2010-2020: The Decade in Travel

For the traveler in January 2010, getting a cab to and from the airport was a hassle and security lines were unavoidable. You made Facebook Albums to share your vacation photos—and Cuba, Croatia and Colombia were still emerging on our travel radar. The selfie-stick didn’t exist yet, but plastic straws were everywhere. Flash forward a decade, and it’s an entirely different landscape for the global citizen.

As we enter a new decade—the 2020s—Indagare looks back at the events, inventions, losses and triumphs of the last 10 years and a few of the destinations that have shaped us as travelers.


There’s an App for That

In February 2010, Ryan Graves became the first employee at a small startup called Uber. In October of that year, Instagram launched its app. And after opening as airbedandbreakfast.com in 2008, a renamed Airbnb received $7M in funding in November 2010. In the last 10 years, these three apps have put the world—quite literally—at the traveler’s fingertips and inspired countless other apps and websites that continue to make traveling (and the FOMO effects of it) more seamless around the world.

A Volcano Eruption Grounded European Air Traffic

On April 14, 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano sent a five-mile-high plume of debris into the sky. The ash cloud soon spread across Europe, closing the airspace across the continent for nearly a week.

We Started Taking Pictures on our Phones

In June 2010, Apple unveiled its iPhone 4, the first of its products to offer a front-facing camera. The advent of high-quality photography capabilities on phones led to a steady decline in camera sales worldwide.

Borgo Fever Took Over Italy

In 2010, Massimo Ferragamo completed his transformation of a former Tuscan farming village into Castiglion del Bosco luxury resort. By 2014, Italian borgos-turned-hotels included Borgo Egnazia, Castello di Casole and Castelfalfi, properties that would become some of our most-booked in the region.

Traveling Solo Was Cool

Eat, Pray, Love (based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 bestseller) made more than $200 million at the box office after opening in August 2010, inspiring millions of hopeful travelers that they too, could go on a transformative journey alone. By 2018, solo-trips had become a trending topic, with Google searches for “solo travel” peaking and Pinterest seeing a roughly 600-percent increase in searches for individual adventures.

For Many of Us, Airport Security Got Easier

In October 2010, Clear, the biometric security system, launched at Denver International Airport. A year later, TSA PreCheck rolled out, and in early 2012, Homeland Security announced that its Global Entry pilot program was here to stay. Millions of Americans have signed up, reducing waiting time for hundreds of millions of journeys.


U.S. passengers (and Airlines) Fell in Love with Premium Economy

Until 2011, United was the only U.S. carrier with a premium economy cabin. In the early 2010s, Delta and American both launched their own versions, giving the first few rows of their main cabin seats extra legroom and special perks (and thereby earning a little extra revenue). For many passengers, paying the relatively small fare increase for the additional comfort was a no-brainer.

We Traveled to the Seven Kingdoms

HBO’s Game of Thrones premiered in early April 2011, introducing viewers to the scenic beauty of the fictional continent of Westeros. Within a few years, GOT tourism had taken off, with hundreds of thousands of so-called “set-jetters” traveling to filming locations in Spain, Iceland, Ireland and Croatia.

We Fell Royally in Love

On April 29, 2011, Prince William married Kate Middleton at Westminster, reigniting global interest in the U.K. royal family and the destinations they frequent—from Africa to the Alps and Mustique.

We Rediscovered Wellness

In May 2011—one month after Gwyneth Paltrow showed Ellen Degeneres (and America) how to make kale chips—Westin launched their Elements of Well-Being campaign, specifically targeting individuals looking for a place to stay that matched their healthy lifestyle. Soon, other brands like Hilton, Kimpton, Marriott and Four Seasons rolled out wellness-related amenities, design features and experiences—helping well-being balloon into an industry of its own, becoming inextricably linked with daily life and travel.

An Urban Eyesore Became a Legend

New York’s elevated High Line park, which opened its first section on an abandoned railway in 2009, added another 10-block stretch in June 2011, becoming one of urban renewal’s most admired success stories. Though the final section would take another eight years to complete, it inspired a wave of land reclamation projects, from Manhattan to cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Petersburg, Russia.

New York’s 9/11 Memorial Opened

Ten years to the day after the terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Memorial, comprising twin waterfalls marking the World Trade Center towers’ original footprint, opened in New York City. (The museum would open a few years later, in May 2014.)

The 787 Dreamliner Took Off

After significant delays, Boeing’s long-haul, mid-size jet finally entered service in October 2011. The sleek planes were 20 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable models, and opened up far-flung destinations to mid-size cities that typically wouldn’t have enough demand to fill a jumbo jet.


Costa Concordia Capsized

On January 13, 2012, the 954-foot-long cruise ship Costa Concordia grounded and capsized off the coast of Tuscany, killing 32 passengers and crew.

SpaceX Made History

On May 25, 2012, SpaceX became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station, signalling increased efforts for space tourism.

