TRAVELLERS with a keen eye for emerging destinations should check out the Flight Centre Travel Group’s top 10 spots for next year.
The list was created by the team at Flight Centre, according to three factors – what the company believes to be emerging hotspots, what its customers are enquiring about and what the travel industry is offering next year.
To get the most out of a holiday, speak to a Flight Centre travel consultant about cheap flights, accommodation options, cruise itineraries and private tours available this year.
1. New Zealand
New Zealand has made it to many people’s bucket lists for next year. This may be attributed to the availability and frequency of cheap flights across the Tasman, not to mention the plethora of activities to do.
Thrill-seekers have been getting their dose of adrenalin in Queenstown for decades, but the demand for family holidays and couples escapes has been growing each year.
Couples who enjoy the odd tipple can map out the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, from Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough, while families are unearthing the Maori culture, visiting bubbling mud pools and taking part in sheep-shearing.
The travel industry is predicting a rush from die-hard movie fans of The Hobbit trilogy, after this film hits cinemas on Boxing Day.
Plus, cyclists will soon be able to navigate 19 new cycling paths, including gentle loops around Hawke’s Bay wineries and unique geothermal landscapes, which form part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
INSIDER TIP: Wine and food lovers should check out Waiheke Island, just a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland. This is a fantastic place to go with a group of friends or a few couples. Renting a house is easy, with plenty of properties offering great value for money, self-contained facilities and outstanding views across the ocean. Explore the wineries, olive groves, forest trails, farms and beaches or just enjoy the laid-back coastal vibe.
2. Hong Kong
Hong Kong's calendar is buzzing with events year-round, from its Chinese New Year celebrations and Halloween bashes to international sports tournaments, such as the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
According to Hong Kong Tourism Board, 58% of Australian arrivals are a repeat visitor, which confirms the destinations popularity, so hopes are set high for 2013 as more people share their travel stories with friends and family.
The buzzing city of Macau is tipped to be hot on the travel radar, following the release of the new movie Skyfall, where James Bond plays his cards right in the Floating Dragon Casino.
From mid-2013, Hong Kong will open another cruise terminal at the former Kai Tak Runway on the East Kowloon waterfront to complement its Ocean Terminal. The new cruise terminal is expected to boost cruise tourism in Asia and encourage cruise passengers to extend their stay pre- or post-cruise in Hong Kong.
INSIDER TIP: If you want to witness the pizzazz of Hong Kong, visit during the annual Hong Kong Summer Spectacular from late June to late August to see the Dragon Boat Carnival and Lan Kwai Fong Beer & Music Festival. Or, if you love food and wine, visit during the Hong Kong Wine and Dine month in November.
3. Cook Islands
Those looking for an island escape that offers a genuine taste of Polynesia and great value for money, should consider plunging into the Cook Islands.
Each year, the islands are welcoming more Aussies, with around 20,565 Australians visiting in the year ending at June 2012, up 22% on 2011 and 40% on 2010, according to Cook Islands Tourism.
The Cook Islands serve up the perfect blend of tropical highlights and recreational activities, so there is something for everyone, whether you want to snorkel year round among rainbow coloured parrotfish in clear turquoise lagoons, explore the mountains and jungles by foot or 4WD, eat some of the Pacific’s best seafood and fresh produce from the lush plantations, or learn to dance as the locals all do.
The 15 islands are positioned halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, flanked by Samoa and Tahiti, and are roughly about six hours flying time from Australia in the Pacific Ocean and.
Getting there is easy, with Air New Zealand offering direct flights between Sydney and Rarotonga every Saturday, and services via Auckland, with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia.
INSIDER TIP: Water lovers looking for the ultimate paradise should venture across to the coral atoll of Aitutaki, home to only 1200 people. The island is famed for its giant triangular lagoon and diverse array of wildlife, including giant clams, turtles, yellow angelfish, blue starfish and white-spotted eagle rays.
4. Queensland Islands
Bet you never thought to pitch a tent on one of the Great Barrier Reef islands, but this is a unique and affordable way to experience the world’s largest coral reef system.
The demand for cheap holidays in our own backyard has risen in the past few years, as more people tighten their belts and opt to stay close-to-home when they travel.
Camping is a great way to save a few pennies and perfect for holidays with large groups.
From as little as $5, you can camp out under the stars on one of the Whitsunday Islands, as well as Lady Musgrave Island, Lizard Island, Dunk Island and Fitzroy Island. This is a portion of the price you would pay if you stayed at a luxury resort, which can set you back anywhere between $400 and $600 a night.
The Whitsundays are superbly equipped for caravanning and road trips too, so there is the option to camp or park at a holiday park at night and explore the drive trails by day.
INSIDER TIP: Booking a camping permit prior to your trip and book a spot on the islands can be done 11 months in advance. Facilities on the islands are good, but it’s best to bring your own fresh water.
Burma, or Myanmar, remains one of the world’s most mysterious and untouched destinations.
The country is now on people’s travel radars as a holiday destination, following the encouraging actions of President Thein Sein, who has put the country on the path to democracy.
Tour companies in Australia are reporting an overwhelming interest in travel to Burma already, following the release of new tours in the region, so predictions are that 2013 is going to be big.
Luxury hotels have started to pop up and remote areas are now accessible to travellers, however even the most populated Myanmar still feels authentic.
According to Burma’s tourism authority, there were 816,000 international arrivals in the last year, which is up 30% on figures from 2011.
The county offers a mixed and colourful culture, with up to 135 different ethnicities, and its location between India, China and Thailand makes it the perfect an add-on for those wanting to explore all of Indochina.
