Anthony Pearce rounds up ABTA’s 12 destinations to watch this year and highlights the trends influencing your clients’ travel choices.
ABTA has revealed its 12 destinations to watch in 2020, as well the key findings of its Travel Trends report.
It’s rare to hear this when talking about Italy, but Basilicata is relatively unexplored by tourists. Found in Italy’s far south, and bordering Calabria, Puglia and Campania, the region is strikingly beautiful. It is home to the fascinating town of Matera, known for its sassi (stones), which were home to thousands of people up until the 1950s. The city came to international attention in 2004 when the Mel Gibson film The Passion Of The Christ was shot there. Local delicacies include the local bread (pane di Matera IGP), as well as arguably the region’s most famous food product, lucanica, a spiced sausage.
ABTA says: “Mountainous, heavily wooded and dramatic, Basilicata is a different side to Italy which travellers are now discovering – from the city of Matera to the impressive mountain range of the Lucanian Apennines to the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: two hours and 45 minutes) from London Gatwick.
Chicago and Lake Michigan, USA
Chicago is among the largest and liveliest cities in the US, boasting some of the country’s most incredible food, best-loved sporting venues, and eye-catching architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained-glass Robie House and Frank Gehry’s striking Pritzker Pavilion. Sat at a corner of Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one entirely in the US, the Illinois city provides remarkable access to natural beauty. Covering an area of almost 60,000 square kilometres, the lakes’ shoreline boasts stunning dune regions, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, home to sand dunes reaching 140m above the lake, as well as 59 lighthouses.
ABTA says: “The ‘Windy City’ has a spectacular lakeside location on one of the five Great Lakes, is home to one of the liveliest music scenes in the USA and has even designated 2020 as the ‘Year of Chicago Music’.”
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: nine hours) from London Heathrow
The tri-island destination of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is the quintessential Caribbean. The islands boast verdant rainforests peppered with waterfalls, myriad reef and wreck diving and snorkelling sites close to shore, and notable cuisine, plus almost deserted silky-soft sandy beaches, vibrant festivals and an incredibly warm welcome. Attractions include the St George’s Spice Market, Grand Anse Beach, the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park and Grand Etang National Park, home to tropical birds, bright-chartreuse lizards and armadillos. Carriacou, Grenada’s sister island with West African influences, is also well worth a visit.
ABTA says: “Often referred to as the Island of Spice, Grenada is incredibly fertile – its green hills are full of fruit-, nut- and spice-bearing trees. It also has some beautiful beaches which are less crowded than many other Caribbean islands.”
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: ten hours and 30 minutes) from London Gatwick.
From its ancient and vibrant capital, Tbilisi, and Unesco World Heritage Sites to the majestic Caucasus mountain range, Georgia has intrigue and adventure in equal measure. Said to be the birthplace of wine, it is also among the world’s best wine regions – without doubt, the food and drink here is world-class and growing in recognition. Once the preserve of backpackers, the country is increasingly popular among all types of travellers. Top attractions include the aerial tramway in Tbilisi, as well as the city’s Old Town, and the beautiful Lake Ritsa.
ABTA says: “With unspoilt landscapes, delicious wines and welcoming people, Georgia is a delightful and surprising destination, with direct flights from the UK into its capital Tbilisi taking just under five hours.”
Getting there: There are direct flights to Tbilisi (average flight time: four hours and 45 minutes) from London Gatwick
Madrid, neighbouring cities and towns, Spain
Madrid is a true European capital, made up of beautiful boulevards, manicured parks, world-class museums, high-end shopping and, of course, some of the best food you will find anywhere. It is also a landing pad for a number of nearby cities and towns, including Ávila, famous for its perfectly preserved Muralla (town walls), Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of Don Quixote writer Miguel de Cervantes, and Manzanares el Real, a town famous for its two castles, the New Castle of Manzanares el Real and the Castillo Viejo.
ABTA says: “The Spanish capital of Madrid is one of the world’s great city break destinations, and it is also a perfect base to visit many other historic cities and towns which are easily reachable by public transport or car.”
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: two hours and 30 minutes) from London Luton, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Liverpool
Its name translates from Arabic as “place the sun sets; the west” after its location on the Atlantic and Mediterranean corner of Africa, but Morocco is not simply a coastal country. It also boasts sweeping deserts, soaring mountain ranges and ancient places, such as Fez, one of the largest medieval cities in the world. Its mix of Arabic, Berber and European cultural influences are reflected everywhere. The bustling modern metropolis of Casablanca contrasts with the more peaceful capital city Rabat and the unique Marrakesh and its souk-filled medina.
ABTA says: “A country that is very easy to fall in love with, Morocco has dramatically varied landscapes offering windswept beaches, the sand dunes of the Sahara and the rugged beauty of the High Atlas and Rif mountains.”
