Hot Destinations for 2007

While destinations such as Paris and Italy will always be popular, Travel Agent polled sources to find out what trends they’re seeing for 2007 and a handful came up again and again.

In Europe, Croatia is the destination where most agents are seeing an upsurge in bookings. Marla Schaffer, president of Leaders in Travel, Ltd. in Great Neck, NY, says that interest is growing in Croatia, but the hotels there aren’t up to the level that most clients expect. Instead, Croatia may be preferable for cruise vacations. Agents should also note the new hotel 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.

In Asia, China is holding steady. “I wouldn’t call China an emerging destination,” says Owen Imaizumi, director of Asia product development for Pleasant Holidays, “but with the 2008 Summer Olympics, 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 up tick of travel to Vietnam, says Rosalyn Gershell, senior vice president. He also points to Siem Reap in Cambodia as another locale beginning to show up on travelers’ radar.

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.

Eric Ardolino, president of Wallingford, CT-based A&SA&S Travel Center 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.

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.