2017 Travel Trends in Depth — Emerging Destinations

A couple weeks ago, we started to explore the more transient side of the vanishing/emerging travel trend as we looked at destinations that were disappearing quickly, like the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives, and the Taj Mahal. Now, we’re flipping that coin to explore the up-and-coming highlights that people have started flocking to in record numbers. Some of these areas opened up due to improving political circumstances, while others expanded because previously uncharted territory gained traction in travel media, or maybe just from good old-fashioned curiosity. Let’s talk about the fledgling destinations that will keep moving on up this year!

Cuba — Viva la Cuba! Increased diplomatic relations led to improved tourism prospects, which helped Cuba’s rise on every luxury travel bucket list. Fair warning: There are some restrictions on getting into Cuba for tourist activity. If you cite broad enough categories as your reason for travel, such as “support for the Cuban people,” you should be granted a visa to Cuba. 

The many people seeking a long-awaited digital detox will be happy to know that WiFi is very scarce in Cuba (only available in specific telecom centers). Enjoy the beaches, like the famous Veradero Beach and Playa Ancon, and just unplug for a while! If you love the nightlife, you’re losing out if you don’t try Havana. Street food, laughter, and friendly people abound in the island nation. 

Myanmar — In 2012, Myanmar’s government allowed tourists to enter the country for the first time. As soon as the country opened for tourism, millions were drawn in by its diverse landscape, ornate Buddhist temples, and interesting food. You know the food stands out because Anthony Bourdain greatly enjoyed his time sampling the fare here, as highlighted in his popular show Parts Unknown!

According to one Lonely Planet writer, “It doesn’t matter whether this is your first or 51st visit to Myanmar: you won’t fail to notice the energy, hope and possibilities for the future that hang in the air. Exiles are returning, joining others in rising to the challenge of bringing their country into the 21st century at the same time as preserving the best of the past. Myanmar has many problems to fix but its people remain as stoic and charming as ever. Slow down, sit, listen and connect with them – it’s the best way to appreciate what’s truly golden about this land.”

Kyrgyzstan and other ‘stans in central Europe — When tourists had already exhausted the remote regions of Africa, the next exotic destination was Central Asia. Most of these regions host a fascinating confluence of Muslim traditions and secular Russian culture that constantly keeps travelers guessing.

See the gorgeous architecture along the Silk Road, party with the locals (their Russian neighbors popularized vodka!), and see some of the most beautiful mountainscapes the world has to offer. You’ll be glad you ventured way off the beaten path!

Croatia — This lovely eastern European country borders on the same sea (the Adriatic) as the tourist-laden Mezzogiorno and France, but it costs a small fraction of the price. It first, Croatia was a well-kept secret.

Look out for the booming music festival scene in the coastal city of Zagar. If quiet walking tours suit you better, you just can’t miss the historical treks through Dubrovnik. On the food front, expect to see an abundance of lobster, charcuterie, and goulash.

Iceland — Seems as though every time we open up social media these days, someone we know is vacationing in Iceland. They owe part of this boom to increased marketing efforts aimed at bringing in tourists after a volcanic explosion (can you say Eyjafjallajökull?) destoyed tourism. The campaign asked people with positive experiences to counter the negativity with glowing testimonials — the driving force of their famous “Inspired by Iceland” campaign.

It doesn’t hurt that the country’s major airline, IcelandAir, invited Americans to a complimentary 7-day stopover on their way to the mainland Europe. Another perk? Most Icelanders speak English pretty well.

South Africa —  Looking for an affordable, unforgettable adventure? South Africa has been ranked high for its outdoor adventures like microflighting and ziplining. If you’re anything like me and want to fly without the experience of free falling out of a plane, both of those will show off the stunning landscapes of South Africa.

And, of course, take a safari when you’re there: They’re some of the most famous in the world. The country harbors one of the largest populations of white and black rhinos; if you’re tired, you can stop along the way in beautiful lodging custom made with large windows for animal sightings.

Madagascar —  Speaking of animals, Madagascar boasts 8,000 species of animals and plants indigenous to the fourth-largest island nation. Look for lemurs (cute!), fossas (creepy cat-like mongooses), and leaf-nosed snakes (also creepy). Unlike in South Africa, you won’t see a sophisticated road system, so it’s perfect for forging your own path through miles of wonderful wildlife.

If you took some French in high school or college, you’ll get to put those skills to use in Madagascar; it’s one of the two official languages spoken there. Don’t get your hopes up too much, but most people surveyed online fared pretty well with English; there were usually helpful people around who understood at least a little.


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