While destinations such as Paris
will always be popular, exotic locales are popping up on the radar for 2007. Travel
Agent polled sources to find out what trends they're seeing; a handful came
up again and again. "People are looking for new places to go," says
Kathy Sudeikis, a former president of ASTA and vice president of corporate
relations for Mission, KS-based All About Travel.
The destination most agents we spoke with mentioned as
having an upsurge in bookings is Croatia.
Marla B. Schaffer, president of Leaders in Travel, Ltd. in
Great Neck, NY, says that interest is growing in Croatia, but that hotels there
aren't up to the level that most clients want, so she prefers cruise vacations.
Eric Ardolino, president of Wallingford, CT-based A&SA&S Travel Center,
for one, is seeing amplified interest in Croatian cruises.
Agents should note the new hotel and tour products coming
online: Le Méridien just last month opened a hotel in the coastal town of
Podstrana, about five miles from downtown Split, and Regent Hotels &
Resorts is currently at work on a 120-room luxury hotel in Dubrovnik, expected
to open early 2009.
Globus now offers a tour of Croatia
with stops in Austria and Hungary. The
15-day trip includes a week in Croatia,
exploring the Dalmatian coast as well as Split
For more time-strapped travelers, Avanti Destinations offers
a two-night stay at the four-star Hotel Jezero, located in PlitviceLakesNational Park. "Our
business to Croatia
has tripled from last year," says Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti
Destinations. "Part of the reason is the increased airlift between many
European hubs and both Dubrovnik and Split." Famous for
its national parks, Croatia
will most likely be a hit with outdoor-oriented travelers, as the country's
terrain includes lakes, mountains and rocky coastlines, perfect for boating
enthusiasts and hikers.
Judging from the battles over airlift and rapid pace of
hotel development in Asia, this region is on
fire. "We're now booking more travel to China
observes All About Travel's Sudeikis.
"I wouldn't call China
an emerging destination," says Owen Imaizumi, director of product
development-Asia for Pleasant Holidays, "but with the upcoming 2008 Summer
Olympics, focus will be placed on China
and interest and travel to China—and
all of Asia—will surely increase." In
addition, work on the Yangtze River dam project looks to wrap up ahead of
schedule, Imaizumi says, "and thus may also create a sense of urgency to
cruise the Yangtze River."
Pacific Delight Tours is among the operators noticing the
uptick of travel to Vietnam,
says Rosalyn Gershell, senior vice president. The cost of a Vietnam trip is
reasonable and the people are welcoming, notes Imaizumi. He also points to Siem
Reap in Cambodia
as another locale beginning to show up on travelers' radar. "In addition
to the reasonable cost and welcoming people, Cambodia's wats (temple ruins) are
quite an incredible sight," he observes.
According to Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure
sales at Altour International, Cambodia
and Laos have fed off
the success of Vietnam
and are becoming resurgent hot spots, with bookings up in the regions. Jim
Hamilton, travel consultant for Kirkland, WA-based ETI Travel, a Virtuoso
agency, also is finding that Southeast Asia is popular, especially Thailand,
where the company is seeing a lot of honeymoon interest.
As for India,
demand by upscale travel has been pressing against finite supply, observe
several tour operators. However, infrastructure is poised to more than double
in the next several years as the country prepares for the 2010 Commonwealth
Games, says Max Ali, director of sales for SITA World Tours. Already coming on
line or in the pipeline are wildlife lodges that Taj is opening in partnership
with CC Africa, as well as a succession of hotels under such brands as Hyatt,
Radisson, Sheraton, Marriott and Hilton. "People feel safe now...These
hotels are like gated communities," says Rapp, referring to luxury India properties such as the Oberoi Hotels &
Resorts, of which there are 11 in India.
Australia and New Zealand
"We're seeing increased interest in the South Pacific,
especially Australia and New Zealand," says ETI Travel's Hamilton. "Our clients
feel safe in these destinations, and they've been everywhere else."
Ardolino of A&SA&S Travel Center is seeing strong
bookings to Australia, and a survey of recent bookings made by American Express
Travel representatives unveiled New Zealand as another top destination for
2007, specifically the towns of Christchurch and Wellington. Christchurch is the largest city on the South
Island of New Zealand and offers many national parks and gardens. Meanwhile Wellington may better
suit those looking for a more urban vibe. The city has museums, nightlife and
dining and is on the southwestern tip of the NorthIsland on Cook Strait, the passage
that separates the North and SouthIslands. That doesn't
mean outdoor-oriented travelers shouldn't consider New Zealand's capital city for
their next vacation though. Abercrombie & Kent this year expanded its New Zealand offerings to include a 14-day
"natural adventure" with stops in both Christchurch
among other cities. The tour focuses on outdoor activities, including an
exploration of Wellington's more scenic side
through a tour of TongarriroNational Park.
A&SA&S Travel Center's Ardolino is seeing growth
from Belize and Costa Rica as is Schaeffer of Leaders in Travel,
and Costa Rica is a strong performer for Sudeikis' All About Travel. But Panama
is picking up heat. "Cruises to the Panama Canal
are in demand, given the combination of high desire with low
availability," says Ardolino.
is evolving as a popular Central American destination—and one reason is the new
airlift between Costa Rica
says Dalgaard of Avanti Destinations. "There is a direct flight from San
Jose to Bocas Del Toro in Panama—a tropical paradise with coral reefs,
crystal-clear water that is great for diving, and beautiful white sandy
beaches. Then vacationers can fly to Panama City
and enjoy a Panama Canal tour."
—David Eisen, Camie Foster, Jennifer Merritt, Joe Pike,