2009 saw some seismic shifts in transport and tourism, giving us three key trends that dominated the Relaxnews agenda throughout the year.
As the world pulled out of the worst economic downturn in years, brands combined new technology and old-fashioned creativity, devising some of the most ingenious - and successful - campaigns ever seen. New forms of transport debuted around the world, from space travel to the maiden voyage of the world's largest cruise ship to the world's fastest train. And global travellers became increasingly aware of their green purchasing power, prompting companies to respond by offering new products and services that gave us a glimpse of the future of travel.
Social Media Comes to Travel
The global hunt for someone to fill "The Best Job in the World" ended when Britain's Ben Southall won a worldwide contest in May, landing the six-month job as a caretaker snorkelling and sailing round the Great Barrier Reef islands. The campaign used viral marketing to attract thousands of entries from around the world and snared free publicity worth an estimated 110 million Australian dollars ($US 77 million). 2009 also saw more and more companies using Twitter to form relationships with customers - following the lead of US airlines Jetblue and SouthWest, Air France, British Airways, United and Lufthansa all became active this year.
iPhone Hotel Apps
The Travelodge iBooker, launched on March 24, allowed online booking and provides images, information on availability, distance, and price. Other companies quickly followed suit, realizing the value in the GPS capabilities of the iPhone. Throughout the year, Marriott, Hilton and Accor also released apps that enable users to find the closest hotels, check in online, or request extra services.
2009 saw more headline-grabbing ideas than ever. On February 17, American low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways promised that it would give a full refund to anyone in the US who booked a flight with them and afterwards suffered job loss. Ryanair claimed it was considering a tax on overweight passengers in April and re-introduced "smoking" using smokeless cigarettes on board its planes on September 20. On August 6 German flag carrier Lufthansa promised holidaymakers €20 per day compensation if their summer holiday was washed out and in October Air New Zealand offered a lonelyhearts trip for US singles to New Zealand, billing it as the world's matchmaking flight.
Virgin Galactic Spaceliner Unveiled
Richard Branson unveiled his Virgin Galactic spaceliner for tourists willing to pay 200,000 dollars a ticket, showing off a white port-holed craft suspended under the wings of a mothership dubbed the White Knight. Previewing the roll-out of the Virgin Galactic craft in California's Mojave desert, the British billionaire said he planned to be on its first passenger flight in about 18 months' time with his family and the spaceship's American designer Burt Rutan.
The world's biggest and most expensive cruise ship unveiled
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas made its four-night maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Labadee, Haiti in early December. The 16-deck ship accommodates up to 6,360 passengers and offers amenities such as rock-climbing, surfing and zip-lining. The €900 million ($1.32 bn) extravaganza also features a wooded Central Park and an "Aquatheatre" that doubles as a swimming pool by day, whilst hosting acrobatics, synchronized swimming, water ballet and fountain shows by night.
The world's fastest and longest passenger link unveiled
One of the world's fastest passenger links, the Wuhan-Guangzhou CRT (High Speed Chinese rail) line stretches for 1068 km through three provinces, running at speeds of 350 kilometres per hour (220 miles per hour). The link shortens the travel time from over 10 hours to under 3 hours.
New report reveals global ethical tourism destinations
Ten destinations were highlighted for 2009, with particular praise given to Ghana, a new entry on the list, for an impressive commitment to genuine democracy. The authors also singled out Suriname for sincere efforts towards ecotourism and environmental developments. Other destinations included Argentina, Belize, Chile, Lithuania, Namibia, Poland, Seychelles and South Africa.
Continental Airlines announced June 17 the results of their January 7 biofuel demonstration flight, revealing that the biofuel blend performed as well or better than traditional jet fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 60 to 80 percent, when compared with traditional jet fuel. On November 23, a KLM Boeing 747, one of four engines powered by a 50-percent biokerosene mix, circled the Netherlands for an hour in what the airline called the world's first passenger flight using biofuel. On October 23 The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it would approve biofuels for commercial flights by 2010 in a bid to drastically reduce the industry's carbon footprint. IATA estimated aviation biofuel could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent "on a full carbon life-cycle basis" and that it would save 600 kilogrammes (176 pounds) of emissions per flight on a Boeing 747-400 plane.
Electric Cars Become Reality
On September 7, French automaker Peugeot and Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi unveiled the Peugeot Ion, which was on display for the first time and will be made available at the end of 2010. Hyundai debuted its i10 EV at Frankfurt, which will go on sale in South Korea in the second half of 2010. Tesla also unveiled its all-electric Roadster Sport in September, currently the only all-electric sportscar, with the first deliveries scheduled for June 2010. On November 9 General Motors stated that its Cadillac Converj EV luxury compact has been green-lighted for production, adding to the Chevrolet Volt slated for widespread US release in late 2010. Toyota announced December 14 that it intends to introduce plug-in versions of its popular Prius model into the United States, Japan and Europe in the first half of 2010 ahead of a mass rollout within two years.