My 2020 Top 10 Travel Bucket List: Celebrating TTC’s 100th Anniversary
Happy New Year. Besides being the start of an exciting new decade ahead, 2020 also marks an incredible milestone year for my family, our team and our Travel Corporation’s (TTC) 42 award-winning brands as we celebrate our 100th Anniversary. Our roots can be traced back over a hundred years to a small fishing village called Paternoster, located in the Western Cape of my homeland, South Africa. My beloved grandfather Solomon owned a small hotel beginning in 1920 in this village which still exists today, and this is where our fourth generation, family owned and family run business was born.
When we travel to countries we’ve not visited before, we sometimes are concerned based on what we read or hear about, such as perceived crime in Mexico and Colombia, recurring earthquakes in Puerto Rico and the possible eruption of violence in Israel. I just returned from a week-long holiday with my family and some friends in Mexico. We had an incredible, flawless and very enjoyable holiday – our third visit in a row to the country at year end. Some were concerned in light of recent events there, however, these events occurred nowhere close to where we visited and we experienced only wonderful service and warm, welcoming hospitality with great value and delicious food and drinks.
I make note of this as today, the world seems to be an angrier, more volatile planet than ever before. There is a lot of deserved concern and worry about our planet and the impact of travel on global warming. This is a worry, and one our collective industry is working hard to address and reduce. I do encourage everyone to travel, for all the good reasons highlighted in this excellent OpEd piece by my good friend and Chair of our TreadRight foundation – Costas Christ.
Please make some plans to travel this year, domestically or internationally – plan on traveling responsibly, and to #MakeTravelMatter. (We can provide numerous tips on how to tread right on your travels.) If concerned about overtourism, then choose a destination that is in need of more tourists (i.e., much of Africa and the Middle East, Colombia, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam & Cambodia, China and even the USA and Australia).
Our hearts go out to everyone in Australia affected by the awful, continuing bush fires. With our profound gratitude and appreciation (living in California) for all the valiant firefighters are doing to contain the fires there, TTC donated A$100,000 last month to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, being they are all unpaid volunteers, to help sustain and support their ongoing efforts.
For 2020, I am thrilled to share my personal #TTCTop10 travel bucket list. It is an extraordinary selection of a carefully selected “taste” of our incredible brands’ immersive and unforgettable experiences and journeys across the globe. They include some new destinations and experiences for me, which I am very excited to visit and explore, as well as some of my absolute favorite destinations.
1. Colombia – This stunning country was recently chosen as the number one destination for tourism in 2020 in a ranking by the USTOA (United States Tour Operators Association). I hope to visit Colombia for the first time this September with Tourism Cares. We are supporting this emerging destination with two of our TreadRight projects including the Cotton-Top Protection project in partnership with Proyecto Tití, a conservation program dedicated to conserving the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin. Our second project is an important archaeological site project at the El Congo-Ciudad Antigua research station with our partner, the Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Foundation. I would like to explore this country more in-depth on Trafalgar’s Colombia Rediscovered guided vacation. A highlight will be a ‘Be My Guest’ lunch with the Davila family where we will learn about their work as the leaders in sustainable farming and the largest producers of organic food in Santa Marta.
This is a country emerging from a civil war that lasted over 50 years. Its government and citizens are counting on travel and tourism to be one of the great drivers of recovery, being travel is a force for good in so many ways. More international tourism will help drive their economic recovery, provide new and better paying jobs (unemployment hovers around 10% today) in hospitality and related services, and so much more. We are proud to be providing new and exciting holiday experiences to this magnificent country to help achieve these goals.
2. Israel – This incredible destination is immensely meaningful for me and my family which compels us to keep returning to its ancient and spiritual sites. BBC’s Good Food magazine ranked Tel Aviv as a top 2020 foodie destination with plant-based dishes at the heart of the city’s culinary tradition, which is what much of my diet is focused around today. I look forward to experiencing Insight Vacations’ Israel & Jordan premium escorted journey and enjoying our authentic ‘Insight Experiences’ with Local Experts including visits tothe Garden of Gethsemene and seeing the Room of the Last Supper, the Temple Mount, the Pool of Bethesda and Ecce Homo Arch.
We also will be visiting Yad Vashem, where Max will have his coming of age Bar Mitzvah this year. Our family will also be making another important donation to support their very significant work. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead, honoring the Jewish people who fought against their Nazi oppressors and others who selflessly aided the Jewish in need. It also conducts ongoing research into the history of the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general, with the aim of avoiding such events in the future. These are incredibly important objectives in a world that continues to be filled with hate, aggression and violence in so many countries.
3. Botswana – Africa is my ancestral homeland and Botswana is a very special destination and one of my favorites, with its diverse ecosystems and exceptional wildlife. We are very excited for the June 2020 opening of our extraordinary 18th Red Carnation jewel, the Xigera Safari Lodge set in this country’s unspoiled wilderness spanning 15,000 square kilometres in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Our luxury lodge is dedicated to sustainability, including our TreadRight commitment to removing all single-use plastics from all Red Carnation properties and will be 100% solar powered with 12 phenomenal suites, designed by my incredibly talented, award-winning mother and sister Toni. I also highly recommend experiencing one of our outstanding Botswana safaris with our two sister brands, African Travel Inc.’s Best of Botswana and Lion World Travel’s Botswana in Style.
