The start of a new decade provides an opportunity to look ahead to how our horizons will widen. These are my highlights in the Travel Twenties…
East Sussex - 2020
Rye Harbour Discovery Centre opens this year, in the fascinating corner of England where Sussex melts into Kent. The low-impact visitor centre will boost appreciation and understanding of the rich natural habitat and provide a great addition to group trips to the wild and wonderful Romney Marsh.
Firth of Forth - 2021
Don’t tell the coach driver, but at the end of next year Scotland should be hosting a transport revolution. A fleet of Europe’s first full-sized self-driving buses will shuttle between Edinburgh Park and the ancient Kingdom of Fife. The 14-mile journey crosses the Forth Road Bridge. But do tell your driver there should be good coach parking at either end of the route.
Birmingham - 2022
The 22nd Commonwealth Games last only a dozen days (27th July to 7th August). Yet with venues stretching from Cannock Chase to Royal Leamington Spa (home for Lawn Bowls!), the festival of sport will help refresh interest in the heart of England for group tours.
Jeddah - 2023
And now for something completely different. Group travel to Saudi Arabia has, until now, been all about religious pilgrimages. But a dramatic change for the 20s is the easy availability of e-visas as this vast country opens up. Where to start? Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, a lively port city with an ancient heart. By 2023 it should host the world’s tallest building, the Jeddah Tower, which is expected to stand at least one kilometre high.
Italy - 2024
The year’s travel centenary celebrates the opening of the world’s first motorway. A young engineer named Piero Puricelli came up with the revolutionary idea of a road exclusively for motor vehicles, without obstructions or sharp bends. The very first was the autostrada from Milan to the lakeside town of Varese – classic group tour country.
Iceland - 2025
UN statisticians predict that the world’s population will reach 8 billion in 2025, which makes it a great year to get far from the madding crowd. Handily, Europe’s least-dense country (numerically speaking) is easy for groups to reach from Britain – and Reykjavik’s airport expansion is due to be completed by then, allowing visitors to experience wide open spaces from the moment they arrive.
Spain - 2026
I know where I’ll be on the evening of 12th August 2026: Gijon, on Spain’s lovely north coast. The most spectacular total eclipse of the decade will sweep southeast from Greenland and Iceland before arriving in Spain – and this lively port city is in the centre of the stripe of darkness. Start planning your group trip now!
Buckinghamshire - 2027
One trend I foresee in group travel is for a welcome return to using trains. And in 2027 the two great British university cities of Cambridge and Oxford should be reconnected by train. 60 years after the old east-west railway line was ripped up, they’ll be barely an hour apart. The line will also serve two very different tourist attractions: Bletchley Park, the home of World War Two codebreakers, and Bicester Shopping Village.
Denmark - 2028
The Danes are great at connecting their complicated country, and 2028 marks the expected completion date of the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link – a submerged road and rail tunnel that will be the longest in the world. It will make access to the tranquil and historic island of Zealand much faster and more comfortable than the existing ferry.
Henley - 2029
The Thames Valley in midsummer is always a joy, and on 10th June 2029 visitors to one of the lovelier waterside towns can celebrate the centenary of the first Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge (only later did it move downstream towards London). Expect celebratory events all year at the town’s excellent River & Rowing Museum.
Wales - 2030
The start of the Thirties is when many designers of electric aircraft expect to be fully airborne with proper passenger planes – and, with costs falling and environmental impacts easing, I predict the return of joy flights. The obvious territory is Wales, where Cardiff airport is quiet enough to allow group trips to see the spectacular scenery from the air – and perhaps even touch down at RAF Valley on the island of Anglesey. Electric dreams? A reality, I hope.
Simon Calder, the senior travel editor of The Independent, has been confirmed as the first speaker for the 2020 Group Leisure & Travel Show taking place on Thursday 8th October at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
At last year’s show in Milton Keynes, Simon spoke about his 25 years in travel looking back at some of the big stories and changes. He joined cruise expert Julie Peasgood and TV presenter Kate Humble in the Seminar Theatre, drawing in visitors throughout the day.
Registration is now open for visitors to sign up for free entry to the show.