Looking for a holiday with a difference? Award-winning travel writer rounds up the hottest travel trends and destinations for the year ahead.
Travellers, probably driven by millennials and ever youthful seniors, are pushing beyond their comfort zones when it comes to travel. Exploring new destinations is the catchphrase for 2018.
The top three global destinations have been identified as Italy, Iceland and South Africa. A helicopter or hot air balloon ride was once the domain of the super-rich.
No longer, we are now ziplining above jungles and swimming with dolphins, while our travels are becoming increasingly multigenerational, especially ocean and river cruises and villa holidays.
Being a traveller rather than a tourist, experiencing local culture and food, wandering and discovering neighbourhoods with the people who live there is no longer an aspirational wish. We also want to take more far-flung travel of two weeks or longer. Short off-season city breaks are holding their popularity though, especially in 2018 to cheap eastern European destinations. Active or adventure trips, culinary tourism and wellness add-ons to a long haul trip are now main-stream.
Movers and shakers who design our holidays, identifying new trends and destinations, were concerned with the impact of Brexit, responsible tourism, terrorism, Donald Trump’s presidency and its implications for US tourism in an industry worth €3.4bn for the travel industry at World Travel Market in London.
Top city destination forecasts are among the travel intelligence that’s identified and digested. Unsurprisingly perhaps, London, until recently second in world rankings is expected to
fall well down the global city destination list in the coming years, following uncertainty over Brexit. Asian cities are tipped to dominate the global destination rankings in the next decade driven by the phenomenal rise of Chinese travel.
Hotels are fighting Back
Sparking the boom in 2008 that has turned the world upside down for many hoteliers, 115 million travellers have now stayed in three million Airbnb listings in more than 191 countries.
Hotels are fighting back, streamlining service, providing more in-room comfort, tapping into their guests’ desire for local experiences and additional amenities from enhanced onsite leisure facilities to locally influenced cuisine and improvement of loyalty incentives. The Silo Hotel Capetown, South Africa (www.theroyalportfolio. com/the-silo) has the continent’s largest collection of modern African art, while Elounda SA hotels on Crete offer ‘Babies travel light’. Parents can book all necessary baby items from strollers to formula (www.tuiholidays.ie/Greece/crete).
Having recently welcomed South America’s first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru is gearing up for huge interest in the mountain citadel of Kuelap, northern Peru’s answer to Machu Picchu. The spectacular site is easily accessed now by a new 4km long cable car, boosted by new domestic flight routes from Lima.
Let’s not forget Paddington Bear’s 60th anniversary either, marked by the release of the movie Paddington 2 with a star-studded cast, including Brendan Gleeson that follows the huge success of the first Paddington film. Kind, loveable Paddington is the rare short-faced spectacled bear of the Andean western region of darkest Peru.
World Travel Market, the second largest trade event globally, reports the onward demand for trips offering hands-on activities in a country and with its people while contributing to local economies. A new cycling trip in Karnataka in south India takes travellers on day trips between villages and spice gardens, staying in a guesthouse hosted by a community.
Community tourism projects are also mushrooming in South and Latin America. Become a naturalist for a day in Ecuador studying wildlife with the experts. See www.mashpilodge.com or lend a hand in Bolivia with Hands up Holidays. See www.handsupholidays.com from land clearance to teaching children.
We are travelling further and staying longer, according to research. With the Irish economy in a good place, 30% of honeymoons and rising are long haul travel. The no frills low –cost sector (Norwegian Air ex Cork) adding the US as a destination is revolutionising long-haul travel together with new direct routes from Ireland offered by competitively-priced carriers like Etihad, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates and Qatar, opening up south-east Asia, Africa and the Asian Pacific region. Award-winning Thai International Airways reports a significant rise in business on its London-Bangkok route with easy transfers from Terminal 2, used on the Cork and Dublin routes by Aer Lingus.
Asia’s centuries of wellness know-how, rejuvenation treatments, holistic therapies and calming activities, usually at a fraction of western prices, makes it tops for spa and wellness stays. A wellness break is often a welcome add-on to tiring excursion- filled, long-haul trips. Increasingly resorts from stunning beachside to dramatic mountain retreats encourage guests to digitally detox and connect with nature.
Choose from fitness programs in India, Muay Thai boxing in Thailand, a surf and yoga package in Sri Lanka, dips in Malaysia’s natural hot springs, Ayurvedic programmes for weight control, detox and rejuvenation widely available at Asian hotel resorts. Travel agents can advise.
A US Civil Rights multi- state trail, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King includes more than 80 sites and covers the most famous landmarks from the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s such as Alabama’s Selma Bridge where police attacked demonstrators on Bloody Sunday. From January see www.civilrightstrail.com.
The strong dollar, Trump effect, hurricanes and wildfires are blamed for a tourism slump to the US over the past year. A big marketing campaign will start soon targeting new travellers.
An Imax film showing ‘America’s musical journey’ showcases musicians and the country’s many different music styles and legacy. See www.VisitTheUSA.com
East Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, and Qatar offer keenly priced economy fares to the Middle East either as a final stopoff or onwards to more far-flung destinations. Following Dubai’s continued success attracting middle market family beach and theme- park tourism Abu Dhabi is hotting up the competition.
5-star beach hotels pop up overnight while cruise business for the Emirate is booming. Ferrari World has added a new Turbo track and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi opening in 2018 includes six worlds of Superman, Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones and more. The first branch of the famous Louvre museum outside France is also opening soon.
Game of Thrones factor
Game of Thrones has done wonders for Northern Ireland in the international tourism game. Since it first aired in 2011 fans from all over the world have descended on the North’s rolling hills and dramatic coastline to experience the land of Starks.The series has been great for Northern Ireland as a screen tourism destination and other countries are closely watching the trend.
Croatia is also attracting large numbers of Throners, becoming Europe’s top film location hotspot with blockbusters that include the latest Robin Hood, the 25th Bond movie and the sequel to Mamma Mia being filmed there in 2018.
The T word
No matter how much we want to forget the T word on our travels the industry knows that as soon as a country suffers a terrorist attack and is perceived unsafe bookings melt away. The seismic shift from Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt has benefitted Portugal, Spain and more recently Greece showing a phenomenal resurgence of popularity.
Beautiful history-filled Cyprus, where during our boom years 70,000 Irish holidayed annually is tipped for a major surge in tourism. Cobalt Air (see www.cobalt.aero) recently launched year-round flights from Dublin. Turkey saw a slow but sure increase in tourism again last year from mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Hopes are high Ireland follows the trend.