Where should we go?
That's a question we hear a lot, so here's the answer, our pick of the destinations that might appeal to you in 2016.
Security concerns understandably have moved up the agenda of priorities for many and that may well influence decisions as well as increasing the need more than ever for early bookings to ensure availability and some of the best deals.
Julian kicks us off tipping cruise holidays rather than a destination. "They eliminate a lot of the risks in respect of the unrest in the world along with the fact that many are now introducing all-inclusive options. They also give the opportunity to visit many destinations in one hit, and work for both individuals, families and groups. Cruises of all types are now very affordable. There are cruises for all tastes and budgets."
Our cruise product expertise has been further strengthened this year with Alexis joining the team, appointments with her can be pre-booked to discuss options.
Both Julian and Julie feel Costa Rica will continue to rise in popularity with the addition of an exciting new British Airways route direct to capital San Jose. We featured a fabulous experience earlier this year.
"Costa Rica offers a whole new world of opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts but it doesn't stop there! It has fantastic beaches, rainforests and great culture. It is certainly something different", says Julie.
Julian adds: "Two oceans, Pacific and Caribbean both easily accessible, wildlife, rainforest, something for everyone especially families. The direct flight will encourage families even more since it avoids a change of aircraft in Europe or America and it is very safe."
One of our biggest selling destinations this year has been Cuba.
It's tipped by Carly and Sharron, who says, "Cuba offers options of some brilliant touring itineraries and authentic experiences, staying in Casa Particulares (private homes) for a unique insight into Cuban life and spending time getting to know local families – something that up until a few years ago would not have been possible."
Carly adds: “It's the largest of the Caribbean islands but has a lot more to offer then just beach. We book many Havana/beach combinations and clients are increasingly visiting other parts of the country such as Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Vinales. Changes are happening quickly, due to improving relations particularly with the US. In time this may well make Cuba just another destination with American influences therefore people want to visit before this happens.”
We have seen some fantastic television programmes bringing more exotic experiences and adventures to our attention along with some brilliant travel supplements in the press and features online. These remain very influential in educating, stoking interest and additions to bucket lists.
Julian is a huge advocate of our recent Destination Of the Month, India, while Alexis believes the Galapagos Islands are a wonderful option:
"There have been a few TV programmes lately exploring the wildlife of the Galapagos has to offer and a lot more awareness on this area. It's a great all year round destination that suits all types of people. One of the best ways to do it is a cruise, doing a back-to-back inner and outer loop, a great example is a celebrity cruise on the beautiful xpedition."
Shelley is getting behind another all year round destination that had a strong 2015 and has featured in some terrific TV documentaries with the likes of Joanna Lumley and Alexander Armstrong as well as the popular Game of Thrones.
“Iceland has so much to offer from the Northern Lights to spectacular rugged landscapes to volcanic scenery and wonderful outdoor adventures. We work closely with Regent Holidays who are experts in the region and have some great itineraries and tours.”
Sophie's long -haul choice is the fascinating country of Myanmar (Burma) which is tipped to see continued tourism growth following the much heralded victory of Aung San Suu Kyi in the recent elections. “I would suggest an organised escorted tour, around 12 days, enabling you to visit and see some of the most amazing places. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the tranquil sunset over Mandalay, mystical Bagan and its endless pagodas in the morning mist, Inle Lake's floating villages and a cruise on the Ayeyarwady River are all a must.”
Our much travelled and well-read Julie is often one step ahead and she nominates Madagascar as a popular choice for 2016. “Every time I open the travel supplements of the Sunday Times and the Guardian, I learn something new about this relatively undiscovered land, again great unique wildlife, rainforests and spectacular beaches.”
Alexis has recently returned from the Emirates and is excited about Abu Dhabi for the New Year. “I think Abu Dhabi is a great alternative to the more commercialised Dubai. One of its biggest attributes is that its home to Yas island, home of the Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Yas water world and a massive shopping centre, not forgetting a beautiful beach and marina. There is a great range of 5-star accommodation including chains such as the Viceroy group and Radisson and has all the same ingredients that make Dubai so popular: great service, great people and great weather.”
Closer to home, Italy proves popular.
Over to the boss again, “Italy will be a strong seller during the summer months. Due to the political uncertainties in a lot of areas, Italy offers a safe haven and there has been a huge increase in hotels offering facilities that cater for families in the higher end accommodation coupled with the opportunity to combine culture with sea and sand. Short flights and good value for money now with the pound strong against the euro are plusses”.
Carly feels that the capital is a great choice: “Rome is a great city with lots to offer and great historical attractions and of course great cuisine. It is really accessible with daily flights from all major airports and it features in the new James Bond movie which I am sure will bring lots of attention to clients who haven't visited before.”
Sicily is another destination we love. We have focused previously on its gastronomic delights but it offers options for several types of trip catering for a range of budgets across the board for families, those seeking culture and beach combined and romantic options for a more intimate break.
Shelley is a big fan and eager to extol the virtues of the 4 star, Excelsior Palace Hotel. “This hotel is fab for couples. It is set in its own grounds in the heart of beautiful Taormina, has views overlooking the Bay of Naxos and is close to Mount Edna. Décor feels traditionally Italian and there is a lovely outdoor terrace where you can sip cocktails. Also there is no need for a car as everything is within walking distance, “
Italy also of course includes Sardinia, the island of Elba and the gorgeous Capri and Amalfi coast. Sharron is very familiar with several wonderful properties and options and a great advocate of Italy for family options which she will of course be happy to guide clients through.
We remain committed to Turkey where there will continue to be great value particularly for family options.
Our trusted favourite Gloria Golf is a sure-fire family winner and Sophie is keen to recommend both Kalkan and Kas via our friends at Elixir, “they have some fab small family run 3 or 4* hotels for those who want something authentically Turkish and who prefer to try different restaurants as opposed to an all- inclusive solution. There are lovely little harbours, small restaurants and bars on cobbled streets with plenty of little shops to peruse. Maybe more suited to families with older kids.”
We complete our round up in the USA. Family options are abundant from the thrill of the ranch experience to the more obvious solutions. Here's Sophie again:
“You can't go wrong with Orlando. The Universal options, Harry Potter, Islands of adventure with Marvel characters, water rides at toon lagoon and numerous other attractions. Also the choice of accommodation goes from luxury homes to affordable motels.”
Sharron is our West coast expert and has recently returned from a refresher trip. Having a daughter living there helps with those tips only “those in the know” can provide, especially when it comes to restaurants and hotels. “It's the little things that make the biggest difference”.
She is an expert at putting California itineraries together and makes a point of working closely with her industry contacts to help create memorable experiences.
We hope this has given you a taster of what's possible in 2016. We pride ourselves on the knowledge we provide both from personal experience and the best network of trade relationships.
As we approach the peak booking season it may be sensible to book an appointment in person with one of the team to chat through your options and help create your own travel experiences for 2016. We can be contacted of course by telephone or online too.
A Happy New Year to all – enjoy memorable and safe travels.