Thursday 23 January 2020

The 2010s in travel - from the first selfies to the sale of Aer Lingus

From Eyjafjallajökull to Instagram, Pól Ó Conghaile takes a look back on a rollercoaster decade in travel...

It has been a rollercoaster decade for travel
It has been a rollercoaster decade for travel
Titanic Belfast, opened in 2012 and revitalised that part of the city
Close comfort: The Scandinavians have hygge — maybe the Irish version of cosy could be teolaí?
THAT selfie in Pisa. Photo: Deposit
Time travel: Cala St Vicenc in Majorca, which introduced a tourist tax in 2016
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Well, that was fast.

It feels like 10 minutes ago, but back in 2010 Brian Cowen was Taoiseach, Aer Lingus was a State-owned airline and you hadn't twerked, thrown shade or taken a selfie.

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Gin was naff, same-sex marriage wasn't recognised here in Ireland, T2 hadn't opened and nobody paid to select seats on flights.

Ireland was reeling from recession, you still listened to CDs, millennials were about to take over the planet, and 'woke' meant the state of not being asleep.

OK boomer, here's your decade in travel.

1. The Wild Atlantic awakes

Connemara, Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Big Smoke/Fáilte Ireland

When: February 27, 2014

Why: Ireland's Atlantic Coast has been around a while, but it wasn't until 2014 that the first 'Wild Atlantic Way' signs began appearing along the 2,500km stretch between Inishowen and Kinsale. Fair play to Fáilte Ireland's marketeers - the touring route was a game-changer that saw businesses up their game, restaurants revamp their menus and a whole new generation of adventures blast off.

Don't forget: Rebranding was all the rage. 'Ireland's Ancient East' and 'Ireland's Hidden Heartlands' followed, though the jury's out on Dublin's 'Grafton Quarter'...

2. An Insta decade is born

A selfie stop while hiking. photo: Getty

When: October 6, 2010

Why: The decade's defining date? This was the day a happy-clappy photo-sharing app named 'Instagram' debuted. Now owned by Facebook, it's impossible to overstate Insta's impact on travel... and life. Other social networks may have more posts, or subscribers, but Instagram's mix of filters, feel-good vibes, selfies and influencers has taken the world by storm. Apart from transforming travel habits, it made (and some would say broke) 'bucket list' attractions like the #BaliSwing in Indonesia and Morocco's Jardin Majorelle.

Don't forget: WhatsApp got its official first release in November, 2009. Can you recall a world without it?

3. Eyjafjallajökull Erupts

Ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull crater on May 15, 2010. Photo: Getty

When: April-October, 2010

Why: Still can't pronounce it? The Icelandic volcano wreaked havoc on European air travel in 2010, spewing ash that disrupted some 10 million travellers. Iceland also erupted in another sense, with WOW air launching direct flights from €49 in 2015. Prices in Reykjavík soon made up for that, as we discovered when pent-up demand was released and thousands of Irish travellers set off for iconic sights like the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle. In 2016, the word 'overtourism' was coined by Skift, in a report into tourism's impact on the island's fragile ecosystem and local infrastructure. WOW itself collapsed in 2019.

Don't forget: From Storm Emma to ATC strikes in France, air travellers' patience was sorely tested in the 2010s.

4. A Titanic Success

Titanic Belfast

When: March 31, 2012

Why: Belfast changed like no other city on the island this decade - both materially and in mood. Titanic Belfast opened just before the centenary of the ship's sinking, prompting a revitalisation not just of the 'Titanic Quarter', but the city itself. Once synonymous with The Troubles, visit today and you'll find Michelin-star restaurants, a burgeoning Cathedral Quarter, cool street art, casual food scenes and a host of new hotels (including one incorporating the old Harland & Wolff drawing offices).

Don't forget: Game of Thrones brought the Seven Kingdoms to over two-dozen filming locations in Northern Ireland.

5. Terror in Tunisia

Holidaymakers view flowers left on Marhaba beach where 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack in June 2015 in Sousse, Tunisia

When: June 26, 2015

Why: Sadly, the 2010s saw a cascade of terror attacks around Europe, killing hundreds and bringing cities like Paris, Manchester, Brussels, Berlin, Nice and London to a standstill. Turkey and Tunisia were hit too - in 2015, three Irish holidaymakers were among 38 killed by a gunman who opened fire on a hotel and beach in Sousse (package holidays have yet to resume from Ireland). Flights only recommenced between the UK and Egypt's Sharm El Sheikh last month, following the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in 2015.

Don't forget: 2014 was a year of tragedy for Malaysia Airlines. Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in March, with MH17 shot down over Ukraine the following July.

6. Aer Lingus flies the nest

An Aer Lingus aircraft with new livery photographed over Ireland's west coast. Pic: Frank Grealish

When: September 2, 2015

Why: It was a big decade for aviation. The Boeing Dreamliner took off and Airbus announced plans to cease production of its double-decker Airbus A380. Ryanair passenger numbers shot from 66.5m to 150m a year, despite several strikes and shemozzles like its defence of a 'random' seating algorithm. Aer Lingus's evolution was lower-key, but its sale to IAG was one of the stories of 2015. Since then, it has received several new aircraft and expanded transatlantic services to destinations like Seattle and Miami (fending off disruptors like Norwegian and WOW in the process). We had our complaints, especially with the switch from Golden Circle to AerClub, but it still feels like home.

