The Specialty Travel Agents Association (STAA) has its 2008 Best Destinations travel trend destinations selections up. This “Top 10” type list obviously has to leave out a lot of great vacation spots, and includes none in the United States’ Lower 48. However, there is much to commend about this list of interesting international destinations. Take a look: I’ll give my opinion on the travel spots, and you tell me what you think, too.
In no particular order, the STAA Best Destinations for Travel in 2008:
Quebec City, in Canada: July 3rd marks Quebec City’s 400th anniversary, and the celebration will not only be festive, but also will recognize all the outdoor activities, festivals, culture and history that makes Quebec City a top vacation destination. This will be an eight month long celebration (you read that right – what a party!) with genuine French Canadian flavor.
Australia: Europeans are increasingly taking their holidays in Australia (the favorable exchange rate may have something to do with this), and resort hotels are correspondingly becoming more luxurious. But it’s not all luxury travel of course – there’s plenty of budget lodgings and eco travel opportunities in the Land Down Under. It ranks as one of my top places I’d like to see, as well.
Hawaii: Hawaii, and Maui in particular, is consistently voted the most popular tropical vacation island by those in the know (Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, etc). It’s also the top honeymoon vacation state in the U.S., with each island offering its own unique take on what it means to be in Hawaii. Another plus: I’ve never had bad weather for more than an hour or two there. The weather is perfect.
China: The Specialty Travel Agents Association has chosen China as a best destination largely because of the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics games. However, more recently there have been some seriously disturbing issues – those that even make the news – regarding exactly how China is preparing for the games (prettifying a large, polluted urban area seems to mean dislocating a lot of long-time residents), and the country’s sanctioning of murdering monks in Tibet has led at least one country (France) to consider boycotting the Olympics. No country’s politics are perfect, of course, but with all the other great places to visit in the world, I know I have no travel plans for China in the immediate future.
The US Virgin Islands: Okay, I’m biased – my honeymoon was in St John, and in as such it remains one of my most favorite tropical vacation isles. St. John is 2/3 National Park land, and is the least developed of the three US Virgin Islands. St. Thomas has the most hotels and resorts, as well as the best shopping, whereas St Croix has tourism opportunities and what is considered the Easternmost part of the United States. The local saying goes, “Vacation on St. John, Shop on St. Thomas, and Live on St. Croix,” and that pretty much holds true.
India: It’s a large, geographically diverse country, so it would probably take more than one trip to truly get to know India. STAA recommends India for ecotravel – Bengal tigers are an endangered species, and there’s not much time left to see them in their natural state. And the Taj Mahal, needless to say, is also a huge draw.
Argentina: STAA recommends Argentina for those of us travel lovers who have been struggling with the dropping value of the American dollar. Rather than not travel at all, its suggested that Argentina’s bang for the buck combines well with many tourist friendly activities, top-notch restaurants, and boutique hotels.
Vietnam: STAA suggests that Vietnam is the Next Best Thing in terms of luxury golf vacations, calling it the “next premier golf destination.” Really? Well, I’m not sure that golf travel packages in Vietnam will ever be on the same level as Scotland or Hawaii, but it has many other tourist friendly attractions. It’s a very affordable country to visit, for one, and two, the Vietnamese people are among the world’s nicest, most optimistic – Buddhism teaches kindness and forgiveness, and most people in Vietnam are Buddhist.
France: Ah, France! A Top 10 Travel list just wouldn’t seem legit without La Belle France. It’s the most popular country in the world for travel, and has everything any vacation lover could want. Luxury travel is practically defined by the French Riviera, and those of us who appreciate the fine arts go gaga over the Louvre and Orsay in Paris. 2008 is the 150th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a French peasant girl in Lourdes, and seeing that six million people make a religious pilgrimage there already, Lourdes is sure to be a top travel destination this year.
Alaska: Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations (with a pit stop in Vancouver, BC). Just as India’s Bengal tiger population is shrinking, so are those glaciers. Environmentally aware tourists are wanting to see the melting ice before it’s too late. The cruise ship vacations to Alaska are, of course, most popular in the spring and summer; it’s too cold for most travelers to come out of their cabins in the winter! The gorgeous scenery, combined with the summer home of many migratory species, makes cruising here an enormous draw.
While I don’t agree with all the destinations on this list being the top 10, shortlists are hard. Winnowing down all the terrific places to see in the world to 10 is never going to please everyone, after all! I give STAA credit for their obviously well thought-out list, but I’d switch out China for a less controversial country, and perhaps replace Argentina with Belize, Costa Rica, or another Latin American country with a stronger emphasis on eco travel and environmentally responsible tourism. But that’s just me – what’s on your Top 10 travel destinations list? I’d really like to know; there’s a comments section below.