The Most Important Travel Stories of 2014

By Frommer's Editors
Editors Arthur Frommer, Pauline Frommer, and Jason Cochran select the stories that had the biggest impact on travel in 2014. Which headlines mattered most to how you will travel in the future? Surprise—the TSA doesn't figure into any of them this year.
 
The sharing economy seals its power
Crowdsourcing is officially here to stay and has integrated itself into the fabric of travel planning. Airbnb won a spot among search results with some online bookers and a partnership with industry veterans such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and rideshare apps Uber and Lyft (pictured) broke the stangelehold of the taxi industry in countless cities. These services face both organized resistance from professional guilds and questions about how to manage their safety, but the economic power behind the sharing economy dictates such obstacles will get ironed out. You can't put this genie back into the bottle.
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The U.S. moves to normalize relations with Cuba
The U.S. moves to normalize relations with Cuba
Obama's surprise announcement that the United States' relationship with Cuba would be normalized will soon open the Caribbean nation to millions of American vacationers, who join people from around the world who have been traveling there for years. The travel ban will be eased and although casual tourism still is not permitted, it's on its way. Suddenly, Americans are considering a first visit to a previously forbidden island nation on their doorstep.

Pictured: Havana, Cuba
Merger mania rages on
America's major airlines were reduced to four with the merger between American and U.S. Airways. Now just four airlines now control more than 80% of all U.S. aviation. It happened in hotels, too, as maverick boutique brand Kimpton was swallowed up by giant corporation IHG. Just a few players control most travel business.
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Hotels join the fee fray
Hotels now compete with airlines in adding large and unexpected fees and charges to their normal room rates, from cancellation penalties to elevated Wi-Fi rates for speeds most of us would consider standard.
Fuel prices drop—but airfares don't
Jonathan/flickr
Fuel prices drop—but airfares don't
By December, 14 states were selling gasoline for under $2 a gallon, the lowest price in half a decade. That was big news for road trips, but astonishingly, the airlines refused to pass the savings on the travelers despite the fact that just a few years ago, they foisted baggage fees on us by claiming they had to offset rising fuel costs. They lied to us, and what's worse, consumers aren't outraged.
 
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JetBlue caves to Wall Street
The airline made its name for putting flyers first by granting free checked bags and plenty of space. In 2014, it decided investors were more important to please by announcing it would begin charging for checked bags, launching a de facto first class section, and squeezing more seats into every plane. Even an airline that gained a following by pledging to put customers first couldn't resist the urge to sell out and go back on its word. We're at a low ebb for the treatment of the average passenger in the airline industry.
Miles become money
In a move that dismayed leisure travelers but was greeted with the popping of champagne corks in elite airline lounges, both Delta and United announced that they would convert their loyalty systems to cash-based entities. No longer would a mile flown garner a mile toward a future flight. Instead, loyalty points would be accrued depending on how much cash was spent on the ticket, and those folks with the highest status would get more points, no matter how much they spent since their points count for more. Unless you are a frequent business traveler or the holder of an airline-based credit card, trying to get free travel will likely be a waste of time....except on American Airlines: The lone holdout is still rewarding miles with miles.
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Seat-Recline Rage
The once obscure Knee Defender gizmo earned the spotlight this year, thanks to a series of violent incidents revolving around the issue of whether passengers have the right to recline their seats at will. Planes were turned around, passengers doused with drinks, news channels gleefully overdosed on coverage, and pundits left puzzling whether airplane cabins were now manners-free zones. 
Ebola's chilling effect on travel to Africa
Jackie Golledge
Ebola's chilling effect to safe areas of Africa
The horrific loss of life in West Africa is the more important Ebola story. But the epidemic also had a devastating effect on economies of countries across the African continent. In particular, travel to the safari destinations of East and South Africa dropped sharply, causing great hardship for tour operators, their employees, and others in the industry. There have been no Ebola deaths in Tanzania, Kenya, or in any of the other major safari destinations--in fact, they're thousands of miles away from the affected zones--but nothing stops fear. 

Pictured: Maasai, Tanzania, Africa 
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River cruising explodes
River cruising explodes
2014 saw the introduction of a whopping 34 new river cruise vessels, with more planned for 2015. Who would have guessed that meandering down a river at, oh, 5 or 10 miles an hour, all while trading quips with your septuagenarian table-mates, would prove so popular? Well, we would: It's fun, it's relaxing, it's civilized, and thanks to this newfound proliferation, it's easier than ever.
 
(Pictured: Basel, Switzerland)
The death of Atlantic City
Kerwin Siy
The death of Atlantic City
The once-bustling seaside resort has fallen on very hard times as witnessed by the shuttering of four major casinos in 2014. It still remains to be seen if the city will ever be able to recover from the blows it sustained this year, or if travelers care.
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