Which Countries Will be the Next "Big Thing" on the Tourist Map?
This is, generally speaking, always a question that's on my mind. Years and years ago (I'm taking misguided teenager here) I just kept my eye on it because I was loosely intrigued by all the countries that existed that I'd yet to form concrete opinions about. Fast forward years later, after dappling in the travel industry for quite some time, and my motivations are entirely different. Now, I'm interested with what marketing strategy a tourism board used to capture an audience, or why certain types of travel are now "in" from a sociological standpoint and so on and so forth.
And, truthfully, I'm also interested because I want to know which countries I need to visit before the charm is perhaps worn off a bit by the flocks of tourists. I've mentioned this paradox that I struggle with on numerous occasions in the past. I have a tendency to try to visit a place before I feel it might be ruined (see Ha Long Bay for more details), and then in the process aid in it's potential destruction. Furthermore, I often write about my adventures, which could, in turn, promote more tourism. I try to travel responsibly, and support locally, but trust me, this larger paradox that I'm swept up in is not something that's lost on me. In fact, I've been in talks with a number of tourism brokers recently involved with the whole "travel responsibly" movement to see if there are partnership opportunities. Stay tuned for details on that, I suppose.
So, on today's post, I'll essentially list three countries that I feel are heavily emerging onto the tourist map, and I've also tapped on the shoulder of a few of my travel blogging pals to give their two cents. I'm not basing my choices as much on hard facts as I am on my gut feeling and intuition, and what I've observed. There are a number of countries that I've seen popping up absolutely everywhere recently, so that's how I'll answer the question in the title above.
So, without further adieu, here are the countries I believe have arrived on the tourist map, for better or worse. Then, below we'll hear what others in the travel community have to say about it.
I'm not being facetious in the slightest when I say that there are few places on the planet I'm more intrigued by than 'stans of Central Asia. When I'm talking about "the 'stans" what I'm referring to are essentially five nations - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. Naturally, I've been living in Turkey, so there's a proximity thing there as far as noticing their presence (I've had friends galore visit the region), but I've also seen bloggers galore visit. Also, take into account that Astana, Kazakhstan will be hosting the 2017 World EXPO, and you find yourself a region that is starting to make itself tourist friendly. Let me stipulate that I mean no disrespect in grouping these distinct nations together. It's largely because I couldn't decide which I feel is gaining tourist ground the fastest, or which I'd visit first. I'll get here, that's for sure, but in the meantime I'll "oooooo" and "ahhhhhh" at everyone else's photos.
Everybody and their uncle has been to Iceland in the last five years, and it feels like, now, everybody and their aunts have decided they ought to go as well. I mean, take Bri and I for example, we spent a fair chunk of September in Iceland, and my latest blogpost was one in which I made the claim that, in fact, Iceland is actually Narnia. That was, obviously, my most scholarly addition to the blog as of yet, and I fully expect a publication to pick that up at some point. Alas, I digress. Iceland's tourism industry is booming with a capital B, and they have every incentive to continue to invest in their tourism growth. The other fact is that I can't think of another nation that is more popular among bloggers and photographers on Instagram. It's absurdly photogenic and just the perfect mixture of bizarre and familiar to attract one hell of an audience. I get messages a fair bit to help with itineraries, and I can honestly tell you I have a one page document that I literally send to people for Iceland - that's how many times I've been asked since September!
Iran's tourism sector has experienced a rebirth of sorts in recent years. I think many nations had an interest to paint Iran with a particular brush, but that paint from said brushes aren't sticking any longer. People are starting to wake up to the fact that Iran is more than calculated headlines from the West. I've personally had a number of friends visit the nation and tell me they've never been to such a beautiful country filled with such kind people. I, for one, believe it. The trend also seems to be on social media as well, as travel bloggers who have access seems to be flocking there in droves. Unfortunately, as a Canadian, I have my own host of challenges about gaining access to Iran, but when there's a clear path to do so, I'll certainly take that opportunity.
And what to my travel blogging pals think?
My pal Maria from "The Giramondo" chose Myanmar!
