Portugal is the country that has shot up the most in popularity over the past three years among WendyPerrin.com travelers. The Galapagos Islands is the most-booked destination in Latin America this year. And Morocco is the #1 foreign country for spring break in 2020—so far. These are just a few of the fun facts we learned about our readers’ trip-taking patterns at our 2020 WOW Global Travel Summit last week.
We gathered together with the Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List and other knowledgeable travel-world journalists and thought leaders to pinpoint trends for 2020, including where smart travelers are headed, what information should be on their radars, and how to make their trips better.
Below are some of the takeaways we think you’ll find most useful for the coming year. We certainly did. Note: The statistics below are for WendyPerrin.com travelers—meaning, travelers who use our WOW system for their trips.
The most-booked foreign countries in 2020 are…
The popularity of Italy, the U.K., and France won’t surprise anyone, but South Africa and Vietnam are exciting up-and-comers. South Africa Trusted Travel Expert Julian Harrison attributes the country’s #2 standing to a favorable exchange rate, United’s new direct flight from New York City (Newark) to Cape Town, and a change in media coverage: Now that public perceptions—and misperceptions—about issues such as drought and Ebola are no longer front-page news, travelers are fulfilling their pent-up demand for South Africa.
Vietnam’s popularity is rising thanks to new flights that make it a regional hub, new island resorts, and new luxury boats in Halong Bay, says Daniel Fraser, a WOW Lister for Southeast Asia. He cites the country’s high-low culinary scene as a big driver too: Talented young chefs are elevating traditional Vietnamese cuisine to cool new heights, and at the same time mom-and-pop street-food eateries are stepping up their game to a tourist audience that’s more willing than ever to dig into new foods.
As for Italy, which is #1 on the list every year, we talked about what the country is doing to protect itself from its own popularity, so that its landmarks and landscapes, so overwhelmed in peak season, are preserved for future generations. Maria Landers, a Trusted Travel Expert for Italy, pointed to a variety of sustainability initiatives in 2020. Trenitalia has reopened 600km of train track to provide a greener way to travel and to get tourists to smaller cities and lesser-known destinations. The city of Florence has launched a “Give a Tree” campaign to enlist visitors in helping the city go green and combat smog and CO2: for 150 euros, you can adopt a tree that will find a new home in local parks, gardens, and along the city streets. And in Parma, the 2020 Italian Capital of Culture, you’ll find an exhibition called “We, Food and our Planet: Feeding a sustainable future.” Its goal is to promote good practices in relation to food, people, and the environment and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda.
The country that most rapidly regained your attention is…
Three years ago, none of you were going to Nepal. The 2015 earthquake had left the country struggling to rebuild itself. Now, in 2020, many of you are planning those long-put-off trips. And, thanks to Toni Neubauer, Nepal specialist on The WOW List, you’re finding fascinating ways to explore the country and meet the people while also helping the recovery effort: “Two of the villages most affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal were Laprak and Barpak,” she says. “The locals have been working hard to rebuild their homes and lives and have used tourism as a method of recovery.” Toni makes sure her travelers contribute to continued recovery efforts by staying with locals in their villages, experiencing the activities they designed themselves, talking with them about their experiences, and ensuring that money is going into the village, rather than only into companies based in Kathmandu.
The top five “emerging destinations”—countries that none of our readers were considering three years ago but that are now garnering a lot of interest—are …
We wonder what off-the-beaten place will be next.
By contrast, the mainstream countries that have seen the greatest increase in trips booked over the past three years are…
The months you traveled most last year were…
June, May, October
The months you traveled least were…
January, November, February
These were the most-booked foreign destinations last year, by month…
February: The Caribbean
March: The United Kingdom
November: The United Kingdom
The benefits of shoulder-season travel came up again and again at our Summit, and it’s clear that many WendyPerrin.com travelers are the beneficiaries. Our readers are savvy enough to choose the United Kingdom in the shoulder-season months of March and November, for instance; these travelers realize that they’re going for the culture, not the weather, so why not avoid huge crowds and sticker-shock prices by traveling at off-peak times? We’re also happy to see so many of you skipping European cities in August and instead escaping the heat and crowds in Canadian locations that are optimal in August, among them British Columbia, the Canadian Rockies, the Maritime Provinces, and Newfoundland.
With so many travelers overcrowding Italy in the peak summer season, we were happy to hear from Italy WOW Lister Andrea Grisdale that some areas are combating such overtourism by extending their season. For instance, the hotels, shops, and restaurants on Lake Como used to close at the end of October. Today, they are welcoming visitors for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, with Christmas markets and festive light shows a highlight of wintertime. Additionally, lesser-known parts of Italy that have been heretofore ignored are opening up—for instance, two important pockets of southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera (where more than a thousand ancient dwellings are carved into rock) and Maratea (known as “the pearl of the Tyrrhenian”), as well as the Gargano sub-region within Apulia (the “spur” on Italy’s “boot”), with its many charming and untouristed villages.
The top five spots your fellow readers have booked already for spring break in 2020 are…
Where will you take your family during school breaks this year? We have many other unexpected ideas for you.
Australia should not be stricken from your travel plans…
“97% of Australia is not impacted by fires,” said Stuart Rigg, Wendy’s WOW List expert in Australia. Unfortunately, because of the generalizations and overly frightening images in the news, a lot of people don’t understand that the fires are very far from many of the country’s most beautiful regions, including Australia’s “Red Centre” and the Great Barrier Reef. What’s more, tourism dollars can help support the recovery. We were happy to hear that no WendyPerrin.com travelers have cancelled their Australia trips; Stuart is simply rerouting their itineraries to the many beautiful places that have not been impacted.
Climate change is affecting Africa in an unexpected way…
Africa’s safari season has grown longer over the past few years, said Cherri Briggs, one of Wendy’s WOW List safari experts. The reason? Climate change, which affects the African landscape and makes it harder to predict the movements of wildlife. “For example the migration will not migrate in its usual predictable pattern from Tanzania to Kenya if it has not rained in Kenya, or vice versa, as the migration follows the new grass,” she explains. And in Botswana, she adds, the rainy seasons are having less rain, which extends the viewing seasons. “It’s more important than ever to continually take the pulse of the weather in these various destinations, as what was the rule in the past may well have changed. Normally we can predict to a good degree what the next season has to hold given rain patterns about 6 months out. These rain patterns make for great value in the ‘low season’, which now may well be the preferred season!”
Keep your eye on Casablanca…
Royal Air Maroc will join the oneworld airline alliance on April 1, 2020. (The alliance already includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Iberia, among others.) As a result, Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge expects Casablanca to become an important air travel hub: Not only will there be more flights to Morocco, but it’ll make travel to the rest of Africa much easier and also make it easier to combine Morocco with other African countries in one trip.
A smart way to use points and miles…
Your credit-card points give the best value when used for first- and business-class air travel, said miles expert Gary Leff of View From the Wing. The transfer rate to hotel points programs is not usually great.
Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.