Fave Five Destinations to Watch

TravelAge West editors pick their five favorite emerging destinations to visit in 2010 and beyond By: TravelAge West Editorial Staff
Florianopolis attracts meetings and incentive groups. // © 2010 Embratur
Florianopolis attracts meetings and incentive groups. // © 2010 Embratur

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More than 160,000 Americans will visit Morocco this year. // © 2010 Narvikk

More than 160,000 Americans will visit Morocco this year. // © 2010 Narvikk

Singapore continues to grow. // © 2010 Singapore Tourism board
Singapore continues to grow. // © 2010 Singapore Tourism board

Sochi, Russia, will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games // © 2010 Elena Kutnikova
Sochi, Russia, will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games // © 2010 Elena Kutnikova

Clients can experience dramatic landscapes sailing on Halong Bay. // © 2010 Dibrova
Clients can experience dramatic landscapes sailing on Halong Bay. // © 2010 Dibrova

Janeen Christoff

If Brazil isn’t already on your clients’ radar, it soon will be. In the next six years, the country will host two of the world’s biggest sporting events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With these events putting Brazil front and center in the international spotlight, the country is preparing with a new campaign created by the Ministry of Tourism to “excite, encourage and motivate” travelers to visit Brazil for both leisure travel and business. The new campaign, “Brazil Is Calling You,” which was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa, is part of an overall strategy to increase international tourism to the country by 300 percent throughout the next decade.

“These are bold actions for Brazil, and this campaign represents the flavors and color of this great country,” said Brazil’s minister of tourism, Luiz Baretto.

The $30 million campaign will appear in print and on television and will reach more than 12 countries, as well as appear on YouTube. A new website showcases the 12 cities that will host the 2014 FIFA World Cup games with profiles, maps, photos, videos and tourism locations.

In addition to the promotion of Brazil to travelers, the country is working on developing its infrastructure, making it easier for visitors to navigate the vast country.

“We are spending a lot of money on tourism, not only to draw visitors, but also to create jobs in Brazil,” said Vilma Varga, director, West Coast, Brazilian Tourism Office.

According to Varga, a new bus corridor is being assembled, as well as a high-speed train that will travel between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The country is also working on streamlining its visa process, making it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to the country.

Another mission of the Ministry of Tourism is to promote some of Brazil’s lesser-known destinations. Destinations to watch include Trancoso in the state of Bahia, a new hotspot for celebrities; Florianopolis, popular with meetings and incentive groups, which will host the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association in 2012; Belem, in the state of Para, which has a growing gastronomical culture; and Bonito, an emerging ecological and adventure destination.

Brazilian Tourism Office


Carole Dixon

Boasting eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, 12 centuries of history and 2,300 miles of coastline, Morocco is definitely an emerging travel destination in 2010. With a strong U.S. exchange rate, easy access with direct flights from New York and year-round warm weather, this African and Arabic country with French and Spanish influences is exotic and colorful, yet safe — and there are plenty of five-star hotels on the horizon.

Over the past decade, the Moroccan government has rolled out a visionary plan to propel Morocco into the front ranks of worldwide tourism destinations within the first decade of the 21st century. This year, the Moroccan National Tourist Office is expecting more than 160,000 American visitors to Morocco. 

Marrakech offers nearby beaches, world-renowned bazaar shopping and Michelin-starred restaurants against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. The city’s crown jewel, La Mamounia hotel, has been completely refurbished after a three-year closure and is seeing a spike in return visitors.

In addition, luxury brands Le Royal Mansour, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Banyan Tree, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Beachcomber Royal Palm, Lucien Barriere Fouquet’s and Octagone are planning new properties in Marrakech. Adding to the glam factor, the recent film “Sex and the City 2” was filmed in Marrakech — doubling for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates — and shining a spotlight on a new generation of fashionable fans.

Clients should consider visiting some of Morocco’s other top cities as well. Traveling within the country has never been easier with an updated infrastructure that includes a new highway and high-speed trains between Tangier and Marrakech. Extensions are also being built to the Tangier and Casablanca airports to welcome more travelers.

