Virtuoso Traveler 2019 December 20 for 2020: Tips, Trends, and Must-See Destinations for the Year Ahead

20 for 2020: Tips, Trends, and Must-See Destinations for the Year Ahead

Where will travel take you in 2020?
Where will travel take you in 2020?
Photo by Getty Images
Where, why, and how to travel in the coming year. 
Our annual global travel forecast has you hitting honky-tonks in America’s Music City, seeing the Summer Games in style, discovering Europe’s best-kept secret, and getting wild in Africa’s emerging safari spot. Plan, too, on traveling sustainably, seeking antidotes to overtourism, and getting a healthy dose of urban renewal (think digital detox and sleep coaching during your next city stay). They all top our list of where, why, and how to travel in the coming year, compiled with the help of Virtuoso travel advisors and other in-the-know insiders. So start packing! The world is calling, and 2020 is going to be a great year.
Word on the street: Shinjuku, home of Tokyo’s New National Stadium, is a must-see for the year ahead.
Word on the street: Shinjuku, home of Tokyo’s New National Stadium, is a must-see for the year ahead.
Photo by Getty Images

1. DESTINATION: Tokyo 

All eyes are on Tokyo in anticipation of the 2020 Summer Olympics, beginning July 24. Championing sustainability, the Olympic campus will include buildings repurposed from the city’s 1964 Games. New venues include the New National Stadium, which Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has designed in biophilic style (incorporating natural elements and views).

Beyond the Games, Japan’s architectural prowess and love of nature meet at the new Shibuya Scramble Square, a 750-foot sky-scraper with a panoramic rooftop garden offering views of Mount Fuji and, by night, the city’s iconic kaleidoscope of neon lights. Count on countless diversions: “Quick train and subway rides to Tokyo’s many and varied districts mean visitors can essentially experience a different area every day,” says Izumi Ogawa, a Virtuoso travel advisor.

Be There: Zinc Experiences offers a seven-day stay in Tokyo with options to add tickets to Olympic events, plus a seven-day Japan Rail Pass for day trips to nearby destinations such as Nikko, rich in samurai history and culture. Departure: July 23, 2020.

2. TIP: Book Now.

“Tokyo is always a popular travel destination, and its hotels frequently fill up; the Olympics will only increase this demand,” says Ogawa.

3. TREND: Traveling with Older Children 

Resorts, cruise ships, and tour providers have long catered to families with young children (think kids’ clubs and babysitting). But older teens and young adults, today’s Generation Z, are now having more of a say in family travel. With that in mind, Backroads recently launched a new 20s & Beyond series of trips for families traveling with older children, including cycling trips around Portugal and culinary-themed walking tours in Napa Valley. Expect others to follow its lead.

“As children get older, you can’t call the shots as much,” says Virtuoso advisor Lisa Leavitt, who, with her husband and their 21- and 23-year-old children, plans to take a Backroads trip to Croatia next summer. “Parents want to be a part of their kids’ intellectual, cultural, and artistic development – and that doesn’t stop in adulthood,” she says.
Bright lights, big music city: Nashville’s neon-lit Broadway shines at night.
Bright lights, big music city: Nashville’s neon-lit Broadway shines at night.
Photo by Getty Images

4. DESTINATION: Nashville

Ken Burns’ recent PBS documentary Country Music has rekindled interest in the classic American genre and its capital, where Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge, Nashville’s landmark honky-tonk, turns 60 in 2020. The new year promises additional musical attractions: Steps away from Tootsie’s, the National Museum of African American Music – a 56,000-square-foot celebration of more than 50 styles, from gospel to funk – opens in the summer.

“Nashville has a signature culture that combines traditional country-music roots with a modern metro atmosphere,” says Virtuoso advisor David Bragg.