Don't forget: In 2017, British Airways called time on free food and drink. For many, it felt like the end of an era.

7. So Hygge right now

Close comfort: The Scandinavians have hygge — maybe the Irish version of cosy could be teolaí?

When: Christmas 2016

Why: Scandinavia didn't just give us some of the best TV of the 2010s, it also introduced the world to lagom (the concept of balance, or 'just the right amount'), flygskam ('flight shaming') and hygge (cosiness or contentment). The latter peaked in 2016, sending us not just rushing to declutter and cosi-fy our homes, but to book Christmas market visits, winter trips and Lapland holidays. Mulchy Irish winters didn't get any less grotty, though.

Don't forget: Japan sparked joy in 2019, both culturally (arigato, Marie Kondo) and during the Rugby World Cup.

8. Adare Manor 2.0

When: November 2, 2017

Why: Irish hospitality entered the decade fighting for survival in a world of 'zombie hotels'. As the years progressed, things ticked upwards, leading to some of the biggest reboots the country has ever seen. Adare Manor's extravagant relaunch in 2017 bagged it the 2026 Ryder Cup (read Pól Ó Conghaile's review here); Ashford Castle got a €75m upgrade courtesy of new owners Red Carnation; and Ballyfin, a former boarding school in Co Laois, opened in summer 2011, going on to host Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on their Irish honeymoon and, in 2016, being named the world's No.1 hotel by readers of Condé Nast Traveller.

Don't forget: At €223m, Center Parcs Longford Forest is arguably the biggest-ever investment in Irish tourism. It welcomed a wave of influencers to its opening this July.

9. Glamping with the stars

The new 'hideaways' at Dromquina

When: May 1, 2018

Why: Back in 2010, if you wanted to camp, you did it in a tent. You lay close to the ground, put up with bugs and condensation, and tried not to trip over pegs and guy lines on midnight dashes to the toilets. 'Glamping' - a portmanteau word blending 'glamorous' and 'camping' - was one of the trends of the decade, bringing creature comforts like real beds, duvets and breakfasts that aren't eaten with a spork to the nation. Today, few counties are without teepees, yurts and other variations on the theme, but glamping hit its peak when John Brennan opened his 'Hideaway' at Dromquinna Manor in Co Kerry, a €350-a-night escape that has since become a Blue Book member.

Don't forget: Travel loves its portmanteau words. 'Bleisure' was another to boom in the 2010s, signalling a growth in markets combining 'business' and 'leisure' trips.

10. A €2 tax in majorca

Time travel: Cala St Vicenc in Majorca, which introduced a tourist tax in 2016

When: July 1, 2016

Why: By the 2010s, holidaymakers were well used to airlines charging extra fees, but 'overtourism', anti-tourist protests and new taxes in destinations looking to disperse visitors took us by surprise. Dubrovnik, Barcelona, Venice and Santorini became pinch points and, in 2016, Majorca introduced a 'Sustainable Tourism Tax' of up to €2 per night to fund sustainable initiatives, from hiking shelters to water supply and heritage site improvements (it has since doubled). Taxes like these are becoming a new normal in an industry increasingly pushing visitors towards off-peak seasons and regions. From July 1, 2020, Venice will start charging daytrippers €6 to €10 to enter the city.

Don't forget: Sustainability went mainstream, introducing travellers to new terms like 'single-use plastics', 'KeepCups', 'hydration stations' and 'reef-safe sunscreen'.

11. Living the JOMO

HaliPuu Levi winter hammock. Photo: Samuel Taipale

When: July 19, 2012

Why: You've heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). JOMO was a term flipping that on its head, originating when blogger Anil Dash posted about the joy he experienced after logging off from a hyper-connected world after the birth of his son. Trends like slow travel, digital detoxes and experiential holidays ran with a similar concept, offering mindful trips where we strove to find a 'Joy Of Missing Out' by not checking our phones every 2.4 seconds. Think of Buddhist retreats on the Beara Peninsula, 'Arctic cocooning' in Finland, Bear Grylls' survival academies or 'burnout breaks' just about anywhere. Health and hospitality are now so intertwined that almost every trip nods to 'wellness'. If you feel FOMO about JOMO, welcome to 2020.

Don't forget: Wellness will be a €919 billion global market by 2022, according to the Global Wellness Institute. We will take 1.2 billion 'wellness trips' that year, it predicts.

12. Sharing is caring

The Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse, fitted for its 'Night At' competition with Airbnb.

When: May 11, 2016

Why: Airbnb opened its European HQ in Dublin in summer 2016. It was a big milestone for a company formed in Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia's San Francisco home just eight years previously, and one of many that saw travel transformed by the 'sharing economy'. We didn't just rent rooms from increasingly powerful smartphones (Airbnb now does 'experiences', too); we also welcomed Uber (2011) and Lyft (2012). In the 2010s, scrappy disruptors went mainstream, providing plenty of controversy along the way.

Don't forget: The 2010s brought big tech breakthroughs for travellers, ranging from iPads and Kindles to passport cards, drones, noise-cancelling headphones and selfie sticks. They brought plenty of tragedies and scares, too. In 2012, the Costa Concordia ran aground off Tuscany, killing 32. In 2016, the world was on high alert for Zika, and we end the decade with the Boeing 737 MAX still grounded.

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