Destinations around the world are optimistic they will welcome a bumper crop of tourists in 2018 but, as ever, fashions change, trends emerge and new destinations come under the spotlight. Find out which corners of the world are in vogue for the coming year.

South Africa: The exchange rate for British tourists to South Africa has been favourable for a good few years now, and tourist numbers have been suitably strong, with figures for the first half of 2017 showing more than 230,000 UK visitors.

There are good reasons to keep returning too as few countries can combine wildlife, beaches and cultural attractions to such winning effect.

2018 will add more as the ‘Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be The Legacy’ initiative gets underway. Currently at the planning stage this programme of special initiatives, projects and events will celebrate 100 years since Mandela’s birth. Activities will range from education and the arts to exhibitions and sports, and will take place both in South Africa and the UK. UK highlights will include a two-week NelsonMandela Exhibition in London in July and the unveiling of a Madiba statue in Glasgow.

In South Africa, visitors can follow in Mandela’s footsteps with a free app that maps out the best in Mandela places of interest.

Luxury Gold is featuring South Africa for the first time in its 2018 brochure, and the South African Tourism Board has embarked on a digital campaign to promote fly-drive holidays.

Book it: African Pride offers a 14-day Cape Town, Wine & Wilderness fly drive itinerary priced from £2,158pp. The deal includes four nights in Cape Town, as well as time in both the Winelands and the Cederberg region, flights from Heathrow and car hire.

Malta: One of Europe’s smallest but most seductive countries has plenty to shout about in 2018. Air Malta has introduced new Go-Light fares for passengers carrying hand luggage only, starting from around £35 one-way, and the airline is also reintroducing weekly Manchester flights from May 2018. Elsewhere, Jet2 has announced it will be adding Malta as a new destination from Stansted in summer 2018, while easyJet began flying twice weekly from Southend to Malta in October.

2018 also sees the capital Valletta ensconced as European Capital of Culture, so look out for its packed events calendar. A World Economic Forum study earlier this year named Malta as giving more government priority to tourism than any other country worldwide. With an offering that now appeals as much to the Instagram generation as to baby boomers, there’s plenty to shout about.

Book it: Mercury Holidays has a nine-day escorted tour of Malta and Gozo from £659pp, with all breakfasts and dinners included. Highlights include visits to the cities of Valletta and Mdina, as well as the age-old Ggantija Temples on Gozo.

Portugal: Hardly a newcomer to tourism, but its star keeps rising by the year. For a relatively small destination it packs in plenty, from city-break stalwarts Lisbon and Porto to the much-frequented beaches of the Algarve. What’s more, it continues to provide great value to British tourists.

Flagship carrier TAP has added London City to Lisbon, meaning it now flies from three different London airports. Viking Cruises will operate a new vessel on the Douro from 2019; Jet2Holidays has added Faro to its city break portfolio; Thomas Cook has announced the opening next year of an own-brand hotel in Albufeira; and Riviera Travel has a new Portugal escorted tour for 2018.

Book it: Riviera Travel offers an eight-day Lisbon, Porto and Douro Valley escorted tour from £919pp, with flights, four- and five-star hotels and guided tours of Lisbon, Porto, Sintra and the Douro Valley.

Oman: When Oman Air added a new route from Manchester in mid-2017, alongside its double-daily flights from Heathrow, it was another sign that Oman is on the up.

It combine a slice of the exotic with adventure and all less than eight hours from the UK. G Adventures and Intrepid Travel have added to the options. Areas such as the Al Hajar Mountains and the Musandam Peninsula are on the up and luxury hotels on the beach broaden the appeal. One to watch is the extraordinary Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, which opened a year ago on a lofty mountain plateau.

Book it: Intrepid Travel  has an eight-day Discover Oman tour includes capital Muscat, the desert landscapes of Wahiba Sands and the canyon scenery of the Al Hajar Mountains. The lead-in price is £1,715pp, with a maximum group size of 12.

Perth & Western Australia : The Qantas direct service from Heathrow to Perth - from March 2018 - will be the first-ever regular non-stop service UK to Australia. The 16 hour journey will be the longest Dreamliner flight in the world, and will throw fresh light onto Perth and WA. The city is a vibrant destination in its own right, as well as a great gateway for foodies, winery tours, road-trippers and adventure-seekers. New hotels in 2017 included Intercontinental Perth City Centre, Aloft Perth and Tribe Perth.