"Of the Southeast Asian countries, it's the one that is least touched by tourism so far - but that is about to change for sure. It's a country with a rich culture, the friendliest people imaginable, a fascinating history to learn about (and corresponding with that: Nobel Peace Prize winner and politician Aung San Suu Kyi whom everyone seems to know, except when it's about pronouncing her name). Landscape-wise, Myanmar has everything a traveler could possibly look for: Lush green fields, thick jungle, mountains, beautiful coast line, tiny islands, dusty lowlands - and cities like the buzzing metropolis of 5 million but not capital, Yangon. It was only in 2011 that Myanmar was released from the military regime that had been in control for decades, so the development happening there is astonishing. It's probably one of the few places where you might see someone watching a video on his smartphone with 4G data while he leads his ox around a grinding stone. With world famous breathtaking sights like the Golden Rock and the majestic fields of Bagan, Myanmar is already attracting many tourists each year. But with everything about it that still feels "undiscovered" for travelers, it is sure to turn into the next travel hot spot."
Trevor from the oh so aptly named "Grabbing Life by the Balls" narrowed it down to two nations:
"Montenegro. It's like Croatia was 10 years ago, but more diverse. Great beaches in the south, mountains and hiking inland, even great wine. Most people only go to Kotor, often as a day trip from Dubrovnik. There's so much more to the country. As Croatia gets more crowded and expensive, I think travelers will look more closely at Montenegro."
And, Bosnia & Herzegovina!
"If I can vote twice, I'd also say Bosnia. It's been overlooked because of the wars of the 1990s. It's now totally safe to visit, and has incredible cultural and ethnic diversity. And amazing food. Mostar and Sarajevo are beautiful cities with lots of history. The east of the country has beautiful national parks and even a wine region (although I was there too late last year to do any hiking). Prices are still very reasonable throughout the country, and it's a totally different experience than its Balkan neighbors."
Enrico from "Travel Hysteria" went with Slovakia!
"I'd say Slovakia. It's the heart of Europe, still cheap and relatively unknown, but well developed. It's a small country with a great potential: especially nature here is amazing. There are 3 national parks with forests, lakes rivers and creeks. Tatras are the most beautiful mountains in central Europe, and there are hundreds of hiking trails. Slovakia has some towns which are listed in the UNESCO, because of their historical and cultural importance. And many other reasons. I've lived in Slovakia for more than three years. if you search "Slovakia" you'll find many of our posts."
The Folks over at "Maverick Monkeys" say it's got to be Indonesia!
"Indonesia has to be number 1, top of all lists is South East Asia and I think of the spill off to the peripheral countries near Thailand is inevitable. The varied topography, fascinating history, 16,000 islands, 300 languages. Yes, Bali is heavily visited but has more to offer than sun surfing and Aussies. The fact it has stayed in the union while being mostly Buddhist while the rest of the country changed to Islam 500-700 years ago is unique. It's a cheap and upcoming economy and that's a help to travelers."
Laura from "Luxury Chiang Mai" not surprisingly stuck with Thailand!
"Thailand is going to continue being the next big thing in tourism because they are so good at it! There are some parts of Thailand like Sangkhlaburi, Khon Kaen, Nan and the Koh Chang Islands that see so few tourists, yet are stunning and easy to get to. Most of these places are marketed now to Thai people only, but having visited these interesting spots, I have no doubt that they will be popular in the future! A mix of authentic culture, beautiful sights, delicious food, friendly people and good quality accommodation - this is why Thailand to so popular and merely different regions will continue to be the next big thing in tourist destinations!"
Matt with "The Travel Blogs" also went with Myanmar!
"Whether it's the hundreds of pagodas that stand scattered across the Bagan plains or iconic images of local fisherman on Inle Lake, morning hikes to mountain top temples or epic sunsets at U-Bein Bridge, Myanmar has long fascinated and delighted travellers with stunning destinations. However, years of instability and civil unrest have kept all but the most intrepid away. Happily, that is now changing. In recent years, the lifting of land border restrictions has made it easier than ever to visit Myanmar seeing country rapidly developing into a must-visit destination for many on a South East Asian journey."
Do you agree with the countries we've added to this list? What have we missed? Let me know in the comments below! If I get enough of a response from travel bloggers, I'd be keen to do a part II, so add your URL in the comments below just in case! Thanks!