From the ‘skip- gen’ vacation to vegan breaks, award-winning travel writer Isabel Conway unveils the top travel trends for the year ahead.
From emerging destinations — think the mysterious Central Asian former silk roads, West Africa’s unknown gem of Senegal, Greenland being called ‘the new Iceland’ or the onetime hermit state of Albania — to countries on the re-bound like Greece, Egypt and Tunisia look forward to unforgettable new year travel experiences.
In one of the newest trends for 2020, many responsible tourism businesses are looking at ways they can help to protect land and crucial habitats for some of the planet’s most endangered species.
The climate crisis and plastic pollution have made headlines in recent years. But there is another environmental catastrophe steadily bubbling away that may be even more threatening to humanity. Population shrinkages in insects, mammals, fish, birdlife and plant life, driven by factors including habitat reduction, climate change and over-consumption, pose a very real risk of ecosystem collapse.
Conservation usually conjures up images of saving wild animals and fragile eco-systems of remote communities on the other side of the world. Yet, on our doorsteps, Europe is increasingly at risk of losing many of its last remaining wild spaces and areas of natural beauty along with already seriously endangered wildlife.
Overpopulation, re-zoning for housing and industry, de-forestation and new roads infrastructure has radically altered landscapes.
Do you want to something more on your holidays than just lie down on a beach and admire an awesome view?
The European Nature Trust (TENT) has created a series of conservation journeys that take you to some of Europe’s last remaining wild places. All offer unparalleled access to leading conservation projects on the continent. Working with local conservation partners TENT projects include rewilding and restoring the Scottish Highlands, planting native forest and conservation work with endangered wildlife.
An immersive journey in Romania explores the untamed wilderness of Europe’s largest forested national park in the remote Carpathian Mountains. In Italy discover Apennine wildlife in the heart of Abruzzo region’s national park where conservationists are saving the Marsican bear, wolves and wild boar, whilst in Asturias Spain, you may spot the Iberian Wolf and see a rare Cantabrian bear. (theeuropeannaturetrust.com)
In Sweden, groups exploring the picturesque Bergslagen Forest (two hours northwest of Stockholm) might encounter moose, roe deer, beaver and even lynx. But the biggest wonder of all is hearing wild wolves howling in the darkness. Guides on these trips report sightings of packs, and bag up droppings, to help with the work of the Scandinavian Wolf Research Project. See responsibletravel.com for more conservation-themed travel.
As we enter not just a new year but a new decade Gen Z (aged10-25) inspired by the young Swede are ever more aware of our planet’s vulnerability. The rest of us are forced to think more deeply also about how we travel, to where and to adopt a more responsible attitude to endangered communities and habitats globally.
Carbon offsetting is one way of becoming more conscientious about our eco-footprint but 2020 is also predicted as the year when more Europeans will use trains, the most efficient and lowest-emitting modes of transportation, instead of planes for all or part of, their journeys.
From expert-led wildlife photography tours, kayaking and sailing in exotic warm seas, to locally hosted painting and cooking breaks in France and Italy, to hiking with the likes of Camino Ways (url=https://www.caminoways.com]caminoways.com[/url]) the booming ‘soft ‘adventure travel market is fast becoming the new normal.
Global tour operators like G Adventures, Intrepid Travel, Exodus and Trail Finders are among the ‘soft’ adventure experts whose itineraries provide lots of scope. Epic Ireland, Vagabond and wilderness Ireland are among the Irish-specialised companies responding to the ever-growing demand for adventure travel itineraries for groups and individuals on home turf.
A bus tour through Ireland may be just the thing also for a short break without the car taking you to Games of Thrones and other locations. See wildrovertours.com
Millennials don’t want to relax and forget life, “ they want to learn how to live a more fulfilling one,” says Virtuoso, a popular US travel network.
Today’s millennials are far more likely to take a walking or horse riding safari to get ever closer to wildlife and their habitat, book a picnic you can only reach at the top of a mountain by helicopter, or a champagne breakfast after a balloon landing in Africa or Australia rather than languish at a luxury beach resort.
Research shows they want time to relax, explore on their own, experience customs, culture, and have a transformative travel trip — unplugging from the stresses and strains of the digital world.
With more of us deciding to give up meat and animal products the travel sector predicts that demand for restaurants and hotels which cater exclusively for vegans is a significant growth area.
The ‘clean-eating movement’ has spawned travel companies such as Vegan Travel and VegVoyages, running tours to far-flung destinations around the world, guaranteeing Vegan menus with a philosophy to match.
Websites promoting meat-free travel are booming and Veggie hotels (veggie-hotels.com) which also includes bed and breakfasts and guest houses operates in more than 50 countries.
We Irish never tire of revisiting tried and tested holiday hotspots — Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece, whose cities and coastlines are threatened with over-tourism.
Spanish overdevelopment, the Algarve’s built-up coast and cities like Venice come to mind. Yet idyllic unspoilt areas exist within a stone’s throw away. Portugal’s Route 66 (visitportugal.com), which snakes from north to south, passes through the enchanting sparsely populated Alentejo region.
Venture deep into Emilia Romagna (from Bologna: direct flights ex Dublin) for the authentic Italian experience. Thanks, to direct flights Cork Budapest it’s time to explore beyond the capital and discover the beauty of rural Hungary to scenic towns like Szob, castles, vineyards and the stunning lakes Balaton and Tisza (wowhungary.com)
The travel industry reports more and more grandparents taking their grandkids on trips and leaving the parents at home. Also called ‘gramping’, it’s a trend that is increasingly mainstream and set to grow. Grandparents are younger, healthier, wealthier and live longer than the pre-baby boomer generation. Taking advantage of early retirement and the chance to spend good quality time with grandchildren, they are taking them on short breaks at home or longer holidays abroad.
The holiday can be a ‘treat’ whilst allowing parents time to chill out or plan their own romantic getaways or for practical reasons because hard-pressed parents can’t take time off during school holidays. Surveys by travel companies say demand for multigenerational family holidays, especially in the ocean cruise market, is another rapid growth area.
Founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon is an inspirational figure in the travel industry, having helped to pioneer community tourism, going beyond the lives of travellers to the locals, especially people who are marginalized.
G Adventures wildlife-focused tours to Indonesia, Botswana, Belize and other diverse destinations around the world supports endangered species conservation projects.
It's Nepalese Himalayan highlights include an overnight at a Buddhist monastery, jeep safaris and a meeting with a local tiger “technician” to learn about tracking and protection (10 days from €1,599 pp exc flights). Another iconic adventure boards the G Expedition polar ship on a voyage to South Georgia and Antarctica. (see gadventures.com)
Travel the Unknown (traveltheunknown.com ), an award-winning small group and tailor-made trips tour operator at the forefront of pioneering travel, was co-founded by Irishman David McGuinness 12 years ago.
It offers over 100 tours to 50 plus countries, each designed to understand local culture and respect customs and environments. David tips Azerbaijan, a new kid on the Silk Road, as an interesting unknown destination along with their exciting off-the-beaten-track Hidden Nepal tour.
The Balkans, Caucasus and soviet fringes, especially Georgia, famous for its great food and wine are drawing ever more curious visitors too. Uzbekistan, with its wealth of Silk Road monuments and beautiful architecture, is up and coming, he says.
Travel the Unknown’s 14-day Uzbekistan Odyssey tour costs approx €2,995 pp sharing plus flights and they also plan to venture into Lebanon with tours of Beirut and stunning landscapes in 2020.