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Hot Destinations for 2012

Forget destinations you may never have heard of. The real hot list for 2012 is about places you'll actually visit. By now you've probably seen at least one list of what will be the "hottest" travel destinations for 2012.

Each year travel companies and publishers trip over themselves trying to come up with quirky and inspiring lists of countries and cities for the hipsters among us to visit. Kyrgyzstan, anyone? Have you been to Suriname?

And really, you must see Togo. No?

Here in Australia, travel industry leaders predict the real travel hot spots for 2012. In other words, where we will actually go.

Beach breaks

Hawaii, Thailand and Bali are expected to continue their tripartite battle for the Aussie traveller, thanks to low-cost flights and favourable exchange rates.

All three destinations benefit from plenty of competition on airfares and Hawaii has had a boost with last month's launch of cheap Air Australia flights from Melbourne and Brisbane.

The general brand manager of travel.com.au, Renee Welsh, says Phuket in Thailand continues to sell like hotcakes because it caters for all types of travellers, from family groups to those dancing the night away at full moon parties.

Travel.com.au is also expecting a surge (on top of already big numbers) in travel to Bali.

The busiest months are likely to be July, August and September, along with the schoolies travel season in late November.

"More travellers are venturing back to Bali as a cheap tropical holiday option as it isn't too far, or too expensive, for a short escape," Welsh says.

The general manager of Travelscene American Express, Jacqui Timmins, predicts Phu Quoc in Vietnam will be another hot destination for Australian travellers this year.

"People often describe Phu Quoc as 'Phuket 30 years ago', so people are rushing there before the hordes do," Timmins says.

"There are great little hotels and a few first-class resorts scattered across the island ... it is a fantastic beach spot."

Cities

London gets the most nominations for hottest city in 2012, thanks to the combined effect of the Olympic Games, the hype generated by last year's royal wedding and the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations.

"While many Aussie tourists are planning to steer clear of the London pandemonium during the Olympics, airfare sales for 2012 have increased because people know it will actually be one of the best ever years to see it," Timmins says.

Flight Centre warns that flights to London could be hard to come by in the middle of the year, with many travellers fitting in a trip before the Games start in late July.

Predictions on London's popularity are backed by data from hotels.com, which shows the capital is one of the most-searched cities on the site.

The head of marketing for hotels.com in Australia and New Zealand, Katherine Birch, says New York and Paris are also ranking highly, along with our own Sydney and Melbourne.

Travel.com.au says it is seeing strong demand for Auckland in the wake of the Rugby World Cup, helped along by airline competition.

"We have noticed a spike in bookings for 2012, due to the trans-Tasman prices being cheap," Welsh says.

She is also seeing strong demand for Bangkok and Hong Kong, where travellers are heading for shopping, food and festivals.

Travelscene American Express says Istanbul is in favour with its customers.

"People love it because you get history, shopping, culture, unbelievable food and incredible accommodation choices, from boutique Ottoman-style hotels through to five-star skyscrapers," Timmins says.

Adventure

World Expeditions is predicting growing demand for Burma. The company's chief executive, Sue Badyari, says it is "widely acceptable for travellers to value the merits of supporting the country as a travel destination".

With journalists visiting and spreading the word, more people will want to discover the unspoilt destination, Badyari believes.

G Adventures says the perennially popular Thailand will be on the radar - but not for the usual "fly-and-flop" holidays for which the country is generally favoured.

"We have seen an increase in travellers wanting to get under the skin of Thailand by visiting some of the lesser-travelled areas, such as trekking to the hill tribes of northern Thailand," the Australian general manager of the company, Pete Rawley, says.

G Adventures, formerly known as Gap Adventures, is also banking on Cuba, thanks to the South American airline LAN launching new services to Havana next month.

Rawley says talk about whether or not Cuba will be opened up to American travellers under the Obama administration is also prompting Australians to travel, to see the country "before it all changes".

Intrepid Travel is ramping up capacity for Vietnam, which is particularly popular with travellers interested in food, along with the United States, where there is strong demand for visiting places such as the Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks.

