As thousands gathered to witness the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in New York City’s Rockefeller Centre in November, some wouldl hardly have been feeling celebratory. With President Donald Trump’s anti-foreigner rhetoric and immigration policies finally biting inbound tourism to the US, many relying on the city’s $US60 billion ($A84 billion) tourist industry are worried for the future.
The Trump slump is a reality across the US (there was a 4 per cent decline in overseas arrivals in the first six months of the year), and while it’s a hardline approach that has left many dismayed, it’s a fact that tourists are being made to feel less welcome the world over.
In 2017, we learned that Venice is planning to divert cruise liners, Barcelona has cracked down on apartment rentals, and Iceland is considering a tourism tax to limit sightseers’ access to popular hotspots.
“This is a wake-up call,” Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, said in November.
He added that while we can’t halt growth in tourism, which accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, we need to grow the industry sustainably and change the way we travel.
New York’s tourism arm NYC & Co is responding to the current climate with new campaign True York City, which aims to not only make foreigners feel welcome, but to also control where tourists go – pulling them away from traditional attractions and ushering them into local neighbourhoods and businesses.
It’s a strategy being adopted by tourism boards and tour operators worldwide.
Intrepid Travel’s Not Hot travel list suggests travellers swap over-burdened Croatia for Cyprus’s coastline and castles, busy Rome and Florence for Calabria’s and Sicily’s dramatic cliff-side villages and seafood, and Iceland for Finland, where in winter visitors can enjoy snow-dusted forests and witness indigenous Sami people and perhaps some of Santa’s reindeer.
In December, a heart-warming reaction to over-tourism rounded out the year. The tiny Western Pacific island of Palau now asks its more than 160,000 annual visitors to take a conservation pledge on arrival to help protect its environment and culture.
In the interest of protecting overburdened attractions and communities and in bringing the sense of adventure back to travel, here are some great places to check out in 2018.
Vintage European resorts
Following this year’s terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Paris, Stockholm, London and Manchester, Europeans are finding comfort in the resorts of yesteryear. Winners have been the Spanish Canary Islands off north-western Africa, the Portuguese island of Madeira, and Malta, off the south coast of Sicily, which is offering new food and nightlife options to capture millennials. Malta’s capital Valletta will also be European Capital of Culture for 2018.
Colombia and Chile
The Pope visited Colombia in 2017, the first papal visit to this Andean nation in 30 years. It highlighted a vibrant country with a colourful culture that is relatively safe to explore now the decades-long civil war has come to an end, although the Australian Government does still advise travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution”.
Further south, Chile will mark 200 years of independence in 2018. With the bleak and beautiful Patagonia in its south, the soaring Andes to its east and the Atacama salt flats to its north, this country may just be the most Instagrammable place on Rarth – and that’s before you visit its edgy capital Santiago, which is literally plastered with street art.
Lonely Planet named Chile the top country to visit in 2018, and with new direct flights from Melbourne to Santiago, it’s never been easier to get there.
The Middle East
The Middle East is more popular than ever, thanks in part to the 2016 openings of the world’s largest indoor theme park in Dubai, IMG World of Adventure, and the $US3 billion Dubai Parks and Resorts.
In November, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors. The year’s most spectacular new museum was a decade in the making and is the first universal museum in the Arab world, with hopes it can build cultural bridges across the region.
South Korea and China
Keen to tap into the insatiable travel appetite of its country folk, China’s domestic tourism sector has boosted its infrastructure and installed the largest high-speed rail network on earth. The Forbidden City in Beijing has been recently upgraded, while Shanghai offers the world’s highest observation deck, the gargantuan Shanghai Tower. The city’s Shanghai Disney Resort has just welcomed more than 10 million visitors in its first year of opening.
Neighbouring South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February, while a new high-speed rail link can whisk you across the country to its futuristic capital, Seoul, which in 2017 saw the exciting addition of Seoullo, an old flyover that has been turned into an elevated public park with cafes, bars and libraries.
Edgy European cities
If you’re keen to sample Europe’s new hipster spots, then forget the cities crawling with tourists. Leave London for Birmingham or Manchester; go Scandi-cool in Stockholm’s Sodermalm, Copenhagen’s Norrebro and Oslo’s Grunerlokka. Or leave Western Europe and head east, past Prague and Vienna and onto Riga and Warsaw, which are bubbling with creativity and innovation. Vintage fashion, vinyl records and vegan cafes abound.
Emerging wine regions
Tuscany and Bordeaux may be famous for their wine but they are busy places. Some of Europe’s lesser-known regions may offer a more captivating travel experience.
Georgia boasts one of the oldest wine regions in the world, with the cultivation of grapes dating back 8000 years. It was also one of the first countries to adopt Christianity and as a result, this former Soviet republic boasts some magnificent Orthodox churches in unexpected locations dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
The Musee Yves Saint Laurent opened this year in Marrakech, throwing a golden light on a city basking in colour, from its fruit trees to the spice piles found in the doorways of the city’s tightly-packed Medina, which dates back to the 11th century.
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