From destinations on the rebound, to places where events and investments are making it more exciting or accessible to visit, the adventure pros at G Adventures have been combing through their list of trip destinations to forecast the hot spots and new spots for adventure in 2018. The result is a mix of destinations that blend some of the tourism industry’s perennial favorites, with up-and-coming contenders for the all-valuable tourist dollar.
“We looked at factors such as trending sales data, operational improvements, new flight routes, social buzz and upcoming events around the globe to develop this look-ahead for adventure seekers in 2018,” said G Adventures U.S. Managing Director Ben Perlo. “Some of it is gut instinct. Adventure, after all, is about putting yourself out there.”
The small-group tour operator founded by social entrepreneur Bruce Poon Tip in 1990 today offers more than 700 ethical, immersive, comfort-zone busting itineraries in 100+ countries on all seven continents with a focus on transformational travel and local good. G Adventures’ ten top destinations for the American adventure traveler in 2018 are as follows:
1) EGYPT – 2018 is poised to be an exciting year for Egypt as its new Grand Egyptian Museum prepares to open in late 2018 as the world’s largest archaeological museum. The attraction will host treasures from King ‘Tut’s unearthed tomb and is expected to be a significant lure that should contribute to Egypt’s tourism comeback. Its tourism revenues jumped by 170 percent in the first half of 2017 to $3.5 billion, while G Adventures’ bookings to the country also grew some 24 percent.
2) PORTUGAL – The west European nation had a record-breaking year in 2017 as travelers sought destinations with fewer crowds, good food and travel security, and Portugal has emerged from Spain’s neighboring shadow. Tourism from North American travelers is growing fast and showing no signs of slowing. To welcome this increase in demand, G Adventures has added a new 7-day itinerary for 2018, dedicated to the sights, sounds and tastes of Portugal.
3) SRI LANKA – The ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’ is also having its moment in the sun, as local tourism authorities continue a grand road show to promote travel to the tropical country. Sri Lanka aims to double the number of tourists to five million by 2020 as part of its development strategy and efforts are paying off: earnings from tourism increased to $2.1 million dollars during the first half of 2017.
G Adventures is driving some of that increased interest, with a tripling of global demand for trips booked to Sri Lanka in the past year. Its new seven-day ‘Sri Lanka Sailing’ trip embarks in February, making it a novel and exotic winter escape that can also be combined with a land-based itinerary to create a 14-day Sri Lanka Land and Sea getaway.
4) COLOMBIA – A high-profile, 12-year peace treaty, a Nobel Peace Prize for its President, and national investments in marketing the country overseas have all combined to boost the Pacific-Caribbean country’s reputation as a great place to vacation. Inbound tourism here skyrocketed more than 250 percent in the past 10 years, outpacing inbound tourism to all other South American countries. Meantime the Colombian government more than doubled the area officially designated as protected since 2010 to encourage adventure travel and ecotourism.
G Adventures’ bookings to Colombia soared 232 percent during the past two years, and early-2018 will see the company launch a new exit trek on the still relatively unknown Lost City trail in the Tayrona National Park, together with the indigenous Wiwa people.
5) KYRGYZSTAN – Between investments from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help travelers Discover Kyrgyzstan, and a concerted push from the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the Central Asian country known for its warm, welcoming people, yurt life and spectacular mountainscapes is finally coming into the spotlight. 2018 will see Kyrgyzstan host 40 nations in the biennial World Nomad Games to compete in in eagle hunting, stick wrestling, and horseback battles — events that locals say Genghis Khan would have enjoyed.
6) MOROCCO – Foreign tourist arrivals to the North African country rose more than 13 percent during the first 8 months of 2017 the same period in 2016, bringing eight million visitors from around the globe. American arrivals soared 32 percent, while arrivals from China tripled, helping Morocco’s GDP climb an impressive five percent.
Adventure travelers with G Adventures are contributing strongly to this growth, making Morocco one of the top five fastest growing destinations among Americans in the world. The tour operator offers 10 different itineraries to Morocco, including Active tours, National Geographic Journeys tours, and budget-minded trips for 18-to-Thirtysomethings.
7) HAWAII – The Hawaii Tourism Authority is granting $3.5m to local community tourism and conservation groups in 2018 to promote the Pacific Island state’s cultural and natural heritage and set the islands up as leaders in sustainable tourism. The low-cost air carrier Southwest Airlines is also planning to introduce first-time flight routes from California to Hawaii in 2018, which is sure to motivate travelers on a budget. Visitor spending here is well on the rise too, thanks to Hawaii’s top customer markets: the United States, Japan and Canada. In the first half of 2017 travelers spent a whopping $8.4 billion in the Hawaiian Islands, up nearly nine percent vs. 2016.
For its part, G Adventures will offer travelers the opportunity to explore Hawaii’s Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai on new trips that are ideal for people looking for more adventurous, cultural experiences beyond big bus tours and resorts.
8) SOUTH AFRICA – The southern tip of the African continent is fast becoming a destination darling for adventurous and upscale American travelers alike, thanks in part to South Africa Tourism’s campaign to attract five million additional visitors in the next five years. 2018 will bring the launch of a sister-city agreement between the destination marketing organizations for Cape Town and New York City to encourage tourism in both directions, and the country will celebrate the centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s 1918 birth.
South Africa is trending as one of G Adventures’ top five growing destinations for American travelers this year, and the company has increased its options and departures for 2018 to keep pace with demand. See the country that Lonely Planet also calls one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2018 during one of 33 different tours ranging from 7-30 days in length, including the new 21-day Great Southern Africa Safari.
9) BOLIVIA – With its new $150 million, 119-mile Tupiza-Atocha-Uyuni highway set to open in mid-2018 and connect the Eastern and Western ranges of the Bolivian Andes, travel to and from the country’s famed salt flats will become more accessible. The South American country has also been earning some high-profile headlines in recent months, thanks in part to the new Daniel Radcliffe film Jungle, based in Bolivia and adapted from a real-life memoir by Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg.
G Adventures and its Planeterra Foundation partners are bringing their social enterprise model to an 11-day Bolivia Discovery tour in the country, with guest stays at the Jukil Community salt lodge in Santiago de Agencha and local living experiences to learn about indigenous culture and traditional quinoa production.
10) OMAN – Rounding out its top 10 destinations for adventure in 2018 is the ‘Switzerland’ of the Middle East. Oman announced plans to extend tourist visas for up to one month vs. three weeks for 2018 and its government is working to support more women entrepreneurs in tourism. G Adventures added Oman to its lineup for 2018, after seeing an increase in demand for trips to the Middle East in recent years, and 36 per cent growth in bookings to the region between 2016-2017.
A final ‘honorable mention’ from the small-group tour operator is for The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of independence from Bolshevik Russian rule. G Adventures has seen an 84 percent rise in travelers to the countries, which are historically rich and still very affordable to travel around. For those looking for a less-crowded European alternative, the Baltics are a strong choice.
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