Where to travel this year?
I am a very passionate and strong believer that travel & tourism is a force for good. Also, the United Nations recently declared 2017 as the international year of sustainable tourism for development. The UN recognizes “the importance of international tourism… in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world.”
However, today, getting people to get out and experience new and different destinations is not easy. There is quite a bit of uncertainty about traveling to various destinations, in part because of the recent terrorism events in Paris, Istanbul, and even San Bernadino. There are also numerous challenges and difficulties around the world, from the awful, continued crises in the Middle East, to the tragic and tough consequences of the migrant movements and resulting crisis across Europe, economic downturns and worries in many markets and now the Zika virus too.
Without wanting to sound callous, nor come across as insensitive to any of these crises, problems or worries, my job is to promote and encourage leisure travel, as that is what our business is all about, and I have a direct and important responsibility to our 10,000 employees around the world, to our customers and to our shareholders, to keep our business strong and vibrant. So this month, my blog will focus on where one may want to travel to this year.
Everyone needs a holiday/vacation. That should be a basic right and it is a human “need”, and many people around the world are fortunate enough to be able to have the financial resources, the time and a passport to do so.
Early last year, I shared my Top Ten Bucket list for 2015, so I thought it a good time now to update my top ten travel list. Being in the travel industry, I am constantly reading and researching many current trends and other statistics and information. So I have also offered below some recommendations from various trade and consumer publications and sources, (I have listed my Top Ten destinations & experiences, and in each instance, have included some interesting links from third parties for one to explore those trends and recommendations from various travel publications.
One of the most consistent booking trends which we’re seeing from our own brands’ customers, is a much greater interest this year towards Spain and Portugal, as the top European destinations this summer. These replace the perennial top destinations of Italy and France. Personally though, I cannot wait to go back to Paris. This timeless, romantic City of Light, which I was in on the 13th November, when those awful attacks happened, is the perfect arrival or departure hub to visit France and other parts of Europe, or as a stand alone trip. It is no wonder that Paris attracted nearly 15 million visitors last year and was the 5th most visited city in the world, according to Euromonitor and CNN’s list of most visited cities.
Paris is also featured by the writer Chanel Parks in the Huffington Post as one of the top ten cities in which to shop. In last month’s Town and Country magazine, Ernest Hemingway’s former assistant and daughter-in-law provided a wonderful glimpse of the author’s favorite Parisian haunts.
Wherever you decide to go this year, please be sure to book your dream vacation early. Phil Davies from Travel Weekly UK says demand for air travel is the strongest in five years. Capacity may be limited, especially out of the USA and this increased demand will probably also see prices rise, even though fuel is at a very low price today (Most airlines have not dropped their fuel surcharges either, yet….)
Still the number one destination on my bucket list which I look forward to visiting for the first time, hopefully soon… Jenn Flowers from Afar suggests to experience this magical subcontinent from the comfort of a Uniworld Boutique River Cruise and I definitely concur.
For new exotic travel adventures, I recommend the article by Will Coldwell from The Guardian, featuring Lonely Planet’s 2016 holiday tips.
My wife and I are also very keen to experience the wildlife and adventure Rwanda has to offer, especially their mountain gorillas. African Travel offers an exquisite journey to experience this extraordinary eco system.
The writers of The Guardian list Peru in their “Where to go on holiday in 2016” online article. The country has much to offer from its ancient Inca legacy and Lima is gaining popularity as a contemporary and culinary capital destination to visit. The contrasts are astonishing. I particularly like the Treasures of the Incas itinerary offered by Insight Vacations.
Myanmar ranks on many peoples’ top of the list destinations and is featured in Condé Nast Traveller’s Top 16 places to go in 2016. Trafalgar’s Hidden Journeys itinerary is a great way to experience the treasures of Myanmar which I look forward to trying soon. My cousin Gavin was recently there and raved about its unique spirituality, the warm, genuine hospitality of the locals and so much more.
In The New York Times, Ratha Tep features Dublin in her article on the 52 places to go in 2016. Ratha points out that Dublin commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule this spring. Also, later in the year, the National Gallery of Ireland is opening a new atrium and is upgrading two wings of that building. My choice is visiting Dublin and Ireland in style with Brendan Vacations. On this style of trip, Brendan allows one to customize one’s own private chauffeur driven itinerary, and everyone should definitely include a stay at the magnificent Ashford Castle as part of their trip.
North America has so much to offer and many travel trends point to various destinations in the USA. Gwen Shearman lists quite a few U.S. destinations in U.S. News’ article on the world’s best places to visit in 2015-16. My personal preference this year is to spend more time in America’s South, as experienced in either one of these amazing itineraries: – Southern Glamour or Enchanting Canyonlands.
Forbes magazine features Thailand on its top 16 destination guide for 2016. I particularly like the trips that Busabout have to offer and how you get the opportunity to immerse yourself with the local community.
THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS & ECUADOR
The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador feature in several articles on places to travel to this year. Travel + Leisure’s Sarah Z. Wexler’s article praises the beauty and biodiversity that the Galapagos has to offer. My favorite is Adventure World’s combination trip including the best of the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian rain forest.
Carrie Hutchinson of Travel + Leisure features Tasmania as one of the best places to travel to this year. AAT Kings and Inspiring Journeys offer several trips in Tasmania and the ones I in particular want to take my family on to this remote and beautiful “island” are Perfect Tasmania and Tassie Trails.
The Guardian, Travel + Leisure and The New York Times all feature Copenhagen (Denmark) and Stockholm (Sweden) as places to definitely see this year. Scandinavia has much to offer and Contiki has a perfect itinerary for people aged 18 to 35 (that’s not me anymore unfortunately, as I’d love to take this trip!). Trafalgar offers a great guided vacation to this stunning destination that better fits my age bracket.
Finally, being an Ecowarrior, I am passionate about sustainable travel. So I take the opportunity to close my blog by sharing one of the ongoing sustainable tourism initiatives we are engaged with, through our company’s non-profit The TreadRight Foundation. With Adventure World, we are proud supporters of National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards. This initiative honors the companies, organizations, and destinations – ranging from airlines to hotels, from communities to countries that are driving the positive transformation of the tourism industry, showcasing leaders and visionaries in sustainable tourism best practices, and sharing their stories with millions of today’s travelers.
As sponsors, we have nothing to do with choosing the finalists or winners, but I am particularly proud of the finalist Mission Hills, which is run by my good friend Ken Chu. They are the largest golf course developer in China and have been nominated as a finalist in the Earth Changers category. Mission Hills has led the way in China in the advancement of sustainable hospitality and green operations, emphasizing the importance of embracing sustainable tourism principles by educating Chinese travelers and the Chinese tourism industry on best practices. The winners will be announced at ITB Berlin on March 9-13th by Costas Christ, the Chairman of these awards, and also a good friend and remarkable champion of protecting and preserving our planet.
In each future blog, I will share another one of the key projects that we are doing through The TreadRight Foundation.
I hope that my personal recommendations and those summarized here by other travel experts will give you some new ideas, and perhaps inspire you to find the most suitable holiday destination and experience for you (and your loved ones if traveling as a family, as I always do) to look forward to and enjoy this year.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sincerely and with thanks,