Hotpots holds the aces, but let’s not forsake those troubled spots

Phra Nang beach... Thailand continues to be a popular choice for tourists

THE festive season is just around the corner and one of my favourite activities this time of the year is to choose my holiday destination for the next year.

Usually it’s the same set of questions:  is it close enough, economical enough and most importantly, safe enough? Which destination could change my world, or more realistically, give me a holiday to remember? However, this time round, I’m torn between choosing a destination that ‘must’ be visited versus one that ‘needs’ to be visited.

Travel gurus like Lonely Planet have already put up their top 10 must-visit cities for 2012 which include cities like London, Bangalore, Hong Kong and old-world Cádiz in Spain.

You can’t fault this list. London, as it gears up for the 2012 Olympics, will be the hot-spot for many holidaymakers; Bangalore, India’s capital of cool, has a brand new metro to boast about; one could never go wrong in vibrant Hong Kong, be it for food or shopping, while Cádiz, the Ibero-American Capital of Culture for 2012, will transform overnight this carnival season.

But what about those all those troubled destinations like Japan, Thailand, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria?

Disaster-struck Japan is going that extra mile to bring tourists back into the country. The Japanese tourism board has launched a campaign offering visitors 10,000 free round-trip tickets in return for any free publicity on their trip through blogs and social media sites. Pop star Lady Gaga too gave her seal of approval at an MTV Video Music Aid event, a much-needed boost for the destination.

Closer to home, while Egypt prepares itself for an election, the tourism industry across the country is struggling. Destinations like Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh have been hit by the political unrest, though these cities itself have remained trouble-free.

The political instability has had a ripple effect on tourism in neighbouring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon and is expected to continue for some time. The usually popular multi-destination combination tours – which include Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – have suffered a major downturn as Egypt is the core destination for these trips.  The country is now looking at innovative marketing and promotional methods to spread a message of security and no promotion is better than word of mouth.

One has much to learn from destinations like Thailand, a country where political tensions and severe flooding have time and again hit tourism revenues. However, this has not stopped holiday-seekers from visiting its idyllic islands, which continue to be a popular choice for holidays, honeymoons and destination weddings. The resourcefulness of the Thai people and their determination to ensure unity, stability and growth has them standing tall as an example of a country and industry that is resilient. 

All these destinations offer fabulous tourism experiences but have suffered because of political turmoil and natural disasters, which in turn affects the economy and people’s livelihoods.

My vote for 2012 would be to show faith in these countries, make your contribution to these troubled economies and then spread the word on their natural beauty, culture, cuisine, people, and value for money.

However, if sun and sand is what you have your mind set on, here’s a little fact I overheard on Twitterverse: the national dress of Trinidad is a bikini. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Speaking Out

By Shalu Chandran