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The Best Travel Upgrades of 2015

Goats and robots, minimalism and the return of the ultra long-haul: 2015’s travel trends had a couple of very distinct themes.

As the year draws to a close and millions take to the skies, it’s natural to reflect on the innovations that have made travel smoother, more efficient or perhaps just a bit more interesting over the past twelve months.

2015 brought forth a host of ideas that, while not always new, helped to shape the year in travel. It can be argued that for every day of the calendar, there has been some innovation to celebrate or debate. It’s impossible to address the merits of each point here, but the year did have some distinct themes, five of which are feted below:

1. The Return of the Direct Ultra Long-Haul

For logistical awe, an ultra long-haul flight is hard to beat. This year, two airlines announced the inclusion of non-stop services to their schedules. Late this summer, Emirates announced that it intends run a direct 17-hour service between Dubai and Panama. In June, Singapore Airlines made it known that it was looking to resurrect a non-stop service between the city-state and the U.S. The fruition of these impressive plans could herald a new non-stop era for transcontinental passengers.

2. Come the Robot Revolution

They’re cleaning floors, directing passengers and porting luggage. In 2015, hotels and airports in Nagasaki, Tokyo, Indianapolis and Amsterdam, debuted the use of robots and virtual assistants (VAs). At present, this kind of technology is being used to supplement the assistance provided by human employees. However, as refinements continue and robots are programmed to become ever more sensitive to the needs of travelers, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the application of this type of tech.

3. The Airbnb Backlash

Despite recent reports of questionable hosting practices, the rise of Airbnb has been unstoppable. However, it was revealed in 2015 that a few hotel companies have entered into competition with the San Fran-based business. Both Hyatt and Wyndham are using their financial clout to back rival property-sharing sites Onefinestay and Love Home Swap. It’s possible this competition could mean more choice and better value for travelers in the not-too-distant future.

4. The Millennial Market

Sticking with accommodation, this was the year that the big hotel companies sussed the Millennial market. Both Marriott and Virgin have changed their approach to this demographic, eschewing luxury for minimal, high-tech rooms at agreeable prices. It seems that more hotels are learning that this aesthetic is the way to attract up-and-coming Millennial travelers.

5. Sun, Sea … and Goats

This year, airports around the world showed incredible ingenuity in terms of employing green solutions to operational problems. Sites as far-flung as Kerala and the Galapagos are now powered by the sun, sea, and wind. Other sites, however, turned to animals to meet their needs, forgoing pesticides for alternative, ecologically gentle treatments. Goats, llamas, sheep, and burros are now cropping the grass at Portland and Chicago O’Hare. This trend has been on the uptake and it’s one that appears to have an enduring appeal to both port authorities and the passengers they serve.

[Photo: LASS Laboratoire]

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