Young woman with backpack sitting on an edge of cliff and looking to the sky.

Extreme trips, volunteer vacations and sustainable travel initiatives are taking off. (Getty Images)

After initially investing in Expedia in the '90s, Bill Gates publicly advised everyone to throw away their travel agent's phone number as the future of travel planning would be self-service through the internet. It seemed like a fair prediction with successful online publications such as Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor enabling travelers to research and book their own vacations, but today vacation planning is changing and travel advisers are once again in high demand.

[See: 5 Inspiring Places to See Before They Disappear.]

Tired of planning their own trips and searching for memorable, unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary experiences, travelers want trusted and reliable resources to curate extraordinary vacations. In addition to planning customized trips, travel advisers are privy to hot new properties, up-and-coming destinations around the globe and the latest travel trends. The reality is the travel adviser is not a thing of the past, but rather the gateway to unique and rewarding future travel experiences.

With that in mind, here are the hottest new travel trends to watch, according to leading luxury travel experts who attended the recent Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas.

Transformational Travel

People want to come back informed, enlightened and changed after their vacations. Matthew D. Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisers, says, "We tend to talk about luxury travel, adventure, family... all these different travel niches. When it comes down to it though, it's the transformative nature of travel that is the single biggest motivator. When you travel, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and it fundamentally changes your perception of yourself, your place in the world, of others. It fosters greater understanding and awareness because travel is all about celebrating the differences and recognizing what makes us all similar," he explains. Plus, immersive travel enables people to become more informed and open-minded global citizens. "People love their kids all over the world, they take pride in their heritage [and] they enjoy a good meal. It's in those moments of discovery that you make genuine human connections; that you're transformed because of your travels. And in that sense, as well as many others, travel is a force for good," Upchurch adds.

The Rise of Sustainable Tourism

Another emerging trend, according to Upchurch, is sustainable travel. "When it comes to the future of travel, sustainable tourism principles and practices will increasingly become part of the travel mainstream. When people think about sustainability in travel they often only think about the green footprint aspect, but it goes much deeper than that to also embrace support for the protection of cultural and natural heritage, along with social and economic benefits for local people in destinations throughout the world," he explains. "Sustainable tourism is not a trend, it is a travel transformation," he adds. To make this topic even more relevant, the United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Volunteer Vacations

Voluntourism, where travelers want to make a difference with hands-on experience helping out in the community, is also expected to increase in the wake of recent disasters. "Between two massive hurricanes and now the largest earthquake Mexico has seen in 100 years, I think we're going to see a resurgence in voluntourism," says Misty Ewing Belles, the managing director of global public relations for Virtuoso. "The need is apparent and as people look for ways to help, volunteer vacations will likely see a rise," she adds.

[See: 6 Sinking Cities to Visit Before It's Too Late.]

Extreme Trips

Industry experts are also seeing piqued interest in traveling to rapidly changing destinations impacted by spikes in tourism and the threat of global warming. This includes places like Cuba, Antarctica, Venice and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Epic adventures, such as African safaris or over-the-top experiences, like a private tour of the Grand Canyon, and extreme experiences to go where few have gone before, are also at the top of the list and include destinations like South Africa, the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica and New Zealand.

Extended Vacations Overseas

Known as "sojourns" for the baby-boomer generation, Brownell Travel has launched this concept of extended three-month stays at apartments. The trips are designed to recapture the reasons why people fell in love with travel in the first place (think: reliving a first summer abroad in France). More than just a vacation, these immersive experiences offer people who are able to work anywhere virtually, access to co-working spaces like WeWork. Oftentimes, family members will come and visit during the stay.

Multigenerational Vacations

Multigenerational travel continues to be a leading industry-wide trend. By traveling together with younger and older relatives, families are able to reconnect. "Skip-gen" trips, where grandparents take grandchildren on a special adventure, leaving the parents behind to experience their own time off, are also becoming more popular.

River Cruising for the Younger Set

While river cruising remains popular for senior travelers, millennials have also become a target market. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' new U by Uniworld brand will launch next year with amenities and services geared toward 21- to 45-year-olds. Focused on experiential travel, Uniworld's two luxury ships will cruise European waterways and feature DJs, rooftop lounges, yoga classes and adventure excursions, from rock climbing to whitewater rafting.

New Cruise Amenities

On the high seas, an increasing number of lines are introducing innovative technology and state-of-the-art features. Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship debuting next summer, will be home to the world's largest at-sea race track. With two levels and almost 1,000 feet of track, the ship will enable cruisers to navigate electric cars through hairpin turns and reach speeds up to 35 mph at 18 stories above the sea. Hoping to take the guest experience to an all new level, in November, Princess Cruises will launch Ocean Medallion Vacations. Developed by their chief experience and innovation officer, John Padgett, who was formerly with the Walt Disney Company, the Ocean Medallion, a quarter-size wearable piece, with similar technology to Disney's FastPass+ and MagicBand, will personalize everything from embarkation to ordering meals and booking excursions, creating an inventive onboard experience.

[See: 10 Dreamy Cruise Vacations to Cross Off Your Bucket List.]

Emerging Destinations

Whether you're traveling for personal enrichment, volunteering for a good cause or in search of new and exciting destination, you might ask yourself: Where are the hottest places to travel right now? Virtuoso's Ewing Belles thinks South Korea is an up-and-coming destination. "With the 2018 Winter Olympics just five months away, South Korea is about to be thrust into the spotlight. East Asia will likely see an influx of visitors who will use Seoul as a launch pad to visit the region," she says. Other top global destinations include Italy, South Africa, France, Iceland and Australia, with Japan emerging as an untraditional multigenerational family travel destination. And for those wishing to stay closer to home, New York City, Maui, Hawaii, Napa Valley and Sonoma, California, Las Vegas and Miami are rising tourism destinations across the country.


