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Destinations to watch in 2007

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

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.

Major hotel brands across the price spectrum are opening in China at a breakneck pace. Best Western, Super 8, Hilton, and InterContinental are all expanding in China ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

NEXT >> Dubai

Dubai

In a relationship that brings to mind the song chorus, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is taking its place alongside Las Vegas as an over-the-top destination packed with “ests.” Dubai has some of the world’s largest indoor ski resorts and man-made islands, and the world’s largest airport and a three-billion-square-foot theme park in the works.

Former longtime Dubai resident and Smarter Travel Media employee Parves Shahid realized just how much his hometown has changed in recent years when he got lost during a recent visit. Reflecting on the trend, Shahid says, “Dubai is geared toward becoming a one-stop shop for anything and everything one might need, or hope to get in a vacation.” However, even with all the outrageous offerings, authenticity remains: “The uniqueness of the city lies in the fact that even with all this hustle and bustle, tradition remains, and you can still feel the local flavor most places you go.”

Travel providers are keeping pace with the development. Cruise companies Crystal, Costa, and British-based Fred. Olsen will add a new Dubai port-of-call to select itineraries in 2007. And, hotels are flocking to the city to serve the growing number of visitors. Currently, there are plans to build 55,000 more hotel rooms in the next five years, according to HotelTravelNews.com. Hotels opening in 2007 include Raffles, Banyan Tree affiliate Angsana, InterContinental, and Crowne Plaza.

Though Dubai is still seen as a playground for the ultra-rich, there’s a groundswell of affordability that is accompanying the most recent growth. For instance, some car rental agencies are now offering smaller, cheaper cars, and less expensive hotels are meeting the needs of a wider variety of visitor budgets.

NEXT >> Spain

Spain

It’s shaping up to be a turning point of a year for already-popular Spain. The emergence of Madrid as a European hub for low-cost airlines will boost the number of visitors coming into the country and position it as an increasingly appealing entry point to Europe from North America. Madrid Barajas is managing its new place as a dominant European airport with its new terminal, which doubles the airport’s previous capacity, and will allow it to rival London Heathrow in traffic in the next decade.

Madrid is a new hub for the European low-cost carrier easyJet. Starting in mid-February, the airline will add seven new routes from the city to destinations in France, Italy, Morocco, Scotland, and elsewhere in Spain.

Competing low-cost giant Ryanair recently made Madrid its second Spanish hub with 14 flights to destinations in Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the U.K. Ryanair is also expanding its Barcelona hub. Starting in March, it will add 17 new routes to cities in Europe and Morocco.

Barcelona will also be the base for Clickair, the new Spanish low-cost carrier that will start operating in January. The airline is planning on expanding to 70 routes in 55 cities by the end of 2008.

NEXT >> Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown, Virginia

It’s the festival dubbed America’s 400th anniversary, and in 2007, historic Jamestown, Virginia, is at the core of the celebration. Jamestown claims its place in American history as the first permanent settlement by Europeans in what would become the U.S. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the settlement of 1607, and is being celebrated with events that commemorate the history and the people.

Jamestown is at the heart of the festival, but events take place around the Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown “historic triangle” and beyond.

In addition to the hundreds of commemorative programs and community events, there will be 10 major events in conjunction with the big anniversary. For example, America’s Anniversary Weekend is three days of performances and exhibitions from May 11 to 13. And, in April and May, a replica of the ship “Godspeed” that brought Jamestown’s first settlers will sail from the Chesapeake Bay up the James River. There’s also the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., in June and July that will focus on Virginia’s Native American, English, and West African roots. And July brings the Virginia Indian Heritage Events weekend. Other festivals and events continue through the end of summer, and the “World of 1607” exhibition at the Jamestown Settlement museum continues through April 2008.

NEXT >> Luxembourg

Luxembourg

The tradition of Capitals of Culture has been bringing yearlong art and cultural festivals to countries around Europe for more than 20 years. This year, Luxembourg and its neighbors will earn the title by staging thousands of events that showcase art and culture from the region and around the globe. The partnership between Luxembourg and Lorraine, France; The Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany; and the French and German-speaking Communities of Belgium will keep visitors educated and entertained throughout the year.

The offerings include art exhibitions, theater festivals, concerts, and local food events. Event information is available online, and tickets are available on an event-by-event basis and in the form of passes that grant entry into exhibitions and discounts on performance tickets.

Luxembourg’s location between France, Belgium, and Germany makes it accessible and gives visitors plenty of low-cost airline options in major cities nearby. For most travelers from North America, Luxembourg isn’t going to be the sole European destination on an itinerary, but this year there are thousands of unique reasons to include it in a trip.

NEXT >> Other destinations to watch in 2007

Other destinations to watch in 2007

Here are more destinations to keep on your radar in 2007:

  • Sibiu, Romania: This Transylvanian city is 2007’s other European Capital of Culture, and has a full roster of performances and events.
  • Malta: Increased service from Ryanair and Air Malta between departure points in England will make this Mediterranean island-nation easier to visit in 2007.
  • Malaysia: This country in Southeast Asia will celebrate 50 years of independence in August 2007 with parades, performances, and carnivals.
  • Montenegro: Europe’s newest country continues to create buzz and increase in popularity among visitors.

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