Getting there: Multiple UK airports operate flights to Marrakesh Menara, Fès-Saïs, Rabat-Salé, Agadir-Al Massira, Tangier Ibn Battuta and Casablanca Mohammed V airports. Typical flight time is three to four hours.
Located between the Kalahari Desert and the South Atlantic, the sparsely populated country of Namibia has a bit of everything – from beautiful coastlines to dramatic mountains and endless desert, with an unexpected German colonial twist. There is also plenty of stunning wildlife. Etosha National Park is home to a variety of animals and birds, while on a safari you can spot the Kalahari lions with their black manes, plus water buffalo, antelope and ostriches. There are also opportunities for more extreme activities such as sandboarding down the desert dunes.
ABTA says: “Towering sand dunes, dramatic coastlines and beautiful national parks teeming with wildlife – Namibia is a place of dramatic contrasts and spectacular landscapes.”
Getting there: There are only indirect flight options available, with connections via Johannesburg or Tambo and Addis Ababa Bole airports
Singapore brings together the best of Asian culture, metropolitan delights and international flavours. The nation is focused on sustainability as it works towards becoming a “City in a Garden”, and there are numerous beautiful green spaces to enjoy. Tourists will revel in the world-class markets, eateries and bars of this tiny island. Top attractions include the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Universal Studios, the unique Night Safari, the Jurong Bird Park and the historic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. The city also boasts two Michelin-star street hawkers: the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street
Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.
ABTA says: “A blend of iconic hotels, 21st-century architecture and the world’s best airport – join the party as this affluent and modern country celebrates its 200th birthday.”
Getting there: Direct flights (average flight time: 13 hours and 30 minutes) from London Heathrow and Manchester
The Netherlands is a cultural playground, with world-renowned art galleries and the highest density of museums in the world. Visit Rotterdam and Eindhoven for a dose of modern architecture and design. Then there’s the Gothic-imbued The Hague, canal-ringed Delft, the colourful fishing village of Volendam and the cheese capital of Alkmaar. In spring, enjoy the rainbow palette of the Netherlands’ vast tulip fields.
ABTA says: “A country that effortlessly blends the ultra-modern with its rich historical legacy. With Rotterdam hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 and Dordrecht celebrating its 800th birthday in 2020, these are just two of many reasons to visit.”
Getting there: There are direct flights to the Netherlands (average flight time: one hour and 15 minutes) from Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster, Durham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London (all), Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton
Uruguay might be South America’s smallest country, but it certainly compensates for its small size with unique experiences. Explore cosmopolitan Montevideo, party in glamorous Punta del Este, spot wildlife along the Atlantic coast, take a hot-air balloon above sprawling vineyards or head out on horseback to trek with gauchos. Montevideo, its vibrant capital that is home to nearly half of Uruguay’s population, combines beach ambience with café culture, and is where Belle Époque, Art Deco and modernist architecture combine. Outside the city is the Santa Teresa National Park, a coastal, forested area featuring an 18th-century fort and hiking trails, and Quebrada de los Cuervos, a protected natural area and the largest canyon in Uruguay.
ABTA says: “A compact gem, with spectacular landscapes, lovely cities and incredible steaks – Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America, but it packs a lot into its land mass.”
Getting there: There are only indirect flight options available, with connections available via Madrid-Barajas and São Paulo-Guarulhos airports.
Picturesque South Korea, known as the “land of morning calm” thanks to its spellbinding tranquillity at dawn, features ski slopes atop craggy mountains, peaceful beaches on remote islands and dazzling landscapes. For urban thrills, head to the centre of Seoul, where round-the-clock activity entertains and a tantalising culinary menu satisfies. Top attractions include Gyeongbokgung Palace, N Seoul Tower, Bukchon Hanok Village and Changdeokgung, a Joseon Dynasty palace and gardens.
ABTA says: “South Korea is already a leading cultural power in the Far East, but its reach is going global, driven by world-class films, food and the blockbuster phenomenon of K-pop.”
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: 11 hours and 30 minutes) from London Heathrow
When it comes to culture, there are few cities that can compete with Vienna. The Austrian capital boasts remarkable architectural sights in Gothic, Baroque and modernist styles, more than 100 museums, more than 140 art galleries and, of course, classical music and café culture at every turn. Over half of Vienna’s metropolitan area is made up of green space, with an incredible 120 square metres of green space per resident. The Volksgarten, in the Innere Stadt first district of Vienna and part of the Hofburg Palace, may be the pick of the bunch.
ABTA says: “In 2020, this beautiful city will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven. Vienna has also been named the most liveable city in the world for the past two years, which visitors will be sure to agree with.”
Getting there: There are direct flights (average flight time: two hours) from Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London (Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton) and Manchester