Happy New Year, and I can't remember when I meant it more. I know it's just an arbitrary date, but I'll take it. Anything that ends last year and the last decade is OK by me.
Sure, I’ve had some great travel memories over the past 10 years. But a decade that began with the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and ended with the worst economy since the Great Depression isn’t going to get a hug and a kiss goodbye from me.
Now we can look ahead. Here’s my tip sheet on some of the key places and things happening in the world of travel in 2011:
Higher prices: The economy is on the rebound and people are ready to resume their pleasure travel, but those hitting the road or taking to the skies will be hit with higher prices. Oil prices have surged past $90 a barrel, which will likely keep gas prices above $3 a gallon – or higher – in 2011. Airfares will climb overall, on a combination of higher fuel prices and increased demand at a time when airlines are adding fewer flights. Economic forecasters predict a weakening dollar, with the euro bank rate at $1.35 per euro by midspring. Barclays Bank forecasts the British pound bank rate at $1.80 by the end of 2011, up from around $1.50 in late spring 2010. There’s a lot of volatility in the currency markets. Last April forecasters predicted dollar-euro parity at the end of 2010. It didn’t come close to happening.
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New York: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The tragedies ushered in a new era of travel. Air travel has become a burdensome experience, but one that most of us are resigned to endure. The Ground Zero site will be a place of pilgrimage for many Americans this year. Events will take place at the Pentagon and the crash site of United Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa. (where a long-delayed memorial is still under construction).
Charleston, S.C.: Americans will be reminded again and again what the word “sesquicentennial” means as events roll out marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Agitation for rebellion culminated April 12, 1861, with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Though all the battlefields and historic sites from the war will hold anniversary events, particular attention this year will be at Charleston and Manassas, Va., site of the April 1861 Battle of Bull Run.
Hawaii: Disney’s Aulani resort is scheduled to open in August near Ko Olina, outside the west side of Honolulu, the opposite end from Waikiki. It’s the company’s first foray into the Hawaiian market and its first resort not connected to a cruise or resort attraction. Work might also begin on the controversial new plan to tear down the small modern annex to the venerable Moana Surfrider hotel in Honolulu and build the largest high-rise on the beach side of Kalakaua Avenue in decades.
Baltic Sea: Tallinn, Estonia, and Turku, Finland, are the 2011 European Capitals of Culture, as designated by the European Union. Each city will host a series of concerts, art exhibitions and museum showcases throughout the year. This annual program has been a way for veteran travelers to experience cities they might have skipped before at a time when they are showing off their best side.
London: The April 29 marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton in London’s Westminster Abbey will be the “wedding of the decade” (I know, it’s early). William will become king and Kate the queen – if they can keep their marriage together long enough for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, William’s father, to pass away.
Cruises: The shipbuilding binge of the early part of the past decade is starting to slow, but there are still three monster-sized ships debuting this year. Celebrity Silhouette, Carnival Magic and Disney Dream will make their debuts, each ship weighing in at more than 120,000 tons. Disney’s ship will include the AquaDuck, a “water coaster” ride. Several smaller cruise lines are adding more diminutive (if you can call 70,000 tons that) ships to their fleets. Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth is making its inaugural Southampton-to-New York run this month, continuing more than a century of service, albeit mightily diminished, on that storied trans-Atlantic route. Cunard’s sister line, Holland America, will mark the 40th anniversary of its expansion into the cruise business by briefly going back to its roots as a mainstay of trans-Atlantic service with a pair of “classic” nine-day crossings between Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and New York.
Airplanes: There will be new ones to fly on – hopefully. The delivery date of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been pushed back for the sixth time – with a summer 2011 delivery to All Nippon Airways. Arrival of the 747-800 is now pushed back to the middle of 2011. The new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport will open in October in the German capital.
Boomer boom: The coming decade could be a boom time for travel, as thousands upon thousands of U.S. boomers will celebrate a 65th birthday, according to Travel Weekly magazine. There were high hopes that this influx of members of a famously adventurous demographic would spur travel demand. But it will take a rebound in the economy to overcome the trend of workers staying on the job well past what used to be “retirement age.”
Outer space: The already delayed space shuttle Endeavour launch is now scheduled for “no earlier” than Feb. 3. It will give space buffs a last chance for quite a while to see a roaring blastoff of a manned spacecraft from Cape Canaveral in Florida. NASA says it has no plans for additional shuttle launches, and the next-generation spacecraft is still years away. The launch comes in the 30th anniversary year of the first shuttle launch April 12, 1981. It also comes on the 25th anniversary year of the explosion of the shuttle Challenger during launch. Spaceport America is expected to open in New Mexico, and work will finish on its terminal and hangar area late this year. Richard Branson’s space program, Virgin Galactic, will be the main tenant of the $200 million facility.
Arts: Liverpool will hail the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first show at the city’s Cavern Club. It’s also 50 years since Bob Dylan made his New York folk scene debut. The Ernest Hemingway Museum in Ketchum, Idaho, will mark the 50th anniversary of the writer’s suicide. Special tours will include his home and memorials to the author of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and other novels. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the induction of its first members: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
Presidential sites: The big events this year are around the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan. Special events are planned along the “Ronald Reagan Trail” in northwestern Illinois, where he was born, and at the Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley. In a double dip for Republicans, it’s also the 200th anniversary of the founding of the GOP. Democrats will get their own celebrations, with the 50th birthday of President Barack Obama on Aug. 4. Several anniversaries will mark presidential inaugurations: 150 for Abraham Lincoln, 30 for Ronald Reagan and 10 for George W. Bush.
Sports: The Daytona Beach Raceway will mark the 75th anniversary of the first stock car race in the city. Yankee Stadium will mark the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris hitting his 61st home run to beat Babe Ruth’s record, a mark that stood until the era of steroid abuse.
Other anniversaries: 100th anniversary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu in Peru. The 100th anniversary of the end of the Chinese imperial rule. The 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. The 50th for the revolving restaurant atop Seattle’s Space Needle.
Coming up: The decade is just getting started. Next year brings the Summer Olympics in London and a presidential election in the United States.