A new year means another batch of rising stars on the travel scene. Some are emerging destinations while others are already popular locales with some kind of extra oomph—a major event or serious infrastructure improvements—that will make them shine even more in 2007.
China has been a destination to watch for a few years now, but with the Beijing Olympics a little more than a year away, planning has given way to concrete expansion that visitors in 2007 will be able to experience firsthand. More air service from the U.S. and within China, as well as a major increase in the presence of familiar hotel brands, are bringing tourism into the mainstream.
However, it's not all sunshine and light. Visitors concerned with the restrictions on freedom and human rights violations will still find reasons to feel conflicted about travel, at least for now: In September 2006, Amnesty International released a report detailing the ways in which China was not yet meeting the human rights commitments it made when it was awarded the Olympic bid in 2001.
Nevertheless, U.S.-to-China routes are the hottest thing in air travel this year. In recent months, American Airlines, Continental, Northwest, and United have been engaged in a public battle for rights to the next new route between the two countries. The U.S. Department of Transportation has just tentatively awarded United Airlines the right to operate its proposed Washington, D.C.-to-Beijing route starting within 90 days of approval, but as of press time, the deal wasn't yet finalized.
In a move that may inspire a transatlantic Southwest effect—bringing competition and lower prices to the routes it serves—Hong Kong's new long-haul, low-cost carrier Oasis Hong Kong Airlines plans to begin flying from Oakland in early 2007.
There are new and improved ways to get around China and Asia as well. Low-cost carrier Tiger Airways is introducing new service and more planes in 2007, and Huaxia Airlines has just debuted as a regional carrier based in China's Guizhou Province. And, Cathay Pacific's All-Asia pass is back for another year, with fares from $1,399 for a flexible ticket that allows you to visit any of 23 cities in 21 days.
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