Top destinations for 2017
By Ben Lerwill | December 2016 | 6 minute read
With significant anniversaries, new flights and major sporting events to look forward to, destinations around the globe are feeling confident about a bumper 2017. Read on for a round-up of the places to sell and be seen.
Canada: Canada is celebrating a landmark birthday in 2017, with July 1 marking the 150th anniversary of the country’s confederation in 1867. To tie in with the occasion, there will be free admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas for the entire year. The destination was granted considerable exposure in late 2016 by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who visited parts of the Yukon and British Columbia. Elsewhere in the country, Air Canada Rouge began flights from Gatwick to Toronto in 2016, while this winter WestJet starts year-round direct flights, three times a week, from Gatwick to Calgary.
Chile: When British Airways begins direct flights to Santiago in January it will mark the first non-stop BA service from the UK to Chile in more than 20 years. It’s a long flight: 14 hours 40 minutes on a 787-9 Dreamliner. It should significantly boost the number of UK travellers to the South American country, famed for its mountains and glaciers. Caution is provided by Peru, which hoped for the same visitor influx when BA introduced a Lima service from London, but passenger numbers to date have fallen below expectations. However, the momentum is already there: the first half of 2016 saw a 20% increase in British visitors, and the tourist board is hoping the new flight will see a further 20% jump. Fam trips and a new online training tool are in the pipeline.
New Zealand: New Zealand was left reeling in November 2016, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast on South Island. However the appeal of the country – epic outdoor adventure, Tolkien-esque landscapes and clean, attractive cities – is well known and 2017 should still see a sharp spike in arrivals when the British & Irish Lions rugby team embarks on a 10-game tour of the country between early June and early July. The showpiece matches will be the three Tests against the All Blacks, taking place in Auckland (twice) and Wellington. Emirates recently began using A380 superjumbos for through-travel between London and Auckland, via Dubai. Elsewhere, the remote coastal region of Taranaki was named by Lonely Planet as one of the top places to visit in 2017.
Azores: Until relatively recently the Portuguese archipelago of The Azores – a strip of volcanic islands 900 miles off the Atlantic coast – was an under-the-radar holiday destination. Things are changing. Tourism has grown by more than 30% in the last year, thanks in part to a growth in awareness of the Azores’ choice of family-friendly activities: whale-watching, hiking, diving and horse-riding are all on offer, and the islands themselves provide a dramatic mountain backdrop. There’s plenty of good accommodation too. The Azores are less than four hours by direct flight from the UK, while Tap Air Portugal recently doubled the number of services between Lisbon and the Azorean capital of Ponta Delgada. The ABTA Travel Convention heads to the island of Sao Miguel in October 2017.
Alternative USA: From late March, 2017, British Airways will begin a direct flight between Gatwick and the Californian city of Oakland, which sits across the bay from San Francisco. Often described as a West Coast version of New York’s Brooklyn, Oakland is home to a lively arts scene and also serves as an excellent gateway for exploring northern California’s wine country – including the Napa Valley and several other less-visited wine regions.
Elsewhere in the U.S., Delta Airlines will kick off flights to Portland, Oregon, in May in partnership with Virgin Atlantic, while British Airways will launch four weekly flights to New Orleans in March. The service will be the only direct flight from Europe to the Big Easy. Meanwhile, Brand USA has announced a MegaFam trip for May 2017, incorporating seven different itineraries that all culminate in Chicago.
Aarhus: Accustomed to being overshadowed by Copenhagen, Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus, is readying itself for its moment in the spotlight. Named European Capital of Culture for 2017 (along with Paphos in Cyprus), the destination will be serving up a packed calendar of arts events, among them a Festival of Fire regatta and a major exhibition combining two of Scandinavia’s best-known artists: Asger Jorn and Edvard Munch. The city is a fine place to visit in its own right, with cobblestoned streets, endless cycle paths and a much-heralded food scene. Ryanair flies direct to Aarhus from London Stansted, with a travel time of one hour 40 minutes.
Bhutan: Next year has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, so where better to visit than the one of the world’s most eco-friendly countries and the world’s first carbon negative country. It's a place that bases its political decisions on the happiness of its people and that declared environmental protection as integral to GNP (Gross National Happiness). The tiny Himalayan nation is famed for its untouched nature, trekking and traditional culture.
Abu Dhabi: The capital of the United Arab Emirates doesn’t tend to do things by halves, so when the long-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opens in 2017 it’s fair to expect the results to be impressive. The museum – created through an intergovernmental agreement between Abu Dhabi and France – will showcase a permanent collection of Eastern and Western artworks set across 6,000sqm of gallery space. Elsewhere, Abu Dhabi International Airport is scheduled to open a spectacular new terminal building at some point over the next 12 months, while still in the pipeline is the Guggenheim Museum, which will host a colossal range of modern art.
Bermuda: For the first half of this year Bermuda recorded its highest number of tourist arrivals for close to a decade. The popularity of the British overseas territory isn’t too hard to fathom – its mix of sand, sea and unrushed elegance has long made it a favourite with beach lovers, golfers, yachtsmen and others looking to combine upmarket accommodation with Atlantic sunshine. From London the flight time to the Mid-Atlantic island is just shy of eight hours. Attention will fall on the destination in June, when the prestigious America’s Cup yachting event is held there for the first time. British ex-Olympian hero Ben Ainslie will be among those involved at the helm.
Lapland: Bolstered by centenary celebrations in Finland – which marks 100 years of nationhood in 2017 – and helped further by the BBC’s recent Arctic Live series, Lapland and northern Scandinavia look set to enjoy a busy year among adventure travellers. The Northern Lights and unique wildlife opportunities are among the selling points.
The Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten plans to operate the world’s first electric expeditionary ships in the Arctic and Antarctic, with the first vessel expected to enter service in 2018. The new technology will cut carbon emissions on each voyage by around 20%. .
China: A deal struck between the UK and China that could allow thousands more flights between the two countries each year was announced in October. It was designed principally to allow more Chinese visitors to Britain but will also make China itself ever more accessible.
Cruise passengers arriving in Shanghai are now eligible to stay in the country visa-free for up to 15 days. Elsewhere, Thomas Cook has announced travel packages to the island of Sanya, billed as ‘the Chinese Hawaii’.