Our Pets Had Hotels All to Themselves

Following success in Hollywood, D Pet Hotels expanded its portfolio of luxury, dogs-only retreats to New York City and Scottsdale in August of 2012. (Meanwhile, hotels for humans began upping the ante for pet-friendly amenities, from blueberry facials to monogrammed dog-beds.)

We Needed Google Maps

When Apple decided to exclude Google Maps in its iOS 6 in September 2013, users were livid. Three months later, Google launched a revamped version of the app available on the Apple Store. Within two days, it reached 10 million downloads.

Vacations Became Transformative Experiences

In October 2012, the New York Times ran its first “Times Journey,” an educational cruise around the Mediterranean with journalist-led seminars. The next spring, the Metropolitan Museum of Art launched its own group educational travel program. It was a sign of things to come, as the decade saw travelers seeking vacations that enriched their lives. And in response to Airbnb, hotels around the world shifted focus to the experience economy, providing guests with local, often-shared activities.


American Airlines Merged with U.S. Airways

The deal, inked February 13, 2013, formed the world’s largest airline.

Amex Upped the Airport Lounge Game

On February 26, 2013, American Express debuted its first Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. The swanky, club-like interiors and high-quality amenities started a redesign-race between airlines, with first class lounges offering new services like hair salons and spas, as well as increased privacy.

Anthony Bourdain Took Us to Parts Unknown

Bourdain’s acclaimed Parts Unknown, which first aired on CNN in April 2013, won 12 Emmys and a Peabody Award over the course of its 12 seasons. (Bourdain was in France filming an episode for the show at the time of his death in June 2018.)

But Actually, Everyone Went to Bangkok

In May 2013, the Thai capital overtook London, Paris, Singapore and New York as the world’s most visited city according to MasterCard’s annual rankings. Bangkok was expected to see 15.98 million visitors that year (in 2019, it still tops the list, welcoming nearly 23 million).

We Looked for Instagrammable Moments at Hotels

In September 2013, Sydney’s 1888 Hotel called itself the “world’s first Instagram hotel,” giving perks for individuals with large followings and building in photo-first design features like a dedicated selfie wall. By the end of the decade, “Instagrammable moments” were everywhere, from hotel lobbies to restaurant bathrooms (like London’s Sketch).

We Kept Our Phones On During Takeoff

In October 2013, the FAA lifted its ban on portable electronics during all segments of a flight.

Budget Airlines Gave Legacy Carriers a Run for Their Money

By the end of 2013, low-cost carriers had a seat capacity of over one billion passengers for the first time in history, and their market share topped 25 percent. Faced with serious price competition, legacy carriers would need to woo flyers back with better amenity offerings, from in-flight entertainment to redesigned seats.


Hotels Jumped on the Bitcoin Bandwagon

In January 2014, two Las Vegas hotels became the first to accept payment in Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency’s value fluctuated wildly throughout the decade, reaching almost $20,000 in December 2017 before plummeting to around $3,000 in 2018.

Orient Express Became Belmond

One of the world’s most iconic luxury brands received a new name in March 2014.

Robots Entered the Hospitality Workforce

In the summer of 2014, Aloft Hotels began testing robotic bellhops.

Outlander Brought Us to Scotland

Scotland received an unexpected tourism boost when Outlander premiered on August 9, 2014. The number of visitors to destinations featured in the Starz hit series rose nearly 70 percent in the years after the show. (In gratitude for the “Outlander Effect,” VisitScotland gave American writer Diana Gabaldon, author of the novels that inspired the show, an International Contribution to Scottish Tourism award in 2019).

Ebola Had Us on Alert

In the aughts it was H1N1. And in August 2014, an Ebola outbreak took on global proportions, with cases across West Africa, as well as the UK, Italy, the U.S. and Spain.

We Loved to Hate Selfie Sticks

In December 2014, Bloomberg named selfie-sticks as the “must-have” gift of the year.


ISIS Spread Fear

In 2014, ISIS made headlines for its rapid expansion in the Middle East. But on January 7, 2015, the terrorist group’s impact was felt in Europe and beyond, as gunmen inspired by ISIS attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper. In November of that year, a series of attacks in Paris left the city reeling.

We Learned the Word Zika

In early 2015, an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus spread through Brazil and then throughout the Americas, along with parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. The disease spurred many travelers to reconsider their tropical vacations, and put a cloud over Rio’s Olympic Games in 2016.

We Flew to Cuba

In March 2015, a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations saw commercial flight resume between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years.

Iceland Wowed Us

Starting spring 2015, Icelandic budget airline WOW operated flights from the U.S. to Reykjavik. The no-frills carrier—along with Icelandair, which had been adding new routes for several years—helped bring more than a million international visitors to the island that year—up from under 500,000 in 2010. In 2017, that number was more than 2 million.


