Predicting the future is no easy task, as any weather forecaster will tell you. Nevertheless, we thought we’d try our hand at forecasting which destinations will become popular with travellers. Our list hasn’t just been compiled by an arbitrary spin of a globe – we’ve taken a look at the UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO) statistics for visitor numbers from the past year and combined it with research from other sources to see where is going to be hot for 2020.
These destinations all have had big spikes in visitor numbers (and we think that the trend will increase) or have been perennially popular with travellers from other countries but are only just registering on the map for Australian tourists.
There are so many countries that are seeing growth in travellers, with tourism growing faster than merchandise trade. In fact, tourism is the world’s third largest export, after chemicals and fuels, beating out automotive products and food in 2017, according to the UNWTO’s International Tourism Highlights, 2019 edition. Tourism also plays an important part for both emerging and advanced economies having a diverse export revenue.
Our 2020 hot spots list includes some destinations that are off the beaten track, while others are familiar but tipped to boom in the coming year. Hopefully we have got our predictions right, but we’ll have to wait until next year to see.
Image: Kyrgyzstan Mountains.
Tucked between India, Russia and China are the five Stans of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This collection of countries presents travellers with the perfect balance of scenery and culture. Immerse yourself in the local communities and experience the hustle and bustle of the major cities, where you will find intriguing mosques, cathedrals and temples, along with plenty of shopping, entertainment and dining options. An increasing number of visitors are seeking out the rugged peaks and high-altitude pastures of Tajikistan, while Kazakhstan offers a setting that’s primed for adventure: think sweeping grasslands dotted with crystal blue lakes and surrounded by towering mountains.
The best way to see the Stans
Take in the beauty of Central Asia on the 26-day 5-Stans tour with Bunnik Tours. The tour begins in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, and concludes in Kazakhstan. Along the way, travellers will discover the major cities and attractions of the five Stans. Prices start from $12,595 including return flights from Australia.
Image: Bruges, Belgium.
Medieval towns, decadent chocolate and impressive architecture are just some of what draws visitors from all around the world to the tiny but vibrant country of Belgium. It’s often squeezed in between top-tourist destinations like London and Paris, but Belgium has plenty of its own to offer – and tourists are starting to take notice. From the 16th century Gothic St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral to the majestic 18th century Royal Palace framed by the verdant lawn of Parc de Bruxelles, Brussels is a haven of beautiful architecture. As well as Brussels, travellers should visit the breweries, climb Belfort tower and enjoy a boat ride on the canals in Bruges – and you simply can’t visit Belgium without seeing the WWI Battlefields near Ypres.
The best way to see Belgium
Trafalgar are offering a 10-day Best of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg tour from $3,172, where guests will be guided on a sightseeing adventure across five cities and three countries. Highlights include a scenic cruise on the canals of Amsterdam and Bruges, and a jaunt through the port city of Ghent.
Image: Suspension bridge in the jungle, Belize.
Belize may be pint-sized but this little slice of paradise has huge appeal. The culturally diverse Central American country is home to some of the world’s most magnificent marine life in sapphire-blue waters that beckon you to explore its depths. Snorkelers flock to Hol Chan Marine Reserve off the coast of Ambergis Caye, while those who prefer to stay dry can enjoy a luxurious catamaran tour. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix hiking in the mountainous jungles and exploring the many cave systems and fascinating Maya ruins, and those seeking pure relaxation can spend their days on the island of Caye Caulker under a palm tree with a rum punch in hand.
The best way to see Belize
World Expeditions’ new Belize Jungle and Reef trip will make sure travellers get to experience all the diverse landscapes that the country has to offer. The nine-day tour includes activities such as snorkelling, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding and visits Mayan ruins, Lighthouse Reef Atoll (a remote tropical marine park), Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary and Belize City. Prices start from $4,030 per person.
Image: Casablanca Mosque, Morocco.
