What are the hot new places you should be visiting in the future? Mark Stratton has consulted the travel trade, journalists, conservationists and others to compile a list of 20 extraordinary, off-the-beaten-track destinations with great potential
Which African destinations will we be visiting over the next 20 years? When Travel Africa launched in 1997 a straightforward Serengeti safari sounded exotic, but the diversity of adventures open to Africaphiles today is significantly greater.
Discerning travellers crave ever more dynamic experiences. They may prefer safaris on foot or horseback or seek idyllic eco-resorts far from the madding crowd. Awareness has grown that tourism can be a positive force for conservation and community development, so they want their holidays to matter. There is a hunger for multi-centred vacations and increasingly remote destinations.
This vision for the next two decades is by no means exhaustive. You may disagree with some inclusions or sigh with frustration at omissions. Of the latter, both good and bad examples have been left out for contrasting reasons.
Malawi is enacting a remarkable transformation from the backpacker destination I remember in the 1990s. Rwanda’s Lazarus-like resurrection continues apace, while Kgalagadi is fulfilling the visions of transfrontier peace and cooperation. Conversely, it pained me to omit Nigeria’s Cross River National Park, where critically endangered gorillas and drills need eco-tourism to add value in the face of environmental degradation. Yet the willpower from within to make Nigeria a safe and attractive destination seems absent. I almost jettisoned Madagascar due to its spiralling decline of habitat loss. But our presence there is vital to pressurise those in power to see sense in conserving its incredible biodiversity.
Some entries are starting from year zero, although war-torn South Sudan hasn’t even reached this point yet. But what a future its Sudd region may have with its great annual kob migration. Could peace and investment see visitors enjoying this spectacle by Travel Africa’s 40th anniversary? Angola may be on the cusp of an exciting journey, while Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), despite security issues, have secured several spectacular national parks that could signpost their own route towards a brighter future.
They might take Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) as inspiration, as it forges a path towards becoming a mainstream addition among tour operators. The Congolese government understands this and is making significant investment. Elsewhere, we feature reincarnations of more traditional safari destinations, such as Kenya and Tanzania.
Many challenges remain, including better infrastructure, harmonising tourism with conservation, local empowerment and more accessible visas. But for now, let’s debate and celebrate these 20 propositions for the next 20 years.