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Rising Stars: Destinations on Our Radar for 2020

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This year has certainly been grand, but 2020 is calling, and with it, a host of destinations on the rise are just waiting to be explored

In 2019, it was the likes of Tahiti, Namibia, Jordan and Montenegro– destinations that were rapidly trending and, seemingly all of a sudden, on travellers’ radars. And while the white sand beaches of French Polynesia and luxurious lodges of Africa aren’t dropping off our travel itineraries any time soon, there are already whispers of entirely different – and surprising – destinations topping the must-visit lists of 2020.

Tour operator G Adventures is forecasting a colourful mix of emerging destinations, well-trodden cities hosting global events, and countries on the rebound where tourism can truly be a force for good for local communities.

“As pioneers of community tourism, our mission is to change people’s lives through travel, going beyond the lives of our travellers to the locals we visit, particularly people who are marginalised,” says G Adventures’ founder Bruce Poon Tip. “When we return from a transformative travel experience, we can then bring back what we learnt to make a difference in our own communities. That’s what we call the ripple effect.”

Wise words. Some other wise words? As the Dalai Lama once said: “Once a year go some place you’ve never been before.” G Adventures’ list seems like a good place to start.

NEPAL

Travellers experiencing a mindful trip in the peaceful home of Buddha next year will find it hard to recall that 2020 marks five years since the April 2015 earthquake hit. The country has been busy rebuilding and is now encouraging tourists to return with the launch of its ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, which aims to attract two million visitors in the calendar year. G Adventures has experienced a 90 per cent increase in the number of travellers visiting Nepal since 2017, so the word is officially out on this breathtaking country.

GEORGIA

It’s safe to say Georgian food and wine are having a moment right now, with the media spotlight highlighting delicacies such as khinkali (soup dumplings) and the country’s traditional winemaking process. G Adventures has witnessed a 44 per cent increase in travellers visiting the country over the past three years and its profile as an international tourism destination will continue to build with the UNWTO selecting Georgia to host its June 2020 board meeting. New budget flight routes through Europe will also help open up this emerging destination.

MADAGASCAR

This gem off the coast of southern Africa has long attracted adventure travellers, but the destination has been experiencing an upswing in tourist arrivals since 2013, with more travellers being lured to the exotic land that feels a world away from it all. Thousands of animal species can be found in Madagascar, including lemurs, which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. Then there’s exquisite rainforests, beaches and reefs as well as the photogenic ‘Avenue of the Baobabs’ near the busy capital, Antananarivo, providing a magnetic landscape ripe for exploration.

SRI LANKA

After a meteoric rise to become one of the hottest destinations of the past few years, Sri Lanka’s tourism was heavily impacted following the Easter attacks of April 2019. According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, arrivals fell 71 per cent in May; the lowest number since the civil war ended a decade ago. But with all foreign advisories lifted, 2020 is the perfect time for travellers to return to experience the country’s kind people, rich culture and stunning shoreline. And with the Sri Lankan government offering a free online visa for travellers from 48 countries, including Australia, it’s now even easier to go.

IRELAND

Did you know 2020 is a leap year? So where better to visit than the country with its own leap-year tradition? On the Emerald Isle, age-old proposals are turned on their head and popping the question comes down to the fairer sex. Whether or not she has to bend the knee is still up for debate, but what isn’t is Ireland’s incredible natural beauty and exciting urban scene. Galway has been named a European Capital of Culture for 2020, along with Rijeka in Croatia, so make sure you schedule in a visit. The harbour city is often referred to as the “Cultural Heart of Ireland” thanks to its emphasis on Irish language, music, song and dance traditions.

NICARAGUA

With its beautiful beaches, world-class surf and stunning classic colonial architecture, Nicaragua is back on its feet and ready to welcome tourists. The country underwent a period of unrest in 2018, and tourist arrivals dropped as a result, but now that the calm has returned, the friendly locals are hopeful the tourists will follow. And with one look at the dramatic beauty of this land, we think they’ll be happy to oblige.

BRAZIL

With Rio de Janeiro named UNESCO’s first World Capital of Architecture for 2020, the famed Brazilian city just became even more appealing. According to UNESCO, Rio will host discussions centred on how urban planning and cultural heritage can help promote inclusive societies and effective institutions. And for those who aren’t so design-inclined, there’s always Brazil’s ethereal and diverse landscapes of picture-perfect beaches, historical colonial towns and lush rainforests. Not to mention that little soirée called Carnival, taking place on February 21, 2020.

SAINT VINCENT & THE GRENADINES

The Caribbean might not be the most obvious choice to Australians for a holiday, but with affluent Aussies increasingly priding themselves on visiting surprising, out-of-reach destinations, that’s precisely the point. As a major sailing destination, this yacht-dotted chain of islands serves up private islands with hidden coves, secluded beaches and crystal-clear waters inviting snorkelling adventures. The beguiling volcanic landscape is a photographer’s dream, and the capital, Kingstown, is a pretty port city boasting panoramic views of the archipelago beyond.

LAOS

Often overlooked on a Southeast Asian adventure, the evergreen, mountainous nation of Laos is located at the crossroads of Asia and, as a result, is one of the region’s most ethnically diverse countries. Laos has been far slower to develop than its neighbours, leaving it deliciously untainted by mass tourism and offering a slower, more authentic Asian experience full of opportunities to witness thriving local traditions. In Luang Prabang, Buddhist monasteries pepper the land and mornings see slews of saffron-robed monks walking the streets, while fascinating journeys await on the famous Mekong River.

SOUTH AFRICA

Tourism in South Africa has been steadily growing since 2013. In 2018, 16.44 million people arrived in the country and this figure is expected to reach 19.6 million by 2023. Given the spectacular coastline, national parks and lush winelands, it’s no wonder why. The nation’s 2019 Rugby World Cup win is sure to bring fresh tourism interest in 2020, but we’d say the myriad opportunities for game-spotting on safari and the buzzing atmosphere in cosmopolitan Cape Town are even more likely to pull the crowds.

JAPAN

This small island country is on a roll, its popularity bubbling and set to boil over ahead of the 2020 Olympics. Travellers to Japan are spoilt with a formidable food scene, magnificent natural beauty and a unique culture that has fascinated visitors for centuries. Going hand in hand with ancient traditions is a feeling of incredible modernity, with the Shinkansen (bullet train) network a symbol of the nation’s efficiency in the bustling modern world. A trip to Japan may not be complete without getting a seat on one of these, but a visit to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is just as vital.

GREENLAND

Greenland hit the headlines earlier this year when President Trump stated he wanted to buy the autonomous Danish territory. Online search results doubled, and this otherworldly destination is now growing in popularity. While the US president’s interest might be political, it’s the country’s unique geography and culture that appeals to leisure visitors. The majority of Greenland’s residents are Inuit and three-quarters of the country is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica. Natural phenomena such as summer’s midnight sun and winter’s Northern Lights make Greenland truly a one-of-a-kind destination.

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