Fez is the largest old city of the Arabic world and features plenty of mosques and souks to explore. The new city center is teaming with restaurants, clubs, bars and hammams. The chic Palais Amani offers clients butler service, cooking courses and full amenities.

Golf is a royal pursuit with a dozen courses located from Tangier to Ouarzazate, some of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus. Royal Dar Es Salaam Golf Club in Rabat is ranked among the world’s 50 best courses.

Cycling and hiking vacations are also catching on, especially in the southern foothills of the Atlas Mountains around Ouirgane and along the Atlantic Coast around Essaouira. Clients can ski the Atlas, go deep-sea fishing near Casablanca or learn to surf in Agadir, home to dozens of surfing schools. Camel trekking, too, is an ideal way of meeting the Bedouin people and the wildlife reserves feature more than 100 bird species.

Visit Morocco

Deanna Ting

Today’s Singapore is not the same Singapore that you or your clients may remember. While the city-state has long been a favored business and leisure travel destination, its rapid evolution from a former British colony on the tip of the Malay Peninsula into an independent, multifaceted metropolis continues today at a rapid pace, with an even greater emphasis on developing the country’s already advanced tourism infrastructure.

A major part of that development included this year’s introduction of integrated casino-resorts — Marina Bay Sands (opened April 2010) and Resorts World Sentosa (opened January 2010), also home to the first Universal Studios theme park in Southeast Asia. Both are the first gambling establishments to emerge in the country in nearly 45 years. The government’s decision in 2005 to allow integrated resorts was part of an overall 10-year master plan to increase tourism numbers to 17 million annual visitors and generate tourism revenues of more than $22 billion by 2015. 

This year, Singapore hopes to receive anywhere from 11.5 million to 12.5 million visitors in total and, thus far, it appears on track to reaching its goal. In July, Singapore welcomed more than 1 million visitors in a single month for the first time, for a total of more than 6.6 million visitors since the beginning of August 2010.

By the end of 2011, a new and considerably larger International Cruise Terminal is expected to debut, as will Gardens by the Bay, a 250-acre park located in the heart of the city’s waterfront. Other new developments scheduled to take place include a River Safari theme park attraction, scheduled to open in early 2012.

This past March, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) unveiled a new branding platform, YourSingapore, emphasizing the personalization and customization of each individual traveler’s experience of the city.

“What will continue to differentiate us as a destination is that we are able to reach out to people regardless of what they are seeking in a destination or a travel experience, from business to leisure,” Melissa Ow, STB assistant chief executive, industry development II group, told TravelAge West.

The STB also remains committed to working with travel agents to help bring visitors to Singapore.

“We recognize the value that agents bring in helping to advise and plan an itinerary, and our new website is intended to reach out to both agents as well as to end consumers,” Ow said.

To that end, the STB is ramping up its efforts with regard to its U.S. travel partners, including its Singapore Specialist agents.

“This year, we are really stepping up our activities with our Singapore Specialists, and we are reaching out to new tour operators that we haven’t traditionally worked with in the past,” said Ambrose Tham, STB area director for the Western USA, Canada and Central America. “A lot of our [partners] have the same perception of Singapore that they had 10 years ago, which is really outdated. It’s time to get out on the road and get them updated and informed about the new developments.”

Singapore Tourism Board 

—  Christina Tse

For decades, Sochi, Russia, has been a holiday retreat for Russia’s political elite, earning it the nickname “Russian Riviera.” Boasting some 90 miles of coastline, it claims the title of the longest city in Europe. This unofficial summer capital for Russians has maintained relative anonymity to the rest of the world — until recently. In 2014, the seaside city is poised to attract international attention as the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

The slogan for the Sochi Olympic Games is the “Gateway to the Future,” and the city is becoming just that by investing heavily into building its tourism infrastructure. Land, air and sea are going to be covered under the city’s ambitious development plans currently in progress. Russian Railways is establishing a bullet train to connect Sochi and Moscow. Within the city, a light metro system is under construction to interlink the mountain venues to Sochi’s downtown and coastal areas. The Sochi International Airport has been renovated and a new terminal has been added, one of the largest in all of Russia. An offshore sea terminal is being built near the current port to accommodate the docking of cruise ships. Aware of international concerns of development in Sochi’s unique environment, officials have promised that construction here is to be compliant with new “green standards.” According to the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, the city hopes to be “the gateway for the world to discover Russia’s passion, innovation and excellence.”

