It’s been a long year.
In the reflective spirit that comes with ending one year and beginning another, Skift is looking back at the things in travel media that moved, inspired, and impressed us in 2018.
Here’s a handful of our favorite things in travel media we experienced this year ranging from re-branding efforts, magazines, films, articles, and more. Most are from 2018, but a few are slightly older, a good reminder that quality transcends hipness in media and branding.
Settle in, and enjoy our picks which are listed in no particular order.
A Lesson in Rebranding
I really love this new brand identity and its implementation by West Coast Tasmania, which came out earlier this year. It is a small region in economic decline in Tasmania, Australia, and this branding of it seems like a very inclusive way to rebuild its economy through responsible tourism and attracting business to invest there. The agency who did this invited the region’s 4,000 residents, tourism operators, and councilors to participate in this process and took ten months to come up with it.
Here’s a lot more analysis of this branding from the people who do this best: UnderConsideration. – Rafat Ali, Skift CEO
A Look at Slow Travel
In July we hopped ashore to explore #Cully, a small town in Switzerland’s #Lavaux region. It’s the area from which Switzerland’s acclaimed #Chasselas wines originate. https://t.co/c4Q8Ktl3bC#LetterfromEurope pic.twitter.com/x9zvCyzhHn
— hidden europe (@hiddenEurope) December 20, 2018
Hidden Europe, a Berlin-based print travel magazine published three times a year, has for many years championed what might be called “slow travel,” or the idea of exploring lesser-known places at a leisurely pace. Think: sitting idly looking out of the window on a narrow-gauge train that’s passing through the mountains of the Swiss Jura region rather than buying a pre-packaged “experience” at Disneyland Paris.
In its 56th and most recent issue, the magazine covers multiple destinations, from a Bohemian spa resort in the Czech Republic to the small town of Druskininkai in Lithuania. I can’t put my finger on it, but somehow editors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries know how to put together authoritative stories that jolt me out of casual dumb assumptions I might make about unfamiliar places. – Sean O’Neill, Travel Tech Editor
A Showcase for Singapore
Crazy Rich Asians should be a model for how a destination becomes the star of a film, and how the travel industry can benefit as a result. There were plenty of big-name actors in that movie, but the true star was the culture, sites, and people of Singapore. Crazy Rich Asians found the right balance of destination marketing and an authentic storyline that makes anyone who watches the movie want to experience the Singapore lifestyle for themselves. – Dan Peltier, Tourism Reporter
The Great Cruise Debate
A dueling pair of cruise-related stories in The New York Times revealed some key challenges for the cruise industry: Taking a cruise does not always turn a skeptic into a fan. And even those who like cruising don’t necessarily think it’s the coolest way to travel.
The skeptic was Dan Saltzstein, who was a Times travel editor when his story ran in March. For his first sailing — during nearly a decade as a travel editor — he and his wife took their young daughter on a four-night Disney cruise to the Bahamas. The headline that resulted showed he wasn’t exactly a convert: On a Disney Cruise, It’s a Stressful World (After All).
Like any good protagonist, Saltzstein encountered the unexpected and found his feelings change a bit. But the margaritas were still cloying, the bed was too small, and the upsells were ubiquitous. The story, as noted at the end of the online version, provoked “passionate reactions.”
One of those was from actor, author, and comedian Michael Ian Black, who tweeted: “I will write the definitive ‘cruises are great and here’s why’ piece for the Times if you will send me.”
Black’s story in July — headlined Cruises Are So Uncool They Are Cool — defended cruising, sometimes to hilarious effect, while acknowledging some of the absurdities baked into the experience: “Every activity in the ship’s daily circular reads like the itinerary of a well-meaning but dorky youth minister.”
As someone who has written about the cruise industry for the past eight years, I loved watching this conversation unfold in print and on social media (and generate heated opinions). So often cruise executives say the challenge is to get people on their first cruise. As Saltzstein’s story revealed, it’s not quite that simple. – Hannah Sampson, News Editor
Space Tourism May Actually Finally Happen
I’ve been covering the fits and starts of commercial space travel — space tourism, really — for so long that I could’ve flown to Jupiter and back by now if only we had the technology. Thankfully, some very smart people are working on it. Among them is Mark Stucky, who flew to space earlier this month aboard a Virgin Galatic rocket ship.
How he got there, and how Richard Branson’s outfit may usher in an era of casual travel to the stars, is masterfully explained in a deeply reported profile by Nicholas Schmidle for The New Yorker. “Stucky had dreamed of traveling into space since he was three years old,” Schmidle wrote recently in a follow up to his story, after the successful flight. Same here. And though I probably won’t make it up there myself, it’s been nearly as thrilling to follow Stucky’s journey. – Paul Brady, Editorial Strategist, Skift X
Going Green, Sort Of
— yumna al-arashi (@yumna) December 10, 2018
Gossamer bills itself as a magazine for people who “also smoke weed,” but in practice its a lifestyle magazine for adventurous, no-bullshit millennials. The magazine’s second issue contains a few interesting travel pieces from a diverse set of writers and photographers that are compelling and adventurous in the ways that traditional travel magazines don’t bother to be as they pander to wealthy subscribers. – Andrew Sheivachman, Senior Editor
Emotion in Advertising
Sometimes a commercial is so incredibly good it reminds you of why travel is one of the most powerful industries on Earth. This ad from SAS bucks the tired trend of selling flights and hotels as experiences, showing us instead the power of travel to bring people together across long distances and the emotion of those who have reunited. Check out Skift CEO Rafat Ali’s piece on the powerful ad.
A Stroll Through History
South Beach is known for its strip of neon-sprinkled Art Deco hotels, its hardbodied workout buffs on rollerblades, and its clubs serving loud music and overpriced drinks into the early morning hours.
But once it was the dominion of retired, mostly Jewish Northern transplants who sought sun, community, and, yes, a subtropical place to party. The evolution of the destination from the 1970s into the 1980s is at the heart of the new documentary The Last Resort, showing in select cities this winter and available on demand in the spring or summer.
Directed by Miami filmmakers Kareem Tabsch and Dennis Scholl (full disclosure: friends of this writer), the 70-minute movie tells the story of two photographers who set out to document a decade in the life of South Beach retirees. They ended up telling the story of the end of an era.
It’s a fascinating, evocative tale that shows how much has changed — but also, thanks to preservation efforts that started in the late 1970s — how much of the iconic architecture has stayed the same. – Hannah Sampson, News Editor
The Character of Istanbul
Kedi, the brilliant documentary following the street cats of Istanbul and the people who live among them, technically was released last year but made it into my YouTube queue in early 2018. It’s a charming and moving look at the street life of a city and the character of Istanbul as not just an international city but a place with a long tradition of bonding between human and feline. I love cats so maybe I’m biased but the film is excellent on its own merits.
Visiting Istanbul in September for the first time, it was incredible to see the role that friendly animals play in the life of the city. It’s also rare to watch a documentary about a city that so closely matches the atmosphere when you visit. – Andrew Sheivachman, Senior Editor