The company says many travellers are combining hiking, rafting and camping under the stars with seeing the bright lights of Vegas.

At the softer end of the adventure market, the walking and cycling holiday specialist UTracks is predicting Puglia in Italy will be the big thing this year.

The company says Australians have long been interested in Italy but many have been to Tuscany and Umbria and are looking for something else.

Ski

The marketing manager for Travelplan, Ben Cardenas, says Aspen-Snowmass in the United States is shaping up as a skiing hot spot for 2012, with the favourable exchange rate adding to already substantial discounts and specials.

Also in hot demand is Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, which has long been a favourite with Aussie snow bunnies.

Travelscene American Express also puts Whistler at the top of the list, saying Australian skiers are creatures of habit and like to go back to the same resorts year after year.

Closer to home, New Zealand's popular Queenstown area is expected to dominate.

"Skiing in Australia and New Zealand seems to be getting more and more expensive every year, so with Queenstown increasingly opening up to more low-cost flights and packages, it is proving the hottest - or coolest - for 2012," Timmins says.

Skimax also predicts the mountains around Queenstown and nearby Wanaka will be in strong demand this year. "Queenstown is the most lively base out of the two, with Wanaka being the more relaxed option," the company's marketing manager, Jenny Klem, says.

Also likely to be popular is Mount Hutt, which is offering children under 10 "stay, ski and eat free" deals for the first time this year.

Klem says Mount Hutt prides itself on having the longest and most reliable ski season, from June to the end of October, and the kids-free offers will be a big drawcard for families.

Australia

Melbourne and the Gold Coast have been dominating the market for Australian holidays and are likely to continue their reign.

Welsh says theatre, music, sports, dining and low-cost weekend stays keep the people coming to Melbourne, while the Gold Coast remains relatively inexpensive and easy to get to for family holidays.

However, many in the industry are predicting Tasmania will also line up for its share of the domestic market this year, having overcome its image as a "pensioners' coach touring paradise".

"Tasmania has seriously captured the imagination of new generations," Timmins says.

Flight Centre also nominates the island state as the domestic hot spot for the year, thanks to its combination of natural attractions and gourmet food and wine scene.

Some of the state's more popular regions include the Bay of Fires for its white beaches and coastal scenery, the Huon Valley for its produce and the Freycinet National Park for its wilderness experiences.

Honeymoons

The Maldives, Mauritius and Tahiti are looking like glamorous favourites for honeymoons this year.

The managing director of boutique agency Travel Concepts, Mel Haycock, says over-water bungalows are the big drawcard for newlyweds.

"The top pick in the Maldives is the Taj Exotica, and the hottest in Mauritius would have to be the Constance le Prince," he says.

The brand leader of Travel Associates, David Lovelock, agrees that over-water bungalows and five-star luxury are the order of the day for honeymoons, with bookings for these types of properties very strong.

"The Maldives and Tahiti have huge appeal at the moment," Lovelock says.

"They provide couples with the ultimate privacy and seclusion, as well as amazing spas, gourmet food and excellent service.

"Honeymooners are happy to indulge in something special, despite the slightly higher price tag, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Cruising

Asia will be at the centre of trends in cruising, according to specialists ecruising.travel and Cruiseabout.

There will be more ships based in Asia, more ships heading from Australia to Asia and new Asian cruise terminals to cater for growing demand.

The chairman of ecruising.travel, Brett Dudley, believes China will be particularly popular, especially itineraries between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

"The ease of flying in to Shanghai and out of Hong Kong makes it an easy two-week holiday," he says.

"Taking a cruise holiday package with flights, accommodation, tours and transfers is also the perfect way for the first-time traveller to Asia to see the region, as it can be very daunting if they've not been before."

The brand leader for Cruiseabout, Mark Hodgson, also predicts Mediterranean cruising will be a big seller this year, with plenty of options on ships, itineraries, duration and destinations.

"Australians will always love exploring the cities and coastlines of Italy, Spain, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and others," Hodgson says.

"Cruises in the Mediterranean are also seen as great value for money because it is a luxury holiday that explores many countries without having to lug around a suitcase."

 

 

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