Rio de Janeiro will host matches for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Exotic, international destinations are much in demand for 2014. Travelers are willing to spend more money than in recent years and are looking for art, culture, luxury and adventure in those destinations, according to a recent survey by American Express.
The travel counselors surveyed cited a number of trends that travel sellers should find appealing. They include a wish-list of 2014 travel destinations spanning the globe. From Southeast Asia, Brazil and New Zealand to Croatia and Costa Rica, travelers are pursuing a wide variety of interests in 2014.
More so than in recent years, world events, observations and attractions are competing for attention in 2014, sometimes literally. Brazil, for example, is hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup in February. Twelve different cities will host high-profile matches against backdrops as diverse as Manaus in the Amazon region and bustling Rio de Janeiro in the Atlantic. South America’s largest country also hosts the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, which will be a huge draw for visitors.
Sochi, Russia, is the somewhat chillier venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The resort off the scenic Black Sea is a longtime vacation favorite of Russia’s political elite. Now, the world will be in on the local secret as travelers converge there in February.
Europe will continue to entice travelers as usual next year, but particular trends appearing in the continent are surprising. According to the latest statistics from the European Travel Commission, Iceland, Slovakia, Montenegro, Latvia and Croatia are enjoying record surges in visitor numbers. In fact, Croatia is the Mediterranean’s fastest-growing destination. Among its most popular attractions are Dubrovnik tours of filming locations for the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Historical, architectural and cultural significance have earned Riga, Latvia, a 2014 European Capital of Culture designation. Visitors will find programs, performances and exhibits to introduce them to the little-known Latvian culture.
British culture, by contrast, is well-known and much-admired. An uptick in visits that coincided with the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations is expected to continue in 2014. The newly christened royal baby will almost certainly heighten the allure of British heritage. Scotland, too, is enticing travelers with its own version of heritage tourism. The country is promoting a year-long program in 2014, Homecoming Scotland 2014, designed to encourage those of Scottish heritage (or mere aficionados) to return. It includes festivals, concerts and other events celebrating castles, glens, golf and historic battles.
By contrast, the attractions of Australia and New Zealand revolve around unique scenery, rare wildlife and other natural wonders. The popularity of the two countries continues, especially among those seeking exotic yet English-speaking destinations.
Southeast Asia is not only exotic, but poignant and filled with a rich history. Cambodia and Vietnam in particular are showing up on a number of prestigious “hot” lists, and river cruise lines offer one of the most popular means of experiencing the two countries. Many are enhancing their Mekong River itineraries in 2014, due to increased demand.
Closer to home, the centennial of the Panama Canal in 2014 is beckoning visitors to the Central American country. In addition to a massive canal expansion, one attraction generating global buzz is the Frank Gehry-designed BioMuseo. The Panama City museum will showcase the Isthmus of Panama’s role in the earth’s biodiversity.
Like Panama, Cuba holds its own distinctive Caribbean legacy, and thanks to recently loosened travel restrictions, U.S. travelers are ready to visit the country in increasing numbers. According to the Cuban government’s National Statistics Office, visits from the U.S. have grown by more than 33 percent the past few years. Demand is expected to surge even more in 2014, now that legal (but limited) travel is more readily available.