INSIDER TIP: It’s best to explore Burma with a reputable tour operator. These companies organise guided treks into surrounding hill tribe areas, so travellers have the opportunity to share stories with the village people, explore the floating markets and learn the history of monasteries, pagodas and Buddhist temples.
6. Hawaiian Islands
Aussies are flocking back to Hawaii. Anyone visiting the nation in the past year would have heard Aussie accents everywhere, especially on the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island.
According to Hawaii Tourism Australia, visitor numbers from Australia have grown dramatically, with records at October 31, 2012 showing around 33% increase on the previous year.
Hawaiian Airlines began its Brisbane to Honolulu route in November 2012 and just announced added services on the Sydney to Honolulu route to begin in April and May 2013.
Jetstar will launch Melbourne to Honolulu flights in mid December and continue to fly five times per week from Sydney to Honolulu. Qantas has three flights per week from Sydney to Honolulu.
Experts say the trend has been for Aussies to book a holiday to Hawaii that includes at least two Islands.
Getting to Hawaii’s four main islands is very easy, with short 30 to 50-minute inter-island flights departing from Honolulu regularly.
INSIDER TIP: Hawaii Island, the ‘Island of Adventure’, is the place to explore Hawaii’s only active volcano. Kauai, known as the ‘The Garden Isle’, is a place to rejuvenate body and spirit, inviting you to renew your connection with nature, while Maui, the ‘Magic Isle’ has been voted the best island in the world by travellers and magazines and has a small population, making it a great place to escape the crowds.
New luxury campsites, boutique souks and lavish hotels have sprung up across Morocco in the past year, which has all signs pointing to another big year in travel.
Travellers who want a taste of Africa are spicing up their holiday with a side trip across to the region to explore the Atlas Mountains, take part is cooking lessons and camp out in the desert.
The new 73-suite Delano Marrakech, decorated in velvet drapes, marble floors and intricate carvings, features a rooftop bar with panoramic views across the medina to the Atlas Mountains and beyond.
The Selman Marrakech is another new glamourous country estate that opened this year, run by a Moroccan family and home to 16 Arabian horses.
Safari seekers should check out the Sahara Safari Camp in the Draa Valley, near Zagora and Tagounite. This luxury tented wilderness camp has excellent eco-credentials, featuring bio-toilets, solar lighting and local produce, as well as partnerships with the tribal community to help minimise impact on the land.
INSIDER TIP: Visit Essaouira, a laid-back little port on Morocco's Atlantic coast. It’s a magnet for musicians, mainly because it hosts an array of music festivals all year round, from a classical music festival in April to an exuberant jazz and world music festival in late June to a gypsy and flamenco-based festival in October.
8. Abu Dhabi
Aussies are curious about The Middle East, for its cosmopolitan lifestyle and forward-thinking infrastructure, so the destination has been a generating a lot of interest.
Whether you are into camel trekking or culture, Abu Dhabi is welcoming more Australians who want to see its attractions, including Emirates Palace, the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
According to the Emirates tourism authority, the number of guests staying in Abu Dhabi hotels reached a new record in the first nine months of the year ending June 2012.
Each year, sporting events like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, HSBC Golf Championships and Abu Dhabi International Triathlon are encourage tourists from around the world to visit the nation.
INSIDER TIP: Take the plunge at the new Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi. The waterpark on Yas Island is set to open in January 2013 and rumoured to be the world’s biggest water parks, featuring 43 rides, slides and attractions.
9. Côte d'Azur
Rather than just flying to the main cities in Europe, many travellers are looking to get more out of their holidays. A popular option is to hire a car and drive along the Cote D’Azur, better known as the French Riviera.
Chic and elegant, the destination is famous for its rich and beautiful lifestyle, from its lavish resorts to balmy beaches and perfumed streets.
The popular towns of Nice, Cannes, St Tropez and Monte Carlo draw a well-heeled crowd, but history buffs can get lost in the stunning old town of Antibes or pay their respects to Grace Kelly in Monaco.
INSIDER TIP: Independent travel is a great way to explore southern France, so consider staying in Nice and planning day trips to the nearby towns. Watch out for peak summer periods, as the Parisians head south for their holidays.
10. Family themed cruises
Cruise holidays have created big waves in the travel market in the past year or two, but 2013 is expected to be big for families.
Parents have caught on to benefits of an all-inclusive cruise package, as well the idea that you can sail to more than one destination without have to catch several planes and trains to get there.
Disney Cruise Lines’ itineraries in the USA and Europe are a popular choice with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck fans. On board, kids will have the chance to meet their favourites Disney characters at breakfast appearances, themed shows, photo sessions and outdoor movies.
From Australia, Royal Caribbean International’s ships feature DreamWorks characters from Shrek, Madagascar and more. Interactive classes and enriching activities designed by Fisher-Price are featured at kids clubs on board, such as the Royal Babies for bubs aged from 6 to 18 months or the Royal Tots for babies from 18 to 36 months.
In addition, Carnival Cruises’ ships have some of the fastest and steepest waterslides on any cruise ship, as well as a 9-hole putt putt golf course and pool parties for kids.
INSIDER TIP: Cruising with the kids is very affordable, so plan out your preferred travel dates and destination, and then speak to a cruise expert about which ships and itineraries are available to you. Most family discounts tend to be promotions for early bookings, rather than last-minute specials, so sign up to newsletters to keep informed.
For more information, cheap flights, accommodation options, cruise itineraries and new tours in 2013, call Flight Centre on 1300 939 414.
ENDS: Media enquiries to Deana Tynan on (07) 3170 8106