Heaps of suggestions for trips based on what West Australians like to do.
Italy, Japan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, London, Bali, of course, and WA.
Cruising from the Northern Lights to Antarctica, from New Zealand to China, and on the rivers of Europe.
Our readers — you — have been all over the world and fossicking in our own backyard, and the greatest interest in 2018 has been particularly in these destinations.
That will carry on into 2019.
Lots of travel companies put out “where to go in 2019” lists but these are largely based around the tours they want to sell.
The places mentioned here come from our knowledge — from knowing our readers, speaking with them (all those phone calls and emails answered), informing and entertaining them at our events and then through our writing and video features.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
... and it’s not Africa. It’s cruising.
The cruising industry has matured — come of age — and with that comes diversification. Cruising ain’t cruising any more. It’s not as easy as saying “let’s go cruising”, seeing a price and a ship name and booking.
The worst thing you can possibly do is be on “the wrong ship” for you, on the wrong itinerary. Then even a cheap fare is just a donation.
Consider this ... that at one end of the scale, the mega ships are very much destinations in their own right, with countless bars and restaurants, and enough entertainment and activity to keep many generations within one family happy.
At the other end, purpose-built expedition ships are becoming more bespoke, and their on-board programs even more informative. With itineraries often similar — the Antarctic Peninsula, the Galapagos Islands — what separates them is the ship’s style and facilities and the specialists aboard. The combination of this is what adds up to quality.
The experience on Viking or Azamara, P&O and Ponant are all very different. Be sure you are booking what’s right for you. The best way to do that is to follow our stories, and talk to experienced cruise travel agents.
London is still our big arrival point ... but will I still be able to call it “Europe” in 2019? Well, we won’t open the Brexit can of worms here but I know, beyond “visiting friends and relatives”, touring the UK will still be popular.
And with London and the Lake District, the southern Jurassic Coast and Scotland ... why wouldn’t it. It’s easy for self-drive, great for coach touring, good for food, and affordable.
The Rhone and Saone combination is terrific, as is the Bordeaux region.
- The Baltics. Look at cruising itineraries.
- Croatia is getting busier. Consider Montenegro.
- Romania. Moving beyond Frankenstein and being touted by some as “the next Berlin”.
- Greece. Travel had a good year — two million people visited Santorini alone over the past 12 months. But there are hundreds of beautiful islands.
- Italy — look further afield, south to the “boot” and Puglia, then over to Sicily.
- Prague — nicely eclectic.
Our interest in Japan will continue unabated, particularly with the introduction of direct flights between Perth and Tokyo from September 1, and I expect that to gain momentum up to the 2020 Olympics.
There will be plenty of packages and travel options, from cherry blossom tours to walk tours and Hokkaido’s wonderful powder snow in winter.
Singapore continues to mature and diversify as a destination, too — Marina Bay with its modern edge, Sentosa with its family themes and “old Singapore”, particularly with Raffles Hotel scheduled to reopen in the middle of the year. And I like Scoot as a low-cost, high-quality airline to get there and back.
Where Vietnam was, even in recent years, a somewhat eclectic, bespoke proposition, now it’s mainstream for WA travellers — but some areas are showing the signs of tourism growth more than others. While Hanoi might feel like the French-accented rather charming Asia city it once was, Ha Long Bay and Danang are changing.
Take, as an example of the interest and investment, just one hotel group. AccorHotels has become the biggest international hotel operator in Vietnam with more than 6100 rooms across a range of brands.
And the group will open another 13 hotels in Vietnam in the next two years, bringing its total to 41. It most recently signed for two new sea-facing properties, in two prime locations, in Van Phong and Ha Long Bay, which will open towards the end of 2021 and add 525 more rooms to its list.
An interesting feature of my year has been the educated nature of you, our readers — not “just tourists”, but well-informed citizens of the world, taking local factors into account. There has been resistance to travel to Myanmar for political reasons.
The elephant in the room in Asia is Bali and, despite talk, campaigns and encouragement, not much beyond it.
Africa is all about shifts and switches. At this moment in southern Africa, I’m particularly keen on Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania (despite shifts), Ethiopia (because of shifts), Rwanda and Namibia.
I’m watching for shifts in Zimbabwe and still holding a little burning candle of hope.
North Africa remains very problematic for me. While there has been a lot of interest in Morocco and there are lots of tours, the recent murder of two Scandinavian tourists gives a glimpse into my concerns. Norwegian police say a video appearing to show one of the women being beheaded is likely to be real.
Tourism in Egypt has suffered seven tough years. Although much of the travel industry is busy talking up “going back to Egypt”, I still see the big question mark hanging over it.
TRENDS, TRENDS, TRENDS
There seems a polarity in trends. While city breaks continue to increase in popularity, so too do “away from it all” nature-based breaks.
The Antarctic is still the big item, and the expedition cruise from Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina across to the Antarctic Peninsula is still the classic. Consider adding walking in Patagonia.
The trend to travel to TV show locations stands out — and Game of Thrones locations are the stand-out among them.
King’s Landing, Dorne, or Slaver’s Bay, had to be filmed in warmer Mediterranean locations such as Morocco, Malta, Spain and Croatia.
Many scenes of the frozen wastelands Beyond the Wall were filmed in Iceland. The pass to the Eyrie was shot in Thingvellir National Park, not far from Reykjavik.
Part of medieval Doune Castle in Scotland’s Stirling district was used for Winterfell scenes.
Filmmakers made do with Northern Ireland for much of the rest of the shooting. Castle Black and The Wall are at Magheramorne Quarry in Northern Ireland. Ballintoy, also in Northern Ireland, became Lordsport on the Isle of Pyke.
Forecasts predict Northern Lights activity will dwindle between 2019 and 2021. The sun’s activity is slowly regressing towards the “solar minimum”. But that isn’t deterring bookings on trips to Svalbard and beyond and Iceland. Consider Greenland and North-West Passage.
Colombia was going to be the big thing but that never, really, actually happened for us. All eyes on Costa Rica. But Peru, Chile and Argentina remain mainstays in South America.
INDIA and SRI LANKA
The food in Sri Lanka is great, even if the domestic politics this year hasn’t aided digestion.
I have no doubt you will find me in South India, too.
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