It wasnât long ago that the world was teeming with seldom-visited places, and the prospect of traveling abroad was seen as a grand adventure. But the world has changed. International travel is no longer a privilege reserved only for a select few, and as more travelers open their passports and trek off to foreign countries, a familiarity with the world has quickly ensued. In 2011, for example, 93 percent of the total 69.4 million people who stepped aboard a plane at Londonâs Heathrow International Airport (the worldâs third busiest airport based on passenger traffic) were bound for a foreign country. By todayâs standards, a destination that once was viewed as exotic no longer enjoys the same cache.
Itâs for these reasons that travelers today are seeking vacations filled with greater excitement and, according to Jean Fawcett, media relations manager for Abecrombie & Kent (A&K), the last couple of years have revealed a shift in many travelersâ purchasing decisions. Simply put, the desire for memorable and unique experiences has become a more influential factor for prospective vacationers. âPeople who have traveled to a lot of places are now looking for more adventurous experiences,â she says. âItâs the transformational vacation. If theyâre younger and theyâre working they may not have a lot of vacation time, so they really want to make it count.â
At the moment, A&Kâs most popular destinations for adventure travel include Tanzania, where travelers can spend nine days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and also enjoy a 4-day Serengeti safari ($8,320/âŹ6,372); Antarctica, where travelers can spend 12 days aboard a luxuriously appointed small cruise ship and accompany guides to explore the continentâs shorelines ($9,895/âŹ7,578 before February 28, 2013); and the western coast of South America, where over the course of 17 days travelers can explore Machu Picchu, visit Easter Island, and cruise the Galapagos Islands ($17,950/âŹ13,747).
Jim Bendt, the president of Travel Beyond, also has witnessed similar trends within the travel industry. âInternational travelers are looking for new experiences throughout the world,â he says. âThey want to do something different or more adventurous, but they still want all the luxury conveniences.â
According to Bendt, Belize is an emerging destination, due to its great scuba diving conditions as well as having the worldâs largest concentration of Mayan ruins. Zimbabwe also is proving to be a popular choice, thanks to unmatched areas for wildlife safaris. Ultimately, however, those destinations are drawing travelers to them because of the authentic cultural experience that they can provide. âIt really comes down to people looking for real authenticity when theyâre traveling,â Bendt says. âYou have to be more adventurous to get to places that people havenât been to as much, where that authenticity comes through. Thatâs whatâs driving this; to be an early adopter and to get somewhere before a large tourism infrastructure is built and changes the dynamic.â
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