Find out what to watch in 2014 with the latest travel trends. Katie McGonagle reports

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Life has plenty of surprises in store – some good, some bad – but in business, it pays to have an inkling of what’s around the corner.

Knowing which destinations are set to dominate in 2014 will not only help you stay ahead of competitors, but it also means you won’t be scrambling around for a map when your customers ask for the latest up-and-coming country.

Forget fortune-tellers and crystal balls, Travel Weekly has canvassed the best in the industry for their top tips on next year’s travel trends.

EUROPE: A FLYING START



Battlefield tours are making waves across the Continent (see box, page 44), but commemorating an altogether different conflict, Berlin will be top of the city break list in November when it celebrates 25 years since the fall of the wall.

Scandinavia’s star is still on the rise with demand for ever-popular northern lights itineraries and growing interest in the midnight sun. Specialist operator Simply Sweden reported a 50% increase this year in Arctic Circle room bookings during the midsummer months, when the midnight sun is at its best, and expects this to continue next year.

Peregrine Adventures is also anticipating growth, thanks in part to the craze for Scandi-crime dramas, such as The Killing and Wallander, raising the region’s profile, and has added tours of its charming capital cities and the Norwegian fjords.

While Italy’s historic cities entice the lion’s share of tourists, other beauty spots are attracting attention. Several operators are adding product in provincial Puglia: CV Villas has seen a 30% rise this year in bookings to southern Italy and is increasing capacity to Bari next year, while Explore has added a cycling tour of the region and Great Rail Journeys a 14-day rail tour.

Likewise Sicily has skyrocketed for Prestige Holidays in its first year of featuring the destination, attracting twice as many passengers as anticipated. Sunvil is also tipping the burgeoning wine industry on the eastern side of the island as an area of growth.

Predictions that Croatia would benefit from hosting October’s Abta conference have been borne out in increased bookings, and with new flights from Edinburgh to Pula with Jet2.com next year, and easyJet’s twice-weekly Glasgow-to-Split service, Scottish business will help keep that trend on track.

Additional airlift also signals a return of confidence in Greece, with Glasgow-Kos and Edinburgh-Heraklion services from easyJet, British Airways to Mykonos and Santorini, and Aegean Airlines’ new route between Athens and Birmingham. Perhaps that’s why Thomson has tipped Greece as its top family destination for 2014, increasing capacity by 9%, although grown-ups might be more attracted by rumours that Sex and the City 3 could be filmed here.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA: BACK ON THE MAP



It’s all about airlift in Israel too, where the Open Skies agreement with the EU means more low-cost airlines will begin flying direct.

The destination is certainly gearing up infrastructure with hotel openings including the Ritz-Carlton in Herzliya and Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem.

Iran is now emerging as a contender for adventurous travellers. Danube Express has introduced the first private European train to enter the country, and demand has been so high that two 2015 departures have already been added, though its hefty price tag (£8,695 eastbound and £9,395 westbound, for 14 nights) means it’s for well-heeled clients only.

In North Africa, Morocco continues its inexorable rise with a raft of new flights from London and regional airports. G Adventures saw a 159% increase in Morocco trips this year, and is predicting to double passenger numbers next year with more departures and comfort-level trips to entice new clients.

Former no-go areas are also coming to prominence in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has become more accessible with the new cross-border joint visa for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, effective from January 1. Similarly Zimbabwe, long out of bounds for UK travellers, is slowly opening up to international tourism.

Cape Town (pictured) is also set for a bumper year, with an event-packed calendar celebrating its status as World Design Capital, plus greater prominence arising from film release Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom. Travel 2 sales, marketing and commercial director Gordon McCreadie says: “South Africa continues to offer incredible value to tourists. The pound is strong against the rand resulting in bargains to be found in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.”

Cape Town

THE US: THE SKY’S THE LIMIT



The recent injection of Brand USA energy was no flash in the pan, as sales to the States have continued to soar. While old favourites are doing well – Funway saw a 50% year-on-year rise in Florida holidays, plus strong-sellers such as New York and Las Vegas remain reliable – it seems some customers are keen to branch out. Premier Holidays found more than half of clients who visit the US took twin-centre trips and about a third visited three or more spots.

Within Florida, expect Fort Lauderdale to rise up the radar when Norwegian’s much-vaunted low-cost transatlantic flights start on July 4, with an introductory one-way fare of £179.

Chicago will be better served with United’s new flight from Edinburgh, helped along by several hotel openings including the Godfrey Hotel Chicago and Kinzie Hotel in February. But perhaps the biggest excitement has been reserved for British Airways’ Dreamliner flight to Austin, marking the first direct service to the Texas state capital.

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: SPORTING CHANCE



All eyes will be on Brazil for the World Cup in June and July, but while football steals the limelight, the knock-on effect of encouraging visitors to explore Latin America will be even greater.

That could include Costa Rica, gaining profile for its wealth of wildlife, and Ecuador, which is often overshadowed by its own Galapagos Islands, but becoming better known for the mainland too.

G Adventures has seen a 53% increase in mainland trips and is boosting capacity, plus Great Rail Journeys is featuring the new Tren Cucero through the mainland’s mountains and coastal routes.

Cuba is building up serious momentum as travellers flock to see it before the anticipated American influx. Intrepid saw sales of its Beautiful Cuba tour increase by 35% last year, and is adding a new Cuba Music and Dance trip; Splendours of Cuba is currently Cox & Kings’ top-selling tour for 2014 with double the number of advance bookings compared with this time last year; and Journey Latin America has added a Cuba self-drive for independent travellers.

ASIA: EASTERN PROMISE



Sri Lanka and Vietnam have become firm favourites in recent years, but there’s still room for both to grow. For the former, the recently launched Mahé-Colombo flight and new airport at Hambantota, with connections from Dubai and Malé, will help with Indian Ocean twin-centres.

Vietnam is maturing as a destination too, with luxury beach holidays, spa breaks and cruises expanding apace, and high-end beach breaks beginning to overtake adventure tours as the holiday style of choice according to Kuoni. Travel Indochina also calls Vietnam its fastest-growing destination in the region, and APT reports strong sales of both Vietnam and Cambodia.

If that weren’t enough, the Vietnamese dong topped the Post Office list of fastest-growing currencies in 2013 with a 94% jump in demand – proof customers are putting their money where their mouths are.

The Post Office is also tipping Bali for big things, naming the island as its best-value long-haul destination, with the pound strong against the Indonesian rupiah. Combine that with Garuda Indonesia’s direct Gatwick-Jakarta service starting on May 29 and it’s clear this is one to watch.

Western & Oriental’s Far East product manager Gemma Wilson says: “With a new direct flight commencing in spring, Garuda will be offering the quickest route to Indonesia and Bali from the UK.”

It’s not just Bali though, G Adventures is doubling departures on Indonesia trips and adding seven new tours for 2014.Such has been the growth of Burma that it hardly seems necessary to tip it for success next year. In just two years, Intrepid’s Best of Burma has been its best-selling trip from a 1,000-plus portfolio, and the operator is seeing strong advance sales of its new Burma Sailing Trip, plus Gold Medal is anticipating greater interest in off-the-beaten-track product from its Burma programme.

China is likewise brimming with possibilities, not least in Chengdu whose panda research centre hit the headlines in September with the birth of 17 baby pandas. That coincided with the launch of a direct British Airways flight, ensuring the city went straight to the top of travellers’ wishlists, which is why Wendy Wu Tours and Regent Holidays have both ramped up offerings in the region with new escorted and tailor-made tours. Look out for more rail travel as high-speed services between Beijing and X’ian allow the likes of Great Rail Journeys to offer rail tours through China.