2023 can safely be called the year that travel came roaring back, with bookings for certain destinations superseding pre-pandemic numbers. Community tourism pioneer, G Adventures, this year reveals the places that are seeing the most traction in terms of forward bookings thanks to compelling new reasons to visit.
What’s most exciting is that people are looking to travel to some more ‘traditional’ destinations in a new way – a way that gives back to local people and communities, and gets them closer to the culture and tradition of a place.
G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip, says travelers have changed over the past three years and are now looking for deeper, more meaningful experiences.
“What we’re seeing is that people want to stay longer and go deeper into a destination. They’re traveling less frequently; instead of taking three one-week trips a year, they’re staying longer in a single destination. And while they are there they want to connect with local people and their cultures, and to experience community tourism in its purest form.
“We’re also still seeing a lot of travelers checking off those big ‘bucket list’ trips, with many making up for lost time, and they’re keen to stay active when they travel – that’s why we’re seeing such huge growth in some of our most iconic locations,” says Poon Tip.
Packed with the best destinations travelers can enjoy in 2024, the Where To Travel list focuses not just on meaningful community tourism experiences, but also places which have new and noteworthy reasons to visit.
Travelers can’t get enough of Japan since it reopened, with the land of the rising sun also seeing rising bookings. G Adventures reports a 134 per cent increase in bookings for 2024, and this trend is set to continue with the launch of the small group adventure operator’s Geluxe Collection of premium active trips. The new Japan itinerary includes hiking the remote Michinoku Coastal Trail, which was constructed after the tsunami to bring community tourism back to Iwate. G Adventures is the first major operator to offer this hike.
The numbers don’t lie. Portugal has seen stand-out growth with traveler numbers tripling since 2019 and up 33 per cent compared to 2022. Affordable and accessible, with fantastic food, culture and history, there are plenty of reasons to want to visit this European gem.
Uzbekistan – and the ‘Stans in general – have become quite the hotspot as people look to check off big ‘bucket list’ destinations and get further afield to lesser-known countries. Uzbekistan has seen a 53 per cent increase year over year, also usurping 2019 by 16 percent. The stunning Center for Islamic Civilization in Tashkent is set to open its doors in April 2024, and joins the Center for Contemporary Arts, which was opened in 2019, as two new cultural hubs set to attract the attention of travelers.
India has picked up the pace in the past year with bookings doubling between 2022 and 2023. G Adventures partnership with National Geographic means exclusive experiences are built into every itinerary. Canadian travelers have had their visas restored, so expect numbers to increase as India continues its return to pre-pandemic prowess.
Vibrant and colorful Mexico has proven more popular than pre-pandemic, helped by the introduction of new trips to the G Adventures portfolio.These include two new Geluxe Collection premium active itineraries, which put a fresh active spin on what has been seen as a more traditional ‘beach’ destination. Up 24 per cent than in 2019, and 28 per cent when compared to last year, Mexico continues to make consistent gains.
Another country that was late to reopen but has doubled its traveler numbers since 2022 is Vietnam, which is also a great value choice for families looking for adventure on their next trip. With tasty food, beautiful sights and friendly people, it makes a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about a different culture in a fun and engaging way.
As travelers have started flocking back to Europe, Greece has seen huge growth, up 90 per cent from 2019 numbers and 24 per cent year on year. One of the best ways to avoid the crowds and get amongst it with locals, is by boat. Taking travelers to remote islands to enjoy local cuisine and culture, G Adventures’ Sailing program epitomizes community tourism, making sure wealth is distributed to lesser-known locales while still taking in the highlights of the islands.
Thailand also continues its epic comeback, and we can expect it to boom even more as travelers head there before the ‘White Lotus Effect’ takes hold, with filming for the third season set to begin in 2024. Up 76 per cent in traveler numbers year on year, Thailand is still a solid choice for young travellers and backpackers looking for an affordable escape.
With Asia trending since its reopening, South Korea has also proven a welcome surprise in terms of its popularity, with numbers doubling in 2023 compared to 2019. Helped by popular culture – K-Pop and K-dramas – South Korea also offers a wealth of traditional culture, incredible food, and exciting experiences for travelers.
Another popular post-Covid destination is Italy, which is up 30 per cent from 2019 numbers, and 24 per cent year on year. With travelers looking to head to their dream destinations, it makes sense that perennial favorite Italy would be high on everyone’s lists. With G Adventures’ Local Living program, travelers are taken off the road most traveled to really experience what it is like to live like a local.