Travel – What’s on the horizon for 2019?
Where Sanctuary Retreats’ Michael McCall thinks luxury travellers are headed next year.
It’s that time of year when the experts at luxury travel company Sanctuary Retreats gaze into their crystal ball to predict the destinations and experiences that discerning travellers will want to dust off their passports for.
Whether it’s a cultural exchange, intimate river cruise or an unforgettable wildlife encounter, “staying ahead of the game and forecasting the new destinations, immersive engagements and experiences sought by our guests is what we do best”, says Michael McCall, the company’s Director of Sales, Australia, New Zealand & Asia.
In terms of what countries are shaping up as ‘must visit’ destinations in 2019, two stand out for Michael.
First up, Michael has his eyes set firmly on Egypt. “While the country has long been a stalwart of many travellers’ bucket lists, for several years following the Arab Spring uprising political upheaval saw a marked decline in the numbers of people travelling there. However, thanks to an extended period of stability, there has been a real resurgence of interest in Egypt and visitors are starting to flood back.”
Sanctuary Retreats has been operating luxury river cruises on Egypt’s Nile River for almost two decades, offering a range of cruise itineraries and bespoke charters, including the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, which set to relaunch later this year after an extensive refurbishment. According to Michael the company remains passionate about – and confident in, the destination. “We’re optimistic about Egypt’s stability and safety, and we are really buoyed by renewed tourist interest over the past twelve months. If you add in excellent weather all year round, lots of major landmarks which are relatively free of tourists and friendly locals, now is a fantastic time to travel there.”
“The Egyptian government has also taken significant steps to bolster security around tourism hotspots over the past few years,” he adds, “which means that there is a reassuring security presence at Luxor, Aswan and other areas of interest, alleviating any fears travellers may have.”
Sanctuary Retreats’ Nile River Cruises offer the chance to explore Egypt’s ancient past in the utmost luxury. Sailing between Aswan and Luxor, guests visit all the major sites including the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, the Temple of Karnak and the Island of Agilika. With a choice of four vessels – Sanctuary Sun Boat III, the aforementioned Sanctuary Sun Boat IV, the Sanctuary Nile Adventurer and bespoke dahabiya, Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau, with 2019 prices start from US$960 per person twin share for a 3-night cruise aboard the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV.
Kenya is Michael’s other top travel destination for 2019 – and specifically the iconic Maasai Mara, for a chance to observe the Great Migration, one of the wonders of the natural world.
Every year more than 1.4 million wildebeest, along with gazelles and zebra, stampede Lion King–style following the rains from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara. Offering a ringside seat to the Great Migration is Sanctuary Retreats’ newly rebuilt flagship property, Sanctuary Olonana. Set in lush woodland on the banks of the Mara River, the new-look Sanctuary Olonana brings the outdoors inside, almost literally, thanks to fourteen spacious new glass-sided suites, designed especially to maximise the wilderness experience for guests. Each one boasts over 130 sqm of floor space, Offering ultramodern bliss, 14 brand new glass-fronted suites offer light, sumptuous interiors, and opulent marble-and-slate bathrooms, as well as private decks.
But for Michael the game viewing on offer at Sanctuary Olonana is the other aspect which makes a stay here truly memorable. “Our experienced guides are expert at finding the perfect hidden spots from which to view the extensive wildlife on show in the Maasai Mara, ensuring that our guests have the best safari experience possible, with plenty of memorable, out-of-this-world sightings.”
Michael also points to several other factors that are playing an increasing influence on the travel choices of Sanctuary Retreats’ customers in the year ahead – especially over-tourism, security and environmental concerns.
“We’re already seeing people wanting to visit more undiscovered parts of Africa rather than the major highlights. Our clientele tends to be well-travelled and well-informed – and willing to pay a premium to get off the beaten track to visit places or destinations that focus on small scale tourism. In particular, we’re seeing real growth in demand for access to more remote wilderness areas in Botswana and Tanzania’s Southern Serengeti and Tarangire National Park, where we operate several small safari camps sustainably – and with a very small footprint.”
But, it’s not just about exploring undiscovered regions. Michael points to a growing number of clients seeking new experiences in existing areas, citing African safari holidays as a prime example. “Rather than spending time in one of the more established wilderness destinations, our guests are choosing options like gorilla trekking in Uganda where permits are very limited, but where the wildlife experience is an extraordinarily moving one.
“Likewise, instead of visiting Tanzania’s Serengeti in Spring’s busy peak season with its higher prices and traffic jams, an increasing number of Sanctuary Retreats’ clients are instead choosing to head to the Southern Serengeti in the Green Season from late January through to mid-March, where an estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during the six-week period each year. More travellers arealso finding the winter months rewarding as they offer up extraordinary opportunities to see wildlife in exclusive locations without the crowds, and for lower prices.”
Michael is also a fan of Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park also located slightly off the main safari route. “I think Tarangire is the surprise package on the Northern circuit. Best known for its elephant migration and an exceptional concentration of game from July through to October, it’s often overshadowed by the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, attracting a fraction of the visitor numbers! For this reason, this seasonal Tanzania safari park is a little gem on the Northern safari circuit – especially if you love elephants!
Sanctuary Retreats operates camps in both locations – Sanctuary Kusini is the only permanent camp in the Southern Serengeti and Sanctuary Swala Camp has been voted by Tripadvisor as the Camp as #1 in Tarangire.
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