What’s the best way of predicting the up-and-coming luxury destinations of 2018?
Take a look at where new products are coming online, as well as chatting with travel agents and tour operators working exclusively with the affluent. Based on these criteria, there are four markets to keep an eye on this year.
JAPAN, Tourism Rising
While Tokyo and Kyoto have long been favorite destinations for luxury travelers, the hinterlands of Japan are now getting their turn in the sun. Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agents, named Japan as one of its top five international destinations for 2018, largely because of new tourism developments outside of the country’s major cities.
“Travelers are now exploring beyond Tokyo, finding value in Japan’s time-honored traditions and rural areas that offer traditional slices of Japanese life,” says Keiko Matsuura, a spokesperson for the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).
To spread high-end tourism around the country, two luxury cruise trains were introduced in Japan in 2017. According to Matsuura, “These luxury trains were launched this year in response to the demand of the American traveler wanting to explore beyond Tokyo.”
In another effort to beef up Japan’s luxury, five areas sporting high-quality tourism infrastructure formed the Japan Luxury Travel Alliance in 2016. The members are Kyoto, Sapporo, Ishikawa Prefecture, Wakayama and Nara.
The idea is to join together to strategically attract international luxury travelers to outlying areas beyond Tokyo.
EUROPE, What Is New?
Virtuoso has also named Portugal to its list of international hotspots. The southern European country has emerged from Spain’s shadow in the past couple of years, having shown up on several 2017 hot lists.
But 2018 will see Portugal’s arrival as a luxury destination beyond Lisbon, due to its burgeoning food scene, the international recognition of Douro DOC wines, and a spurt of luxury hotels opening in the countryside and on the coast. In fact, several well-known international luxury brands are using Portugal as a launchpad into the European market.
OMAN, New Openings
According to upscale experiential travel veteran Richard Bangs, Oman seems to be the new smart destination among those who have experienced the world.
“Part of its appeal,” says the founder of Mountain Travel Sobek, “is that it is an island of peace in an unsettled sea, as it borders Yemen, Saudi Arabia and is just a skip across the Persian Gulf from Iran.
Oman has seen a year-over-year 22.1 percent in visitors in 2017, according to statistics from the country’s National Centre for Statistics and Information. The 2018 reintroduction of a classic Ritz-Carlton property, along with the Omani debut of the W and Kempinski brands, will likely lead to more increases.
Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel is undergoing an extensive restoration process, which is expected to be finished by April 2018. Owned by The Ministry of Tourism, Al Bustan Palace is one of Muscat’s most prominent landmarks and a symbol of the nation’s emergence as a destination for global travelers since it was built in 1985.
TUNISIA, One To Watch
Is this the year Tunisia makes a comeback? According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, tourism growth in 2017 (through October) has been particularly high in North Africa, led by rebounding numbers in Egypt and Tunisia.
Those numbers may get a boost in 2018 thanks to a trio of new luxury hotels. Four Seasons Hotel Tunis opened in December. The location in the affluent Gammarth neighborhood provides privacy and exclusivity, yet is close to the central business district. Most of the 203 rooms and suites have views of the sea. Ritz Carlton will be opening in the same general area at some point (yet to be announced) in 2018. Also on the grand opening calendar is a new Anantara.