Be There: In partnership with Ken Burns and his collaborator, Dayton Duncan, Tauck recently unveiled a five-day Nashville tour that includes private performances and visits to the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium. Departure: September 9, 2020.
Walk this way: New Zealand’s Paparoa National Park.
Walk this way: New Zealand’s Paparoa National Park.
Photo by Getty Images

5. DESTINATION: New Zealand

In December, New Zealand introduced its tenth Great Walk, part of a series of signature trails that showcase the island nation’s biodiversity. The 34-mile Paparoa Track on the South Island’s west coast threads lush rain forests, skirts limestone cliffs, and features interpretive signs communicating the indigenous Maori perspective of the region, a historic hunting ground for prized pounamu (New Zealand jade). Last year, it introduced the Tiaki Promise, a tourism pledge that asks visitors to behave in ways that align with the nation’s respect for indigenous cultures and the environment. New Zealanders, says Stephanie Fisher, a Virtuoso advisor who has cared for endangered kiwi birds in a preserve at the North Island’s Cape Kidnappers lodge, “have a real passion for the great outdoors.”

Be There: Butterfield & Robinson’s eight-day New Zealand walking tour samples several Great Walks, including the alpine Routeburn Track and the rainforest Milford Track. Departure: February 3, 2020.
Sustainable travel practices are helping preserve India’s tiger population.
Sustainable travel practices are helping preserve India’s tiger population.
Photo by Getty Images

6. TREND: Sustainable Travel 

In January, Norwegian Cruise Line will rid all its ships of plastic water bottles. In busy Venice, Belmond Hotel Cipriani’s small-boat tours minimize eco-footprints and connect guests with local artisans (proceeds also support Venetian arts and social-welfare programs). And in Brazil, Virtuoso on-site connection Abercrombie & Kent is partnering with a local NGO that works with native Kayapo communities to help protect their territory and heritage. The need to preserve the world’s ecosystems and cultures has the attention of the travel industry, which is pivoting to more sustainable practices. In some areas, the efforts are already paying off: In India’s Madhya Pradesh state, for example, Banjaar Tola, A Taj Safari lodge in Kanha National Park reports that sustained conservation efforts are helping protect endangered tigers; their population has more than doubled since 2006 to nearly 3,000 animals.

To help travelers make conscientious choices, Virtuoso advisors point clients toward travel operators that care for the environment, local cultures, and economies. “When I recommend a tour provider such as Big Five Tours & Expeditions, I explain why and how it’s committed to ensuring that communities benefit from tourism,” says Virtuoso advisor Erin Green. “My clients get excited about that.”

7. TREND: Undertourism

The phenomenon of overtourism has led cities such as Venice to levy a fee on day-trippers and Dubrovnik to limit cruise-ship calls. In response to overcrowding, the “undertourism” movement takes a positive approach to spreading out tourism’s footprint – for instance, by visiting the walled Adriatic city outside of summer’s high season or heading to Croatia’s more distant, lightly traveled regions instead.

8. TIP: Go Off-Peak in Peru. 

That legend of a glorious sunrise at Machu Picchu – another hot spot for overtourism – which perpetuates pre-dawn crowds? “Machu Picchu is in a cloud forest,” says Alonso Roggero, general manager of Virtuoso on-site connection Metropolitan Touring Peru. “It’s usually cloudy in the mornings, so we encourage travelers to visit in the afternoon when it’s typically sunny and the crowds aren’t as concentrated.”
Fall for this: The far-flung Faroe Islands.
Fall for this: The far-flung Faroe Islands.
Photo by Getty Images

9. DESTINATION: Faroe Islands

There are more sheep (80,000) than people (51,000) in the Faroes, making the 18-isle archipelago between Iceland and Norway a beacon to solace seekers. With stunning fjords, ocean-plunging waterfalls, treeless moors, and turf-roofed houses, “the Faroe Islands make up the perfect playground for the senses,” says Guðrið Højgaard, CEO of Visit Faroe Islands, who credits the isles’ increase in tourism over the past five years to stimulating the local economy, resulting in a tide of restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Koks.

