Destinations of the past decade & future hotspots

December 21, 2009

After bringing us the likes of Simon Cowell, Osama Bin Laden, Jordan and Jedward, the Noughties are almost over. But what were the Destinations of the Decade – stunning new places that are now firmly on the tourism map – and what will be the holiday hotspots of the Twenty-Tens/Oh-tens/Teenies/Tenties/Tenners? We asked  some of our expert clients:

**The Noughties**

The trend of the decade: Staycations
“Of the many holiday destinations British travellers have turned to in the past decade, our own backyard, the UK, has fared especially well as its appeal broadened. The profile of Cornwall, in particular, has grown since 2000 partly due to a rash of new attractions, from the Eden Project to high-profile celebrity restaurants like Fifteen: Cornwall, while Newquay has become synonymous with Britain’s new found passion for surfing. New air links have made Cornwall more accessible for residents across the country, and an increase in accommodation options – from the green to the ultra-luxurious – mean everyone is catered for, and at a higher standard than ever before. Long live the staycation!”
Simon Tregoning, MD of West Country expert Classic Cottages (01326 555 555,

The short break of the decade: Unknown Italy
“As people worked longer hours throughout the decade, they felt the need to get away more frequently – and short breaks consequently exploded in popularity, with Italy leading the way. Although Venice, Florence and Rome remain the classic choices, the likes of Sicily and the art cities of northern Italy – such as Bologna, Mantua and Ravenna – have enjoyed a steady rise in visitor demand. Just when you think you’ve seen every great Italian town or city, there’s always another one to seek out.”
Ted Wake, Director of Sales & Marketing of short break specialist Kirker Holidays* (020 7593 2283,

The short/mid-haul holiday of the decade: Morocco
“Ten years ago the short break really took off: and, after Paris and Madrid, the exotic appeal of Marrakech suddenly registered. Just three hours away existed a cultural vortex – a land of souks, sorcerers, spas and sun, and a very cost-effective one at that. Beyond Marrakech lay similar jewels; packed into a relatively small country were ski resorts and high mountains, beaches, first-class golf-courses, Berber villages and the most scenic of desert-scapes. Announced in 2001, King Mohammed VI’s ambitious Vision 2010 tourism plan saw eight million visitors to Morocco in 2008, a 400% rise on 2000’s numbers.”
Steve Diederich, is VP of UK Sales & Operations for Travelzest Plc, incorporating The Best of Morocco (0845 026 4588,

The ski resort of the decade: Kicking Horse, in British Columbia
“Kicking Horse Mountain Resort started life as Whitetooth Ski Area, run by local volunteers in the town of Golden. In 1999 it was bought and hugely upgraded, reopening in Dec 2000 under its new name. Back then, few people knew of it: today Kicking Horse has worldwide renown for its powder, challenging skiing and 4,133ft vertical drop, second in Canada only to Whistler Blackcomb, and also as a fine option for beginner or intermediate skiers.  Bring on the next decade, too: there’s newly a ten-year, $300 million development plan in place to expand Kicking Horse by 1750 acres.”
Richard Rice, MD of Ski Safari and committee member of AITO Ski (020 8744 9280,

The safari of the decade: Botswana’s Okavango Delta
“In the 1990s, the Okavango was still split up into the Moremi Game Reserve and a number of hunting areas – and tourism to the Delta was relatively small. The last decade has seen a steep change: Southern African safaris are no longer the poor relation of East Africa trips, and the Okavango has turned from a backwater to the continent’s ultimate safari destination. From 2000 onwards, small, often fabulous lodges began arriving in areas previously reserved for hunting: gradually, over the last decade, we’ve seen many of these change to be photographic concessions, where hunting is no longer practiced. Safaris are now firmly established in the Okavango as a much more humane money-spinner.”
Chris McIntyre, MD of Africa specialist Expert Africa* (020 8232 9777,

The adventure destination of the decade: Vietnam
“Options for the traveller to Vietnam have expanded dramatically in the past decade. There have been vast improvements in the transport and hotel infrastructure, while enterprising locals have introduced an array of ways to see their destination: now there are luxury junk cruises around the incredible karst scenery of Halong Bay, tribal homestays and trekking in the North and Central Highlands, cycling holidays along the Mekong Delta, cookery schools in Hanoi and Hoi An and all sorts of volunteering trips. Combine these with beautiful landscapes, beaches, popular cuisine and a tropical climate, and it’s a winning combination. The icing on the cake is that Vietnam has consistently offered excellent value for money.”  
Peter Crane, Product Director of adventure expert Explore* (0844 499 0901,

