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25 December, 2018 08:43:45 PM

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The up-and-coming destinations that never really arrived

Independent Online Desk/The Telegraph
The up-and-coming destinations that never really arrived
Some find it hard to square a visit to Myanmar due to its treatment of the Rohingya

This is the season for predictions. A time when commentators trot out their travel tips for the year ahead, revealing the up-and-coming destinations that we’ll all soon be flocking to.

Probably.

A look back, rather than forwards, however, can be more illuminating, not least because it reveals the pitfalls of predictions. After all, it wasn’t long ago that these destinations were tipped for greatness.

Backpackers explore the ruins of Palmyra before Syria's bloody civil war

Backpackers explore the ruins of Palmyra before Syria's bloody civil war

1. Syria

Hard to believe now, but Syria welcomed 8.5 million foreign travellers in 2010 – more than Brazil, Australia, Belgium, Norway and the Philippines receive today.

These remarkable figures emboldened many to predict a stampede for Syria, which was lauded for its lively seaside resorts, snow-capped mountains and half a dozen World Heritage Sites, including Palmyra, the ancient city that has since largely been razed by ISIL.

Though the civil war is now almost over, Syria remains in ruins – the idea that it could sustain a thriving tourist industry seems further away than ever. That said, the explorer Levison Wood recently returned from Syria and reports that it has a great nightlife.

A souvenir shop in Aleppo before the war

A souvenir shop in Aleppo before the war 

2. Libya

Libya, one of the world's most dangerous countries, once promised to be a destination to rival Egypt, and the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 had crystal ball-clutching commentators speculating about its tourism potential.

In hindsight it wasn’t unreasonable to believe the country, which is blessed with sandy shores, ancient ruins and prehistoric rock art, could emerge from the carnage as a tourist hotspot. What emerged instead, however, was more carnage.

Rather than sun-seeking tourists, post-Gaddafi Libya has enticed gun-toting militant groups, including ISIL. It has also become a centre for people smugglers, who have sent thousands of migrants on perilous journeys across the Med from Libya’s shores.

Desert oases are amongst Libya's charms, but they remain off limits to tourists

Desert oases are amongst Libya's charms, but they remain off limits to tourists CREDIT: ISTOCK

3. Myanmar

A hot list favourite a few years back, Myanmar appeared to be unlocking its potential as a tourist destination after decades in the wilderness.

The country had been off the radar since 1996 when the National League for Democracy (NDL), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, called for a boycott in protest against the country’s despotic government.

The NDL lifted its ban in 2010 and took power five years later. Suddenly Myanmar’s gorgeous landscapes, timeworn temples and traditional culture were back on the radar.

The honeymoon period didn’t last, though. The country has since made headlines for all the wrong reasons due to its violent suppression of Rohingya Muslims, which the UN says has triggered “one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises”. There are now more calls for a boycott

Some find it hard to square a visit to Myanmar due to its treatment of the Rohingya

Some find it hard to square a visit to Myanmar due to its treatment of the Rohingya CREDIT: ISTOCK

4. Crimea

In 2012 it all looked rather rosy for Ukraine, which hosted the UEFA European Championships with neighbouring Poland and won many plaudits in the process. It was an up-and-coming destination for sure.

Or not. The following year saw a wave of political unrest known as the Euromaidan movement, which resulted in violent street protests and the overthrow of President Yanukovych.

Amidst the chaos Putin annexed Crimea, a popular seaside destination, whose jutting cliffs, sandy shores and splendid architecture had recently graced the pages of glossy mags.   

The conflict rumbles on in Donbass, where pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops battle on in Europe’s forgotten war. Still, according to Russia, Crimea’s tourist industry has seldom had it so good.

5. Pakistan

 

With its rugged mountains, stunning shores and magnificent Mughal-era architecture, Pakistan has long been touted as Asia’s next big destination.

At times it didn’t seem unreasonable to believe the country could emulate the success of its neighbour and longtime foe, India, which attracts more than 10 million visitors annually (Pakistan pulls in just 1.7 million).  

Ongoing security concerns have held Pakistan back as a destination

Ongoing security concerns have held Pakistan back as a destination CREDIT: ISTOCK

However, terrorism, strict laws and civil unrest have served to keep most would-be tourists away. The decision by western airlines to pull services to Islamabad after the 2008 Marriott hotel bombing was a nadir.

But could the tide finally be turning? BA announced this week that it would resume flights to Islamabad in 2019, while the British Backpackers Society crowned Pakistan the best destination for adventure travel in 2018.

6. Space

“This is the year that space travel finally takes off.” How many times have we heard that, then? Yet here we are, still on Earth, and still a long way from launching the masses into outer space.

Could 2019 finally be the year for mainstream space travel? No, probably not

Could 2019 finally be the year for mainstream space travel? No, probably not CREDIT: ISTOCK

It’s getting closer, though, thanks partly to a private space race between three billionaires – Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – who are bent on galactic tourism. Bezos has the moon in mind, Musk wants to colonise Mars and Branson is plotting suborbital commercial flights.

Don’t cancel your trip to Tenerife just yet, though, because low-cost space travel still seems light years away. According to a Reuters report earlier this year, passengers flying to the final frontier with Bezos can expect to pay up to $300,000 (£237,000).

HM

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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