Book it: Gold Medal Travel offers a 14-night itinerary (including two free nights) taking in Perth, Mandurah and Fremantle with hire car throughout, priced from £1649 pp, saving up to £470 pp for travel between May 1 and June 29, 2018.

Costa Rica: Visitor numbers from the UK to Costa Rica rose eight per cent year-on-year from January to September 2017, and British Airways’ decision to add a third weekly direct flight from Gatwick this winter is likely to spell further growth for the Central American country.

Its tourist board, which last month hosted a series of UK roadshow evenings in association with Selling Travel (see pages 20/21) in London, Manchester and Glasgow, will run a fam trip for agents in 2018, as part of the same campaign. Wildlife and tropical adventure have long been the main draw for visitors, although the focus in 2018 will be to promote the country as a wellness destination too. Luxury Gold is among the operators introducing Costa Rica in 2018.

Book it:  Cox & Kings has a Natural Splendours of Costa Rica group tour priced from £1,845pp. The 11-day, nine-night itinerary visits some of the country’s major national parks and includes direct flights with British Airways.

The Seychelles: British Airways’ twice-weekly service to Mahé, launching in March, will be the first non-stop flight between the UK and the Indian Ocean and cuts travel time to 10 hours. Timings on Wednesdays and Saturdays will make 10-night trips feasible. The service will run initially to October. On the ground Six Senses Zil Pasyon is now fully open and the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles At Desroches Island will be unveiled in early 2018.

Book it:  Inspiring Travel Co. features seven nights at the Constance Ephelia on Mahe priced from £2,409pp, based on two adults staying half-board, including flights with British Airways and a 30% discount for bookings made a minimum of 45 days before travel.

Dubai: Dubai aims to keep momentum rolling in its favour with initiatives to appeal across luxury, adventure and family markets. A new Rosemount will open in 2018 with an indoor rainforest, and Motiongate Park has opened the first World of Hunger Games zone with rides and attractions. In 2019 a Six Flags Theme Park will be opening in Dubai Parks and Resorts and Legoland hotel will be added to the Legoland waterpark towards the end of 2018-19. Meeting the demand for active experiences, cycle tracks and trails are expanding.

Book it: If Only... offers a five-night stay in a Deluxe room at Vida Downtown Dubai, including return flights with Emirates, private transfers and breakfast, priced from £845pp.

Italy: In World Travel Market’s 2017 Industry Report, Italy emerged as top of the wish-list for 1,000 Brits surveyed, and 84% of trade respondents said they were planning to sign contracts with Italian companies in the months ahead. Recent openings include the FICO Eataly World, a huge ‘agri-food park’ with restaurants, rides and cooking courses, near Bologna.

Book it: Great Rail Journeys has a 10-day Simply Lake Garda trip priced £1,395pp including travel by Eurostar, four-star hotel, full day-trips to Venice and Verona and time at Lake Garda.

Thailand: Euromonitor International’s latest Top 100 Cities/Destinations ranking saw Bangkok second only to Hong Kong in terms of its visitor numbers, ahead of London thanks to 10% growth over the last 12 months. Phuket and Pattaya were placed in the top 25 visitor cities worldwide, showing just how strong Thailand’s tourism pull remains. The country accounts for some four per cent of all long-haul travel from the UK – almost one in every 20 trips – according to latest booking analysis. One operator capitalising on the allure of the destination is Gold Medal, which has seen Thai sales rise 14% year on year, and has added 38 new properties.

Book it: Gold Medal offers eight nights at the four-star Le Vela Khao Lak, which opened in July 2017. Clients stay on a B&B basis from £1,149pp, including flights and transfers. .

Abu Dhabi: The £1bn Louvre Abu Dhabi is now open and early signs are that the decade-long construction process has been more than worthwhile. The museum has 600 permanent artworks, as well as 300 on loan from the Paris Louvre.

UK visitors to the emirate are up five per cent year on year, an increase the destination puts down to its investment in the travel trade. It is also rising in status as a cruise destination, with a large, new cruise terminal and, in the shape of Sir Bani Yas, the Gulf’s only dedicated desert island cruise stopover.

Book it: A three-night stay at Kempinski’s five-star Emirates Palace Hotel is priced from £951pp, with Kuoni, based on a May 2018 departure and including return flights from Heathrow.

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