The Latin America trip of the decade: Oaxaca State, Mexico
“During the past decade, more and more people have been discovering Mexico’s rich interior, heading beyond the commercial beach resorts to find colonial cities, elegant architecture, culinary treats and congenial people – all elements which can be found in the state of Oaxaca. In the city of the same name, live performances take place in the main square, chic boutique hotels offer first-class accommodation and grasshoppers fried in chili make for unusual meals. In the country, Zapotec rugs are hand-loomed as they have been for centuries and the tombs of Monte Alban offer arguably Mexico’s best archaeological site. It’s easy to see why enquiries for travel to Oaxaca have risen so steadily over the past decade.”
Lloyd Boutcher, Director of Latin America specialist Sunvil Traveller* (020 8758 4774,
And what’s coming next?
**The Twenty-Tens/Oh-tens/Teenies/Tenties/Tenners**

Zimbabwe – Chris McIntyre
“With the Mugabe era likely to end in the next few years, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry is poised to bounce back, and the good news is that its environments are generally in great shape. The wonderful national parks are all situated on land that’s difficult or impossible to farm, so they remain largely untouched, while much of the game is apparently in good shape, too – even if a few areas have had high levels of hunting.  Recent news has been very encouraging: an apparent upsurge of visitor numbers in 2009, and now a much less unstable, dollar based economy. Once an effective protection plan is re-installed and development returns to the country’s people, I can see it taking off fast in tourism terms. Zimbabwe used to have vastly more visitors than either Botswana or Namibia – and it can do so again.”
Chris McIntyre, MD of Africa specialist Expert Africa* (020 8232 9777,

Colombia – Peter Crane
“After years of civil unrest and conflict, stability has been restored in Colombia – and mainstream tourism seems likely to follow. Most emblematic of the country’s new era is the city of Medellin: once famed as the home of Pablo Escobar, it’s now a vibrant tourism stop, as new museums, parks and direct flights to Florida attest. All around are new options, however: from plantation stays and jungle trekking to eco-beach retreats and even medical tourism. Officials have boldly estimated 30% annual increases in visitor numbers and it’s easy to see why: put simply, Colombia is the one Latin American destination with every kind of landscape – from beach to mountain, rainforest to plantation.”
Peter Crane, Product Director of adventure expert Explore* (0844 499 0901,

India for skiing – Richard Rice
“While the likes of Japan, Mongolia and Chile are likely to emerge as viable ski destinations in the coming ten years, and Russia will host the Winter Olympics in 2014, we feel that India’s slopes will be the hottest draw of the next decade.  The Kashmir paradise of Gulmarg is already well-established as a resort, but now there’s talk of Doodpathri and Aur at Pahalgam following suit, and of New Zealand-style heli-skiing at Sonamarg.  Tourism is always involving in India – with ever-improving flight services from the UK – and skiing seems likely to be the next big sector.”
Richard Rice, MD of Ski Safari and committee member of AITO Ski (020 8744 9280,

Scandinavia – Noel Josephides
 “Scandinavia remains Europe’s last great wilderness, offering dramatic and diverse scenery, excellent food, warm and welcoming people, surprisingly good summer weather and an unexplored, untouched appeal. It is good value – the pound has held up comparatively well against the Swedish and Norwegian currencies, unlike the euro – and it’s so close: flights to Stockholm for example are just 2.5 hours from London. From a short-haul perspective, Scandinavia seems the obvious choice for the discerning traveller in the twenty-tens.”
Noel Josephides is MD and co-founder of short-haul specialist Sunvil Holidays* (020 8758 4758,

Burma – Derek Moore
“Lots of the potential new destinations for the next decade are places that are currently marginal for tourism due to restricted access. North Korea, Zimbabwe and Iran are all ripe for more mainstream tourism if they see internal changes in the coming decade – and especially Burma. This may not necessarily mean a change in regimes but an awakening to the potential earnings of tourism. Burma has a fascinating Buddhist tradition, pagodas stretched down the dreamlike Ayeyarwady, miles of beaches and the cultural idyll of Mandalay.  Despite such unlimited potential for visitors, it will open up slowly, perfect for small tour operators rather than mass market operators.”
Derek Moore is the Chairman of AITO (020 8744 9280,

South-Eastern Mediterranean – Ted Wake
“Perfect for discerning travellers balancing a sense of adventure with an urge for warm sunshine, the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean will prosper as a short break and longer-stay destination in the next decade. Recent infrastructure improvements and the emergence of high-quality, often quirky accommodation in the likes of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel amount to an unforgettable cultural experience.”
Ted Wake, Director of Sales & Marketing of short break specialist Kirker Holidays* (020 7593 2283,


*This company is a member of AITO – the Association of Independent Tour Operators. AITO comprises 140 independent and specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world. Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of 100% financial security, high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit for further information. Richard Mellor