Tuesday, 21 December 2010 12:00 AM
2010 was not a great year for travellers with volcanic ash cloud, transport worker strikes and weather difficulties ruining the holidays of many. The recent increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD) has also been tipped to dampen the mood of holidaymakers.
But a recent survey by ebookers.com has found that travellers are refusing to forgo holidays both near and far, delving deeper into their pockets to cover the additional costs. Good value will continue to be a key factor but holidaymakers will still be inspired by exotic locations and international sporting events.
Here are the top 10 holiday destinations in 2011 as picked by Travelbite.co.uk editor Natasha von Geldern:
Everyone here is talking about what to do for next year's Golden Week, when the royal wedding gives Britons 11 days holiday for the price of three. But while we are booking holidays to exotic destinations, hotels in London and the south-east are booking up as people plan to be here in the United Kingdom for the big event - the wedding of Wills and Kate. Enjoy the pleasures of the beautiful English countryside in springtime, a spa break in the Cotswolds, or a traditional country house hotel with gastronomic delights. Or combine a few days in London with a visit to the more rugged but no less gorgeous Lake District.
Tunisia is fortunate to escape the worst of the ravages of APD so flights will be better value in the short to mid-haul bracket. The country has a wealth of culture and ancient history to share, from Berber adventures in the Sahara desert to Roman and Carthaginian ruins. There are also a number of options for arrival, with Tunisair now offering flights to Djerba as well as Tunis and Monastir. The unspoilt Tunisian island province of Djerba offers access to a unique Sahara desert landscape that has played host to films such as Star Wars. Djerba has an average of 300 days of sunshine per year but a milder climate than mainland Tunisia. Or catch the train to Mahdia on the thin Cap d'Afrique, with medina, winding streets and a grand castle but most importantly long, clean and magnificent beaches.
Last year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) revised its travel advice on Zimbabwe, sparking a return by tour operators to what was once one of the most popular safari holiday destinations in Africa. Zimbabwe remains the best place to view the spectacular scenery of Victoria Falls and the ancient Great Zimbabwe Ruins reveals an ancient African civilisation. For those seeking crowd free safari holidays, one of Africa's best-kept secrets is Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Hwange offers outstanding diversity, and is particularly known for its dry-season game viewing. For budding conservationists Gweru features the groundbreaking 'Rehabilitation and Release Into The Wild' project, and the opportunity to go walking with lions. The FCO advice remains against travel to high density - low income suburban areas in Zimbabwe.
Turkey continues to rule the roost as the most popular short haul destination with better value holidays than perennial favourite Spain. Chief executive of Directline holidays Maria Whiteman agrees Turkey is "likely to offer a good value for 2011" and says the company has increased their capacity in Turkey in anticipation. "Four and five star deals offer exceptionally good value for those looking for the best value holiday outside of the Balearics, Spain and the Canary Islands," she said. From city breaks in sophisticated Istanbul to beach holidays on the Turquoise coast, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia to historical explorations at some of Turkey's many archaeological sites this destination has something for everywhere.
International sporting events will continue to be a significant influence on our holiday choices in 2011 and the appeal of South Africa was underlined during this year's FIFA World Cup. With a huge variety of holiday experiences on offer, from sun and sand to African adventure, I'm sure South Africa is on the travel wish list of many for 2011. If you've already seen Cape Town head for the Battlefields, beaches, villages and wetlands of KwaZuluNatal. Or experience the stunning landscapes of the Drakensberg. The country is proud of the new infrastructure created for the tournament and formerly off-the-tourist-track towns like historic Bloemfontein are now inspiring visitors. Combine a luxury train journey with golf in the KwaZulu-Natal province or a malaria-free safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
As we look for good value short-haul destinations for 2011, Bulgaria should become an increasingly popular option. According to TripAdvisor travel searches for Bulgarian ski resorts have gone up by as much as 80 year on year thanks to significantly cheaper accommodation and lift passes. Cheap ski holidays and beach holidays on the Black Sea are already on the holiday radar but this relatively new member of the EU has a lot more to offer. There's a flourishing wine industry with an ancient pedigree and fascinating Black Sea port towns. For those who love to get out into the great outdoors Bulgaria should be top of your European trip list, with some of the world's best hiking through a variety of beautiful mountain environments. Bulgarians love hiking and climbing and there is a good network of walking trails, as well as mountain huts, hotels and hospitable guesthouses.
After interminable lawsuits, cast and crew changes and industrial disputes, the film adaptions of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit are finally set to kick off in 2011. This calls for an influx of so-called 'set-jetting' tourists to New Zealand, where The Hobbit will be filmed. Travel to visit movie locations boosted tourism to New Zealand following Peter Jackson's Lord to the Rings trilogy and a similar effect is tipped for The Hobbit. 2011 will be your chance to bump into stars such as Ian McKellern, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett and Sylvester McCoy in Wellington's bustling bars and cafes, as well as visiting the set of Hobbiton in Matamata and the various South Island locations. Cycling holidays in New Zealand are also on the rise as the first sections of the country's National Cycle Trail are due to opening 2011. It will ultimately consist of 18 'Great Rides' and 2,000km of cycleway.
Holidaymakers will continue to look for good value in 2011 as 'austerity' budgets continue to bite but at the same time the popularity of adventure holidays continues to grow. With highlights such as, the Gullfoss waterfalls, the geysers of the Haukadalur valley, the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, icy adventures on the MÃ½rdalsjÃ¶kull Glacier, and the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, Iceland is still one of the most unique and spectacular destinations on the planet, on any planet. In addition, the next few years will also see a maximum in the 11-year cycle of solar activity that means frequent displays of the Northern Lights or aurora borealis. The lonely setting of Hotel Ranga enjoys views to the mountains, to the coast and across the green grasslands of Iceland's south coast, and in winter it is a prime spot for viewing the Northern Lights. The average price for hotels, drinks, car hire etc. in Iceland is now no more than any European country so there's no better time to be inspired by Iceland.
Another chance to be inspired by an international sporting event but this time before the crowds arrive. Brazil's booming economy and reputation for knowing how to party are only the forerunners of what will be a sport/travel double whammy. The 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are set to kickstart a host of infrastructure projects. And 12 cities are getting ready to host a big party. So perhaps avoid the construction sites by heading for the Peninsula of Marau in Bahia. Enjoy colonial architecture, a quaint harbour, the Saturday market, and one of Brazil's most beautiful beaches at Barra Grande. It's a vast country but low cost airlines are contributing to improving transport options. Brazil is about to raise the foreign ownership cap on its air carriers, offering great opportunities for foreign airlines to penetrate Latin America's largest market.
This is my off-the-beaten-track pick for 2011. Only a few years ago Tajikistan was the territory of hard core travellers with virtually no tourism infrastructure outside the capital of Dushanbe. But improvements in visas and a burgeoning community-based tourism programme means the country is increasingly accessible to independently-minded travellers. It's now possible to get a tourist visa on arrival at Dushanbe airport for US$25 and you can now submit postal applications at European embassies (including the GBAO permit necessary to travel the Pamir highway). Many of the annoying internal travel permits have been scrapped and there is lobbying going on to improve the GBAO permit situation. The Pamir Eco Tourism Association and the Zerafshan Tourism Board are the two main bodies driving the community-based tourism services and thanks to them you can now stay at supported homestays, as well as organise guides and excursions. And why should you go? Stunning scenery, fascinating culture and hospitable people, Tajikistan is a true travel adventure.
Natasha von Geldern
Follow us @travelbite