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Most important travel trends of 2012

Which of these scenarios is most likely to happen to you in 2012?

  1. At the hotel breakfast buffet, you find congee and stir-fried noodles along with the usual bacon and eggs.
  2. You book a cruise for the first time ever.
  3. You crowd-source your vacation.

If you guessed all of the above, you’re on to something. With the way the travel industry is trending, chances are that you’ll encounter all these situations.

Slideshow: The most important travel trends of 2012

Here is a closer look at a few of the trends that are transforming the travel landscape in the year ahead:

The Net
The Internet’s influence on travel will cut both ways. Turned off by unreliable reviews on TripAdvisor and its ilk, more people will be mining their social networks for travel tips. It will also be easier than ever to log in as we travel with fewer — but more powerful — gadgets. Yet unplugging, too, is becoming an increasingly attractive option amid the overwhelming glut of information found online.

“We’re finding more and more a feeling of ‘e-morse,’” said Thomas Stanley, the chief operating officer at luxury travel outfitter Cox Kings. “It can be difficult to sift through content to find authentic suggestions and advice.” That’s good news for Stanley as travelers flock back to old-school travel agencies and other one-stop shops to tailor their vacations.

Want to get away from e-mail, gadgets and more? Travel + Leisure’s Nilou Motamed spotlights six destinations that specialize in treating travelers to peace and quiet.

Streamlined security
The TSA is introducing streamlined screening for selected frequent fliers — which means a lucky few will be able to keep their shoes, belts and jackets on while going through security checks.

In general, the promise of shorter lines might persuade passengers to choose convenience over cash. “More of our leisure clients who normally fly coach on international flights are flying business to ensure access to quicker check-in, security clearances and boarding,” said Mary Ann Ramsey, the president of Betty Mclean Travel and a T+L A-list super agent.

Hotel makeovers
Your hotel will get a face-lift.

Though hotel construction is booming in China and the Middle East (which will direct $7 billion toward hospitality projects in 2012), it’s slowed significantly in the United States. But that’s not to say U.S. hotels are being neglected. Across the country, older properties are undergoing capital improvements, with spruced-up lobbies, refurbished guest rooms and improved technology, according to Bjorn Hanson of New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality.

Hilton will invest $2.65 billion in its 135 U.S. properties in the next two years. Sheraton’s $300 million in upgrades will cover 60 hotels. Also being refurbished in 2012: icons such as the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Algonquin Hotel, in New York City.

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