Having recently visited Sochi this past winter, I think a more adequate tagline could be, “Surprise, you’re in Russia!” Sochi will certainly showcase Russia to the world and, when it does, it will likely not be the Russia they are expecting.

Located on the southern border of Russia, sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, Sochi is a resort city for all seasons. Enjoying a Mediterranean-type climate that is not common to Russia, this vibrant city is best known for its traditional dachas, or Russian summer homes, and its main boulevard, stretching along its famed coast and lined with palm and banana trees. Looming behind its pebble beaches are the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains, which offer world-class skiing and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its Biosphere Reserve.

Options are plentiful as clients can take a ski lift down from the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi’s main ski resort and, then, board a sailboat in the Black Sea to take in a regatta. The drive between the two geographical giants will give a glimpse of what Sochi locals have been enjoying for years.

Sanatoriums built during the decadence of a bygone age stand in the middle of frond-filled squares. These former hospitals, now turned into health spas, cater to relaxation and well-being. Youth-filled skate parks, open-air restaurants, museums and monuments fill the sidewalks. The subtropical climate allows for flourishing vegetation, as evidenced in the Sochi Dendrarium, which houses a collection of 1,700 plant species from around the world.

In short, Sochi is not the Russia that you or your clients think they know. Now, however, you can introduce them to this pearl of the Black Sea before the rest of the world discovers it in 2014.

Russia Travel

Gary Bowerman

Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant destinations. After decades of fighting off French colonial rule, then enduring a shattering civil war, peacetime has since enabled Vietnam to develop its thriving tourism industry.

Anyone who visits returns home enraptured by Vietnam’s colorful landscapes, cultural diversity and — of course — its deliciously spicy cuisine. Tourism infrastructure and flight accessibility have improved considerably in recent years, and tourism demand is rising. According to the 2010 Virtuoso Luxe Report, Vietnam ranked second as an emerging destination for high-end travel. In 2010, this seahorse-shaped nation of 86 million — bordered by China, Laos and Cambodia — is targeting 4.2 million inbound arrivals.

Most visitors spend time in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC; formerly Saigon). HCMC boasts magnificent colonial architecture, excellent dining and nightlife, plus must-see attractions such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace, Ben Thanh Market and The War Remnants Museum, home to an eye-opening collection of military hardware, photography and artifacts from the “American War.”

From HCMC, popular three-day trips transport visitors to the bio-diverse Mekong Delta, where mangrove swamps, floating river markets and rice-growing villages represent a unique world away from the big city bustle.
Another fascinating trip option is the Cu Chi Tunnels, a 150-mile network of subterranean channels dug by Viet Cong fighters to shelter them from bombings of the Vietnamese countryside. Some of the tunnels are still open, and a museum details their gruesome history.

A two-hour drive from HCMC, Mui Ne is a thriving beach destination dotted with small resorts and some of the best windsurfing and kite-surfing conditions in Southeast Asia. The towering white and red sand dunes inland from the coast make for a popular excursion.

This year marks the 1,000th anniversary of Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. The largest city in the north, it is smaller and slower paced than HCMC. It is a becalming place to stroll through neighborhoods of colonial French buildings and enjoy the excellent museums, fine food and ever-present aroma of fresh-brewed coffee.

In the northeast, a sailing trip around the dramatic limestone karst landscapes of Halong Bay is the best way to experience a true natural wonder. Heading down the east coast, the ancient capital of Hue boasts a magnificent stone fortress and several colorful temples, while the coastal town of Hoi An is a pleasant place to relax, eat great food and explore UNESCO World Heritage architecture.

Vietnam Tourism

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