Brooklyn Was Everywhere

Hipsters conquered the world in the 2010s, prompting Bon Appetit in its February 2016 Culture Issue to run a piece explaining “How Every City Became Brooklyn.”

Marriott Acquired Starwood

In mid-September 2016, Marriott paid $13.6 billion for Starwood, creating the world’s largest hotel company, with more than a million rooms in 5,700 properties across 30 brands.

Colombia Blossomed

The South American country, especially Cartagena, had been bubbling up as an international destination for years. But the September 2016 peace accord between the government and FARC guerilla group helped tip the scales even more, causing a surge in international visits—and earning president Juan Manuel Santos a Nobel Peace Prize.

We All Sat at the Chef’s Table

Netflix’s Chef’s Table, which premiered in September 2016, redefined what a food documentary could be, using Planet Earth-level cinematography to showcase the world’s most fascinating dining experiences. The Emmy-nominated show made a food-focused trip to Sweden, São Paulo or Patagonia seem downright necessary.

We Knew Someone Who Went to Portugal


tourism flatlined during the European debt crisis, with international arrivals stagnant at 2006 levels. Starting in 2013, though, Americans began rediscovering the country thanks to increased flight options, a buzzy creative scene, a slew of hotel openings and a favorable price-point compared to the rest of Europe. By November of 2016, annual arrivals were up more than 50 percent compared to the start of the decade.


“Overtourism” Entered the Lexicon

In January 2017, Barcelona enacted legislation meant to curb visitors. That summer, locals took to the streets to protest the still-crowded conditions. Similar protests took place in Venice. Also in 2017: new rules, including hefty fines and souvenir-shop moratoriums went into place in Amsterdam, Hvar, Isle of Skye, Machu Picchu and Mallorca.

Hurricanes Wreaked Havoc

The hurricane season of 2017 saw a trio of storms leave trails of devastation across the Caribbean and parts of the United States. Hurricane Harvey killed hundreds in Texas, while the back-to-back Category Five superstorms Irma and Maria left thousands dead in the Caribbean and millions without power. Also in the 2010s: Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast coast of the U.S. in 2012, and Dorian left much of the Bahamas in ruin in 2019.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Opened in Marrakech

Marrakech taught me color,” said Yves Saint Laurent, who vacationed in the Moroccan city for four decades before his death in 2008. In October 2017, a massive museum dedicated to the French fashion icon opened near his former villa, showcasing around 1,000 pieces from his studio.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi Opened

Inside a seemingly floating dome with a nest-like metallic ceiling, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors in November 2017. The groundbreaking museum became a must-see institution for visitors to the Emirates, showcasing an encyclopedic collection that includes European masters, Middle Eastern treasures and contemporary works.


Airlines Finally Had Enough of Emotional Support Pets

The number of emotional support dogs, cats and ducks—even a miniature horse—flying with us each year skyrocketed throughout the 2010s, reaching nearly 800,000 in 2017. In January 2018, Delta added restrictions which made it trickier for passengers to abuse the system. United followed suit in February; American Airlines in May, and Southwest did so in August.

The Travel Industry Doubled Down on Plastic Straws

In July 2018, American Airlines phased out plastic straws from its fleet. Alaska Airlines, Delta and United followed suit, along with Hyatt, Hilton and all Marriott International brands.


Boeing’s 737 MAX Was Grounded

In March 2019, aviation authorities around the world grounded Boeing’s newest airliner, after a software malfunction led to two crashes within several months. The grounding would prove costly, taking nearly 400 of the planes out of operation and putting into question existing orders for more than 4,000 of the aircraft, worth billions of dollars.

WOW Air Folded

After making a splash—flying more than a million passengers a year to and from nearly 50 destinations—WOW Air ceased operations on March 28, 2019. Still, the low-cost carrier sector ended the decade on a high note, responsible for more than 30 percent of the entire aviation market for the first time.

Istanbul and Beijing Opened the World's Largest Airports 

In early April, all commercial flights to Istanbul were transferred to the Istanbul New Airport, set to become the world's largest airport after further terminals are constructed by 2025. Until then, Beijing's new Daxing Airport, which opened in September, holds the title of largest airport. The 7.5 million-square-foot mega-structure was a decade in the making.

We Watched Notre Dame Burn

On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out inside Notre Dame cathedral, destroying its iconic spire and vaulted ceiling. Global solidarity helped secure over €1 billion in funds pledged for reconstruction efforts.

TWA Returned to Kennedy Airport

Years in the making, the TWA Hotel opened at JFK in May, bringing new life to the 1962 Eero Saarinen-designed terminal building.

Greta Thunberg Made Waves

Refusing to fly out of concern for its harmful ecological impact, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg took a zero-emissions yacht across the Atlantic Ocean to speak about the Climate Crisis at the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019. Timed for the summit, millions of people around the world took part in marches and strikes demanding policy changes to stem climate change. A few months later, Time named the young activist Person of the Year.

Published onDecember 20, 2019

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