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Friday, December 24, 2010
Travel: 2011
Anniversaries, events, celebrities and the economy will influence travel in 2011, from the royal wedding in London, to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks in New York.

London is sure to be crowded for the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. "If Charles and Diana got 600,000 people who came into London for that wedding, I could see a million for this one," said travel expert Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer Guides.

New York has also turned up on hot lists for 2011. "For all of New York, 11 September 2011 will be a defining moment," Frommer added. A Sept. 11 memorial, with reflecting pools set above the footprints of the World Trade Center, is expected to open in time for the anniversary of the attacks.

Crowds are also expected to turn out for the opening in Washington D.C. of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall. A 28-foot-tall (8.5-meter) statue of the slain civil rights leader will be dedicated between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials on Aug. 28, near the spot where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 48 years earlier.

Several destinations are hoping that attention from celebrities will bring them more visitors in the new year. Australia spent US$4 million to host Oprah Winfrey and 300 of her fans on a weeklong trip down under, but government officials say they got tourism advertising worth many millions more in return. Alaska is hoping for a similar benefit from the TLC series "Sarah Palin's Alaska" and other cable shows showcasing the 49th state.

In 2010, the biggest theme park news was the opening of a Harry Potter attraction at the Universal theme park. In 2011, theme park fans can look forward to the opening of Legoland Florida at the former Cypress Gardens theme park in Winter Haven, Florida. At Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the big news for 2011 will be the debut of a new ride called "The Little Mermaid — Ariel's Undersea Adventure." Though "The Little Mermaid" movie dates to 1989, Disneyland spokeswoman Michele Himmelberg says "she's still one of the most popular princesses." Visitors will ride in a colorful clamshell through special effects designed to make you feel like you're underwater; the octopus villain Ursula will also be featured in the ride.


One of the biggest questions for 2011 is how consumers will view travel to Europe. Protests over the economic crisis there have made headlines, and air travel has been repeatedly disrupted by everything from strikes to Iceland's volcano to ice and snow in the days before Christmas. But Europe's weak economy could also result in travel bargains, especially in countries like Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Overall, travel in 2010 began to slowly increase from the recessionary downturn of 2009, and many destinations are forecasting continued improvements in visitor numbers and revenues in 2011.

The improving economy, however, is likely to mean higher prices in hotels. "We believe rates will go up," said Scott Berman, hospitality and leisure leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers ─ "corporate America is traveling again."

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