Dis­cover a wealth of places to ex­plore

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - Lifestyle - Stephen Scour­field

Italy, Ja­pan, Viet­nam, Sri Lanka, Lon­don, Bali, of course, and WA. Cruis­ing from the North­ern Lights to Antarc­tica, from New Zealand to China, and on the rivers of Europe.

Our read­ers — you — have been all over the world and fos­sick­ing in our own back­yard. And the great­est in­ter­est last year has been par­tic­u­larly in these des­ti­na­tions. That will carry on into 2019. Lots of travel com­pa­nies put out “where to go in 2019” lists but these are largely based around the tours they want to sell.

The places men­tioned here come from our knowl­edge — from know­ing our read­ers, speak­ing with them (all those phone calls and emails an­swered), in­form­ing and en­ter­tain­ing them at our events and then through our writ­ing and video fea­tures.

THE ELE­PHANT IN THE ROOM

. . . and it’s not Africa. It’s cruis­ing.

The cruis­ing in­dus­try has ma­tured — come of age — and with that comes di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. Cruis­ing ain’t cruis­ing any more. It’s not as easy as say­ing “let’s go cruis­ing”, see­ing a price and a ship name and book­ing.

The worst thing you can pos­si­bly do is be on “the wrong ship” for you, on the wrong itin­er­ary. Then even a cheap fare is just a do­na­tion.

Con­sider this . . . that at one end of the scale, the mega ships are very much des­ti­na­tions in their own right, with count­less bars and res­tau­rants, and enough en­ter­tain­ment and ac­tiv­ity to keep many gen­er­a­tions within one fam­ily happy.

At the other end, pur­pose-built ex­pe­di­tion ships are be­com­ing more be­spoke, and their on-board pro­grams even more in­for­ma­tive. With itin­er­ar­ies of­ten sim­i­lar — the Antarc­tic Penin­sula, the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands — what sep­a­rates them is the ship’s style and fa­cil­i­ties and the spe­cial­ists aboard. The com­bi­na­tion of this is what adds up to qual­ity.

The ex­pe­ri­ence on Vik­ing or Aza­mara, P&O and Po­nant are all dif­fer­ent. Be sure you are book­ing what’s right for you. The best way to do that is to fol­low our sto­ries, and talk to ex­pe­ri­enced cruise travel agents.

EUROPE

Lon­don is still our big ar­rival point . . . but will I still be able to call it “Europe” in 2019?

Well, we won’t open the Brexit can of worms here but I know, be­yond “vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives”, tour­ing the UK will still be pop­u­lar.

And with Lon­don and the Lake Dis­trict, the south­ern Juras­sic Coast and Scot­land . . . why wouldn’t it. It’s easy for self-drive, great for coach tour­ing, good for food, and af­ford­able.

In Europe it­self, de­spite the prob­lems in Paris (our other big ar­rival point), France will re­main a main­stay, and partly for its river cruis­ing.

The Rhone and Saone com­bi­na­tion is ter­rific, as is the Bordeaux re­gion. The Baltics. Look at cruis­ing itin­er­ar­ies. Croa­tia is get­ting busier. Con­sider Mon­tene­gro. Ro­ma­nia. Mov­ing be­yond Franken­stein and be­ing touted by some as “the next Ber­lin”. Greece. Travel had a good year — two mil­lion peo­ple vis­ited San­torini alone over the last 12 months. But there are hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful is­lands. Italy — look fur­ther afield, south to the “boot” and Puglia, then over to Si­cily. Prague — nicely eclec­tic.

ASIA

Our in­ter­est in Ja­pan will con­tinue un­abated, par­tic­u­larly with the in­tro­duc­tion of di­rect flights be­tween Perth and Tokyo from Septem­ber 1, and I ex­pect that to gain mo­men­tum up to the 2020 Olympics.

There will be plenty of pack­ages and travel op­tions, from cherry blos­som trips to walk tours and Hokkaido’s won­der­ful pow­der snow in win­ter.

Sin­ga­pore con­tin­ues to ma­ture and di­ver­sify as a des­ti­na­tion, too — Ma­rina Bay with its mod­ern edge, Sen­tosa with its fam­ily themes and “old Sin­ga­pore”, par­tic­u­larly with the Raf­fles Ho­tel sched­uled to re­open af­ter ren­o­va­tions in the mid­dle of the year. And I like Scoot as a low­cost, high-qual­ity air­line to get there and back.

Where Viet­nam was, even in re­cent years, a some­what eclec­tic, be­spoke propo­si­tion, now it’s main­stream for WA trav­ellers — but some ar­eas are show­ing the signs of tourism growth more than oth­ers. While Hanoi might feel like the French-ac­cented rather charm­ing Asian city it once was, Ha­long Bay and Danang are chang­ing.

Take, as an ex­am­ple of the in­ter­est and in­vest­ment, just one ho­tel group. Ac­corHo­tels has be­come the big­gest in­ter­na­tional ho­tel oper­a­tor in Viet­nam with more than 6100 rooms across a range of brands.

And the group will open an­other 13 ho­tels in Viet­nam in the next two years, bring­ing its to­tal to 41. It most re­cently signed for two new sea-fac­ing prop­er­ties, in two prime lo­ca­tions, in Van Phong and Ha­long Bay, which will open to­wards the end of 2021 and add 525 more rooms to its list.

An in­ter­est­ing fea­ture of my year has been the ed­u­cated na­ture of you, our read­ers — not “just tourists”, but well-in­formed cit­i­zens of the world, tak­ing lo­cal fac­tors into ac­count. There has been re­sis­tance to travel to Myan­mar for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. The ele­phant in the room in Asia is Bali and, de­spite talk, cam­paigns and en­cour­age­ment, not much be­yond it.

AFRICA

Africa is all about shifts and switches. At this mo­ment in south­ern Africa, I’m par­tic­u­larly keen on Zam­bia, Botswana and Tan­za­nia (de­spite shifts), Ethiopia (be­cause of shifts), and Rwanda and Namibia.

I’m watch­ing for shifts in Zim­babwe and still hold­ing a lit­tle can­dle of hope.

North Africa re­mains prob­lem­atic for me. While there has been a lot of in­ter­est in Morocco and there are many tours, the re­cent murder of two Scan­di­na­vian tourists gives a glimpse into my con­cerns. Nor­we­gian po­lice say a video ap­pear­ing to show one of the women be­ing be­headed is likely to be real.

Tourism in Egypt has suf­fered seven tough years. Although much of the travel in­dus­try is busy talk­ing up “go­ing back to Egypt”, I still see a big ques­tion mark hang­ing over it.

Pic­tures: Stephen Scour­field/The West Aus­tralian

Na­tional Geo­graphic Ex­plorer in Antarc­tica. IN­SET: Har­bour ic­ing up in Ilulis­sat, Green­land.

The Lou­vre Mu­seum and The Lou­vre Pyra­mid Paris.

A lion in Tan­za­nia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.