I am so excited to share details and photos with you once our newest property opens, however, in the meantime you can learn more at Xigera.com. The many local artists engaged in creating unique new creations are fascinating and amazing. The 12 air conditioned suites will be exceptional. The rich, thoughtful details will inspire and impress, as we are renowned for at our other luxury hotels, such as Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Oyster Box hotel in Durban, recognized as the best hotel in South Africa.
4. Vienna – I am always fascinated by this Austrian capital’s cultural delights from its world class museums, historic multi-centuries architecture, classical music offerings and Viennese café culture. I would like to experience our U River Cruises’ new 2020 Vienna Vibe itinerary on ‘The A’ ship which was named recently by Time magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Places.” Our U itineraries are created for active and culturally curious travelers. For example, U offers an exclusive after-hours excursion to the Schönbrunn Palace to see its magnificent state rooms without the crowds.
I honestly believe this is one of the coolest, sexiest and best-value brands in travel today. They are fun, immersive and active itineraries. The experiences onboard our two U ships and onshore in each destination have been carefully researched and sourced, and the feedback we’re receiving is fantastic. These are truly amazing experiences for the young and the young at heart.
5. Norway – This destination has been on my bucket list for its spectacular landscapes, charming villages and majestic mountains for over a decade. I would like to explore Scandinavia for the first time on Adventure World’s Unique Fjords & Glaciers itinerary. A trip highlight will be boarding one of the most incredible rail journeys in the world, the Flåm Railway, which offers a panoramic view of some of the most stunning nature amongst the Norwegian fjords.
6. Portugal – My three children, Gen-Z and Millennial travelers, are seeking new and unforgettable experiences. Portugal is becoming an increasingly popular wellness destination to unplug and unwind with some of the world’s best surfing. Contiki is offering new self-care experiences such as its Portugal City and Surf adventure. A 2-night ‘Special Stays’ at Noah’s Surf House in Santa Cruise offers our guests experiences including paddleboarding, skateboarding and morning sunrise yoga overlooking the country’s scenic coastline. They can also experience another ‘Special Stays’ at our Château de Cruix in France’s Beaujolais wine region which has been completely renovated over the past few months, and will now provide an even more fun, enjoyable stay.
We are also pleased to be offering our 2020 Contiki adventures to Colombia and Africa. Contiki has been a part of the TTC family now for over 30 years, and I am so proud and excited to see how we’ve evolved this brand, to be relevant and engaging for today’s travelers between 18-35 years of age.
7. West Coast USA – Being a California resident, I am continuously inspired to visit the hidden gems and diverse landscapes of ‘my own backyard.’ Busabout offers an all ages and freedom of choice adventure on its Wild West & City Lights trip. Some of the trip highlights are exploring the US’s national treasures, their majestic national parks including enjoying the sunset at the Grand Canyon and the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley. This brand was started by my father almost 20 years ago, and its destinations, experiences, technology platform and quality of delivery for our travelers is superb, and something we are also very proud of.
8. Peru – Peru has always been on my bucket list, with Machu Picchu being recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and Lima as a global gastronomy destination. We are thrilled that Uniworld is offering its first-ever South American cruises in 2020. I would like to embark on the Peruvian Amazon & Machu Picchu Explorer on our Aria Amazon all-suite luxury ship with all-inclusive amenities and five-star cuisine. One of the featured excursions includes a state-of-the-art skiff ride on the Yanayacu-Pucate River where guests have the opportunity to kayak, canoe and swim in these famous waters with a possible sighting of a pink dolphin.
9. ME to WE Ecuador – My family and I are highly anticipating our third ME to WE culturally immersive trip. This will be our first visit to Ecuador, which is said to be the most biodiverse country on earth. We will stay in Minga Lodge in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon and spend time with the local Kichwa people. We will work on a WE Charity development project alongside community members and learn to make chocolate at their cacao farm. (We are offering WE fair trade chocolates on our Uniworld ships and in our Red Carnation hotels, and some of our TTC offices serve WE coffee as well). Both Trafalgar’s Highlights of Peru with ME to WE and Contiki’s The Lava Line with ME to WE offer this life-changing experience.
10. Florida – I will be making a return visit with my family to Old Town in Kissimmee later this year. Our team has further enhanced and restored this recreation of a classic 1920’s Florida town containing dining offerings, rides, attractions and a unique collection of shops. Old Town’s fun weekly events can be enjoyed by multi-generational families and friends. On March 30th, 2020, Old Town celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Saturday Nite Classic Car Cruise. It is recognized as America’s longest running weekly car show and cruise. We’ll also drive down to Palm Beach on this trip to visit our fabulous team at The Chesterfield Palm Beach, which TTC has owned and run since 1989.
As we usher in an exciting new decade, we are committed to #MakeTravelMatter as we continue to support our 55+ TreadRight projects in 26 countries, spanning across 280 communities worldwide.
May the New Year bring you an abundance of happiness, good health and inspired wanderlust.
Wishing you and yours a truly unforgettable and amazing 2020,