscapes people love. Climate change concerns are also diminishing our ability to continue to enjoy the Arctic, Venice and the Maldives, among others.
Floating cities: 2018 introduced travellers to the biggest ship on the high seas. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas was built with families in mind and boasts new to ship options such as laser tag and an Ultimate Family Suite with a slide in your room. Other ships are set to create a stir in the space: The Celebrity Edge and MSC Seaview both brought bigger ships and innovative family-friendly options to market.