WHAT LIES BEYOND
Forgotten destinations – think Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Kazakhstan – are making a comeback, with overtourism forcing travellers off the beaten track and on to roads less travelled. Leonie Clay from Helloworld Travel partner My Travel Expert in Nowra, NSW, says Central Asian countries that Aussies refer to as “the Stans” – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – are attracting more travellers than ever, and for good reason.
She points to natural wonders such as Broken Heart Gorge in Kyrgyzstan, the desert landscapes of Eastern Turkmenistan and rock transformations of Uzbekistan. Heritagelisted Uzbek sites such as Shakhrisabz, Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand are some of the world’s oldest inhabited cities, where you can discover the cultural growth of local tribes and their ancient heritage.
“Originally the majority of visitors were Russian, simply because during the days of Soviet Russia, travelling internally was easier for them than externally,” Leonie says.
While Australians have travelled there for some time, difficulties with access to flights and visas have kept numbers low, she says. But with Uzbekistan now allowing E-visas, and the ability to get visas on arrival for others, and some waiving them entirely – the region is going to open up like never before, bringing a diverse, ancient, culturally significant and naturally stunning area to the forefront.
Leonie recommends seeing these places now. “For a truly unique experience, a taste of what these destinations are, see them while the infrastructure is being developed, while the numbers are low, while things are still raw and unedited and free of the filters that mass tourism tends to produce.”
Intrepid is experiencing a rise in travel and trip searches for Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Moldova, Greenland, Kazakhstan and Hungary, while global bookings to Hungary are up 155 per cent and bookings to Moldova in Eastern Europe up 80 per cent. Intrepid Group CEO James Thornton says 2019 will be the year Aussie travellers venture to more remote places, for trips that take on a deeper meaning.
“Where and how you travel is now a social marker, it identifies who you are,” he says. “The traveller of 2019 will be defined by their strong social conscience and a heightened sense of adventure. This year will be a ‘coming of age’ for travellers as we see significant changes to how, why and where they holiday.”
Intrepid has also seen a rise of 121 per cent in travellers visiting the Middle East in 2018.
Australians on a budget are going to Turkey, Sri Lanka, India and Morocco, according to Hostelworld. The hostel booking platform says the 2018 World Cup proved there is never a destination too far for Aussies when it comes to watching live sport, with Socceroos’ supporters swarming Russian hostels during the competition, resulting in a 134 per cent year-on-year increase in total bookings.
“A recent study by Hostelworld showed Aussies feel travelling plays an important role in developing life skills and personality,” the company’s Catriona Flood says.
Aussies are seeking out remote places for their travel adventures such as Samarkand, Uzbekistan.