Be There: On a two-week sailing from Aberdeen, Scotland, Quark Expeditions’ 128-passenger Ocean Adventurer spends two days exploring legendary Viking strongholds, puffin colonies, and precipitous mountains in the Faroes en route to Longyearbyen, Norway. Departure: April 30, 2020.
Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park.
Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park.
Photo by Getty Images

10. DESTINATION: Patagonia

Eclipse chasers and adventure travelers, take note: On December 14, 2020 (summer in South America), earth’s next solar eclipse will transit southern South America. Its apex will pass close to Bariloche, Argentina, and Puerto Montt in Chile.

Be There: Blue Parallel’s customizable six-day eclipse journey visits Argentina’s Lake District and includes luxe camping on a private estate staffed with an astronomy concierge, along the line of eclipse totality. Departure: December 11, 2020.

11. TIP: Get Starstruck.

In addition to the rare solar event, Virtuoso advisor Julie Jones highlights another celestial attraction: the Geminid meteor shower. On December 13 and 14, 2020, “the sky will glow with up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour,” she notes. “Given the dark skies in Patagonia, the chances for clear weather at that time of year, and the region’s mystical landscape, it’s sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

12. DESTINATION: Lisbon

Portugal’s seaside capital will also be 2020’s European Green Capital, based on its efforts to fight climate change, which have led to a 50 percent citywide reduction in carbon emissions. Electric bikes comprise two-thirds of its bike-sharing fleet, enabling travelers to more easily manage the hilly city. Virtuoso advisor Luís Sousa says the new designation, given by the European Union, will bring a series of new parks to a city drenched in color from “the blue river, red rooftops, and bright-yellow sun.”

Be There: Adding 23 new rooms early next year by renovating two adjoining buildings, the 25-room Valverde Hotel also champions cultural sustainability, staging traditional fado concerts twice a week. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and complimentary round-trip airport transfers.

13. TREND: Urban Wellness

Traveling to a distant retreat to regain balance is always appealing, but a new spate of city wellness centers provides a convenient way to re-center more regularly. Consider the digital-detox program at Asaya spa in the recently opened, 413-room Rosewood Hong Kong, and sleep coaching at NYC’s new 212-room Equinox Hotel. At the latter, “custom beds and blackout rooms are ideal for downtown rejuvenation,” says Joshua Bush, a Virtuoso agency owner.

14. DESTINATION: Bahamas

Striking in September 2019, Hurricane Dorian made history as the Bahamas’ worst natural disaster. But many of the 700-plus islands and cays are still able to welcome travelers, including Nassau, Eleuthera, the Exumas, and the private-island resort Musha Cay, which has since hired 11 refugees affected by the hurricane.

Says Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, “We urge consumers to know that the best thing they can do for the Bahamas, now more than ever, is simple: Visit.”

Be There: After Dorian hit, Royal Caribbean delivered some 600,000 meals from its cruise ships. The line is again calling in the Bahamas, including at its new private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, during five-day round-trip-from-Fort-Lauderdale sailings aboard the 3,858-passenger Independence of the Seas. Departures: Multiple dates, May 7 to November 5, 2020.
A pachyderm parade in Sri Lanka. 
A pachyderm parade in Sri Lanka. 
Photo by Getty Images

15. DESTINATION: Sri Lanka

After the terrorist attack last Easter, Sri Lanka suffered a plunge in tourism. But the government has stepped up security on the South Asian island, which boasts exceptional variety – both culturally, in Buddhist and Hindu temples, and geographically, in surfing beaches, tea plantations, and elephant-filled forests – in an area slightly larger than West Virginia.

Expect any safety concerns to be allayed, says Virtuoso advisor Mickey Creyf, who notes that a rise in tourism “can help the country rebuild.” To “lead by example,” Creyf plans to visit soon and share his experiences via social media “to show the world that the country is safe again.”