For travellers chasing a taste of the exotic, Morocco delivers. From the perfectly quaint and picturesque old towns like Rabat’s Oudaias Kasbah, to the beautiful Rif Mountains dotted with colourful buildings, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this enchanting North African country. Marvel at the ruins of Volubilis that overlook the sweeping countryside and explore the bustling maze of stalls in the old city of Marrakesh as traditional musicians, snake charmers and acrobats entertain the passing shoppers. For a much less ancient but equally stunning display, check out the contemporary Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca with its intricate marble pieces and stunning mosaics.
The best way to see Morocco
See the best of Morocco on Topdeck’s 10-day Moroccan Explorer trip, which starts and finishes in the vibrant hub of Marrakech. Featuring an overnight stay in the Sahara Desert, a guided tour of the Marrakesh, Rabat and Fes and more, the tour includes meals, hotel accommodation and transport via an air-conditioned minibus.
Image: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand.
Visitors flock to the bright lights, culinary delights and breathtaking architecture of Bangkok every year, making it the top-visited city in the world. But venture beyond the borders of the city, and you’ll find breathtaking natural wonders like Phang Nga Bay, an oasis of 42 islands and islets surrounded by calm emerald-green water and limestone landforms. Trek through the Erawan National Park with its seven-tiered turquoise Erawan Waterfalls, explore the fascinating Tham Lot cave system – the longest in Thailand – and snorkel with the colourful marine life on the picture-perfect Phi Phi Islands. For an unforgettable experience, walk among the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park and marvel at the Phanom Rung temple set on the rim of an extinct volcano.
The best way to see Thailand
Intrepid Travel’s Thailand & Laos Adventure is a 13-day journey from Bangkok to Vientiane, where guests will discover the delights of Bangkok, the ancient charm of Luang Prabang in Laos, the Buddhist temples of Vientiane and much more. Prices start from $1,743 and include transport, accommodation, eight breakfasts plus activities.
Image: Ephesus, Turkey.
Turkey is rich with history, diverse landscapes and activities that will leave even the most avid adventurers awe-struck. From windsurfing and canyoning in the mountain gorges to soaking in the sights of Cappadocia from a hot air balloon, there is an abundance of ways to experience Turkey’s natural treasures. Man-made treasures abound in Turkey also, from the classical ruins of ancient Ephesus, to the magnificent buildings and palaces in the lively city of Istanbul. When you’re ready to unwind from all the adventure, be sure to enjoy the tranquillity of a Turkish bath and regale your tastebuds with the region’s finest dishes – from the sweet baklava to mouth-watering charcoal-grilled shish kebabs.
The best way to see Turkey
For a truly comprehensive and exciting exploration of Turkey, Peregrine Adventures offers Treasures of Turkey, a 15-day tour that starts and finishes in Istanbul, and includes a guided visit through Gallipoli, wine tasting in Sirince, a boat cruise in Kas and more. Prices start from $2,395 per person.
Image: Tulum, Mexico.
Although Aussies love Mexican food, the country itself is growing in popularity with travellers. In particular, Los Cabos holds a special lure for Aussies, who are the top visitors to this thriving tourist region, which boasts a unique landscape of stark deserts, azure beaches and volcanic-rock mountains. Located at the south end of the Baja California Peninsula, Los Cabos is home to dreamy beaches like Playa del Amor and Playa Santa María, as well as striking natural structures like the Arch of Cabo San Lucas. Cozumel Island, Tulum, Mexico City and Cancun are just some of the other regions in Mexico worthy of your tourist dollar, each with its own exciting activities on offer – think camel rides, 4X4 adventures, pirate ship cruises, whale watching, kayaking, snorkelling and plenty more.
The best way to see Mexico
Discover Mexico with On The Go Tours’ eight-day Best of the Yucatan tour. The trip explores Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and offers the chance to visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, wander the colonial towns of Merida and Valladolid and experience the beaches of Playa del Carmen. Prices start from $3,686 per person.