The uncertainty surrounding Brexit makes this a difficult period for the travel industry but there are many destinations that are still expecting a fruitful 2019, ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe and even on our own soil, here are some reasons to be cheerful.

A sketchy forecast

What does 2019 hold for the travel industry? In any given year predicting the prospects of the travel industry is notoriously tricky – there are too many out-of-left-field variables – but second-guessing the knock-on effects of the Brexit situation confuses the picture even more particularly so. But in a sector as broad as travel, there are always going to be trends building momentum.

For Tricia Birmingham, Product and Commercial Director of Gold Medal and Travel 2, a rise in independent touring looks likely to unfold.

“More customers are looking for that unique experience,” she says. “They don’t just want to see what everyone else has seen previously, so they’re delving into lesser-known destinations. I think we’ll definitely see an increase in the independent touring market. Social media now gives people the opportunity to showcase the things that they’re doing.”

She also points to solo travel as a growing market, something backed up by Aaron Hocking, Regional Director at Intrepid Travel. “We’ve seen a 40% increase over the last five years in bookings from solo travellers, and we’d expect this to continue into 2019,” he explains. “There’s been a significant change of mindset – rather than being something to be embarrassed about, solo travel is now seen as an empowering, transformative experience.”

River cruising is also on an upwards an onwards curve, as Kuoni’s Head of Communications Rachel O’Reilly points out. “It’s the fastest growing sector in the cruise market and we’ve just expanded our offering in response to this trend, adding four new river cruise partners.”

Recent research from both Booking.com and Flightgiftcard points to 2019 trends that included more bite-sized travel – a growing number of us now reportedly opting for multiple short breaks as opposed to one fortnight-long holiday – and an increase in ‘conscious travel’, with destination choices based on sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights and other factors.

Gold Medal and Travel 2’s Birmingham mentions another established trend. “We’re seeing an increase in all-inclusive from the family market,” she says. “In the current climate people want to know how much they’re paying for their holiday, and more destinations are embracing all-inclusives.”

 

Japan: The attention of the sporting world will focus on Japan when the Rugby World Cup kicks off in September. The six-week tournament is being held across 12 venues nationwide (and Tokyo, remember, also hosts the Olympics in 2020).

The country was named the world’s second cheapest long-haul destination by the Post Office Holiday Money Report 2018, and British Airways is resuming direct flights between Heathrow and Osaka in March. Services will depart four times weekly. In addition, many of the those in the UK travel industry will head to the country in October, when the ABTA Travel Convention rolls into Tokyo.

Book it: Inside Japan Tours offers a 13-day Classic Japan tour taking in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and elsewhere, from £3,575pp.

 

New Zealand: A survey of 1,500 high-end UK travellers by the Conde Nast Traveller Luxury Travel Fair saw New Zealand top the list of Brits’ dream destinations for the year ahead.

This coincides with 2019 marking the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival in the destination (he spent six months charting the country before sailing to Australia). Various events are planned for October and November. The autumn 2018 trip to New Zealand by royals Harry and Meghan, who visited Wellington, Auckland and Rotorua, is also likely to spur interest.

Book it: Silver Fern Holidays has an epic 29-day Discover Captain Cook’s New Zealand itinerary, covering both islands, from £4,299pp.

 

Southern England: When the Great West Way was launched at World Travel Market in November, it shone a spotlight on a part of the country that hadn’t previously been marketed collectively. Described as “a bookable, multi-modal touring route from London to Bristol”, the major new initiative encompasses attractions as diverse as Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath, offering a number of recommended itineraries and taking in a 500-mile network of road, rail, river, canal and other paths. It’s being funded by the government’s Discover England Fund, and is likely to spark fresh interest in exploring the region.

Top tip: Agents and tour operators can head to greatwestway.co.uk/TravelTrade to find more information on the project, and how to sell it.

Malta: Malta’s perennial popularity will be strengthened in April when Ryanair introduces two new routes to the country, from Cardiff and Exeter. Ryanair and Air Malta announced a partnership in August 2018, allowing passengers to book Air Malta flights through the Ryanair website. In addition, Jet2holidays will increasing seats to Malta by 25% for the Winter 2019/2020 season. On a different note, Malta will be promoting its suitability for families by running Nickelodeon-branded, tourist-focused events over the Easter school holidays in April.

Book it: Cox & Kings has four-day, three-night short breaks to Malta priced from £345pp, with a range of hotels available.

Tunisia: It’s been three-and-a-half years since the terror attack in Sousse in June 2015 and things are finally looking up for the country’s tourism industry. Around 100,000 Brits chose to visit Tunisia in the first nine months of 2018, a figure that is expected to edge towards 120,000 by the year’s end – far exceeding the North African country’s target of 85,000.

Thomas Cook and TUI both reintroduced packages to the destination in 2018 and have expanded their capacity for 2019, with the 17 weekly flights between the UK and Tunisia expected to more than double to 38 in the coming year.

Top tip: The country’s climate makes it an appealing place to visit in spring or autumn, when temperatures hover around the mid-20s.

 

Argentina: Argentina has been investing heavily in the tourism sector in recent years and it is paying off. The country is hoping to attract nine million international tourists by 2020 – from seven million in 2017 – and hotel capacity and flight connectivity are both on the increase.

Norwegian now flies between London and vibrant Buenos Aires seven times a week and recently announced the addition of six domestic Argentinian routes. And 2019 will also see the launch of a new Air Europa flight between Madrid and UNESCO-listed Iguazú Falls.

Sell it: Wendy Wu Tours offers a 15-day Argentina Adventure Tour, covering Buenos Aires, Iguazu and many more country highlights. The tour is priced from £4,490pp.

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe is no more and Zimbabwe is looking towards tourism. For travellers, however, not only is the destination somewhere widely seen as safe and friendly, it also offers superb national parks, fabulous wilfdlife, some UNESCO-listed cultural attractions and Victoria Falls. Tourists can experience somewhere which, for the time being, remains below the mainstream radar.

Book it: Rainbow Tours’ 12-day Magical Zimbabwe Safari includes Hwange National Park and Batoka Gorge. From £3,495pp.

Pittsburgh, USA: British Airways is introducing a four-times weekly service from Heathrow to Pittsburgh in April, around eight hours’ flying time from the UK. The city will appeal to U.S. loving clients in search of somewhere that’s different and ‘authentic’.

Founded on the steel industry it went through some tough times when the factories shut down but has re-emerged as one of the most liveable cities in the U.S. Clients should check out the Golden Triangle, and look into the city’s food tours, fine restaurants, art galleries, craft breweries, and major league baseball in the form of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The city also has an association with legendary architect Frank Lloyd-Wright, whose Falling Water house is probably his best known design.

Top tip: Pop art icon Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, and the city’s excellent Andy Warhol Museum is the largest in North America to be dedicated to a single artist.

 

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