Be There: A private guide and driver lead Kensington Tours’ new ten-day Sri Lanka trip, which includes a safari in Minneriya National Park, shrine and market visits in Kandy, and a hike in the verdant highlands. Departures: Any day through 2020.
The Pyramids of Giza make a fine point near Cairo.
The Pyramids of Giza make a fine point near Cairo.
Photo by Getty Images

16. DESTINATION: Cairo

The long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open in 2020, replacing the overstuffed Egyptian Museum in Cairo with a bespoke treasury featuring expansive windows that fittingly frame views of the nearby Pyramids of Giza. “It’s a must-do for anyone with even an inkling of interest in Egyptian history and culture,” says Virtuoso advisorJason Detar.

Be There: After exploring Cairo, sail the Nile from Aswan to Luxor (or the reverse) aboard the newly refurbished 54-passenger Oberoi Zahra, Luxury Nile Cruiser to visit the temples and tombs where many of the museum’s artifacts were found. Departures: Continuous six- and eight-day cruises. Virtuoso travelers receive a complimentary 50-minute massage and a bottle of local wine.
Hurtigruten’s <em>Roald Amundsen</em> is the cruise industry’s first hybrid-powered ship.
Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen is the cruise industry’s first hybrid-powered ship.

17. TREND: Small-Ship Sailing

Small ships not only get passengers closer to their destination, but they avoid port congestion and are often designed to be environmentally friendly. Consider Hurtigruten, which recently introduced the industry’s first hybrid-powered ship, and Lindblad Expeditions, which went carbon-neutral this year by offsetting emissions from its fleet, offices, and land-based excursions. Consequently, small-ship cruising is booming, and a number of lines will introduce new launches next year, including Lindblad’s 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance, a pair of 184-passenger Ponant ships, and, in the Amazon, Aqua Expeditions’ 40-passenger Aqua Nera.

18. TIP: Take to the River. 

River cruising lets you cover extensive ground effortlessly. Along with providing a strong sense of community among passengers, its intimate vessels offer “an ideal way to see secluded corners of the world without constantly packing and unpacking,” says Virtuoso advisor Mary Kleen.
Stepping out in Galway, Ireland. 
Stepping out in Galway, Ireland. 
Photo by Getty Images

19. DESTINATION: Galway

Along with the Croatian port city of Rijeka, Galway will serve a yearlong term as a European Capital of Culture, showcasing its distinct blend of medieval castles, stunning coastal walks, travel-worthy seafood, and lively arts and music. Beginning in February, the city’s cultural fest will span more than 1,900 events hailing its creative contemporary and traditional Irish-speaking communities.

“Galway is such a vibrant city,” says Siobhan Byrne Learat, owner of Adams & Butler, a Virtuoso on-site connection in Dublin, noting its blend of university students and “blow-ins,” or people who relocate to Galway to start second careers. Whether they’re chefs or brewers or buskers on busy Eyre Square, “people here are following their passions.”

Be There: Galway’s eighteenth-century Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate salutes traditional Irish culture with salmon fishing on Lough Corrib, archery in its Walled Garden, and a falconry school. Two musts: sampling local whiskies in the Oak Cellar Bar and slurping Dooncastle oysters in Pullman Restaurant, housed in restored Pullman train carriages. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a complimentary round of golf for up to two people per room.
Creature feature: Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Creature feature: Gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

20. DESTINATION: Rwanda

The volcanic Virunga Mountains shelter some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, in part thanks to government authorities, who restrict visits in Volcanoes National Park and sell permits to fund conservation. During a recent visit, Kristen Korey Pike, a Virtuoso agency owner, was able to encounter the elusive, gentle giants. “Being in their habitat was a very humbling experience and a must-do for anyone who appreciates wildlife, history, culture, sustainability, and adventure,” she says.

Be There: Set in the foothills of Rwanda’s Virunga range, the three suites and two lodges at the new One&Only Gorilla’s Nest provide private views of surrounding farmland and eucalyptus forest. Guests set out on gorilla treks in nearby Volcanoes National Park and connect with local dancers and musical performers (including former poachers who now earn their living through tourism) at Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for amenities.

Popular Articles

You may also like...