8 Ethical Travel Destinations to Visit in 2017


Photo Gallery
Smiling volunteer planting tree in woods.
The Great Bear Rainforest on the British Columbia coast in Canada.
Famous Bryggen street in Bergen Norway - architecture background
A view of the main harbor on Aruba looking inland. This photo, from a cruise ship, looks down over the city and boats. Dutch province named Oranjestad, Aruba - beautiful Caribbean Island.


[url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/17371806#5e1cc24][img]http://static.wixstatic.com/media/ec71de_a1ad61570ca54213b6bcd8633aae24e6.jpg_256[/img][/url]
Clouds float above the Wind Farm (Wind Power Generation) on Hulunbuir Grasslands in Mongolia, China.
Landscape rice terraces and valley near Chimi Lhakhang Temple, Punakha, Bhutan.
Sunset
High angle view of Catarata del Toro waterfall at sunset, Costa Rica.
La Merced, Bogota, Distrito Especial, Colombia.
Volunteers posing together outdoors
|

Make a difference in these forward-thinking destinations.
Leaving a positive impact through responsible tourism practices can feel like a daunting task. While industry-wide initiatives to promote social and animal welfare and reduce carbon emissions have helped trailblaze a path for sustainable travel, determining which destinations allow you to empower the local community isn't always clear-cut. "Each of our travel choices makes a difference when we take a trip or go on holiday. Forward-thinking travelers should reward those destinations working towards a more sustainable future for people and the planet," says Costas Christ, one of the world's leading sustainable travel experts. If you're ready to tread lightly and do good on your next getaway, head to these destinations.
(Getty Images)

Canada
With a focus on conservation and human rights, it's no wonder Canada has become a "hot and trending destination," says Yves Marceau, vice president of global buying and contracting with travel outfitter G Adventures. With the country's recent adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, our northern neighbor earns high marks for its social welfare efforts. Canada also happens to be spearheading environmentally friendly practices. Take the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, which collaborated with the First Nations and academics to preserve forests, conserve coastal ecosystems and promote local well-being, says Martha Honey, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
(Getty Images)

Norway
Aside from maintaining one of the highest standards of living in Europe, Norway is "also a global leader in environmental protection," Marceau explains. Plus, the country offers plenty of environmentally certified lodging options and tour operators, which limit the carbon footprint through energy-efficient materials. Norway also promotes social welfare rights for its workers with a Scandinavian model for maternity leave and paternity leave, which gives parents 46 weeks of paid time off. If you want to experience Norway's iconic fjords responsibly, G Adventures is offering an eight-day cruise in May 2017 (starting at $1,874) that takes you to UNESCO-protected treasures, charming fishing villages and spectacular glaciers.
(Getty Images)

Aruba
"It may come as no surprise that small islands like Aruba, dangling on the front lines of climate change impacts, are also putting major emphasis on policies and projects to usher in what one day could become fossil-fuel-free societies," Christ says. The Dutch-Caribbean island contains one of the biggest solar parks in the Caribbean, along with a renewable energy plant that six other isles in the region have adopted, Christ adds. Aruba is even aiming to offset carbon fuels by 2020, Honey adds. The island also boasts eco-friendly hotels like Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, which prides itself on solar paneling and aiding community foundations, like the Donkey Sanctuary.
(Getty Images)

Mongolia
In Mongolia, the local government has "worked really hard to get electricity and access to remote areas," Marceau says. In fact, 70 percent of the area's herder population is striving to attain 100 percent solar-powered electricity by 2017, Marceau explains. Mongolia has also championed land conservation and protected the region from mining and development, Marceau adds. And that's not all Mongolia has going for it. Mongolia also celebrates International Women's Day and pushes for senior welfare, Marceau explains. For a far-flung getaway like no other, tag along G Adventures' eight-day "Local Living" experience on the Mongolia-Nomadic Life tour ($1,099 per person), which takes visitors through Terejl National Park with nomadic families.
(Getty Images)

Bhutan, South Asia
According to Christ, Bhutan has established "national tourism plans for the country, based upon sustainable tourism development criteria including environmentally friendly business practices, support for the protection of cultural heritage, tangible social and economic benefits to local people, and safeguarding biodiversity and natural resources for future generations." Marceau also highlights the country's priority for low-impact tourism with locally owned properties to boost the area's social development and infrastructure. If you want to meet Bhuddist monks and explore ancient temples, join a 10-day journey with G Adventures ($3,099 per person).
(Getty Images)

Grenada
Grenada's commitment to environmentally friendly practices and ensuring tourists' dollars fuel the local community through small-scale tourism makes the island an ideal choice for conscientious travelers, Honey says. Despite the island's small size, Grenada has raised funds and awareness around climate change and benefited its local people, Honey adds. Grenada has also made great strides to preserve its coral reef ecosystems through the International Coral Reef Initiative, a coalition to use sustainable management practices and increase awareness of vanishing coral reefs across the globe. On your next trip, don't skip visiting Grand Anse Beach or checking out the impressive marine life at Grenada's numerous dive sites.
(Getty Images)

Costa Rica
When you picture Costa Rica's cloud-blanketed rainforests, diverse wildlife and UNESCO World Heritage-protected areas, it's easy to understand its appeal to nature and wildlife seekers. Tourism demand spiked in the 1980s when small-scale ecotourism paved the way for a growing international market, Honey explains. But while the initial boom helped create jobs, in 2000 a series of hotel chains were built and cruises began stopping at the Port of Puntarenas, ushering in outside labor that no longer benefitted local employees. That said, while Costa Rica could stand to improve its social welfare, hotels have taken great strides in reducing water consumption and adding solar panels to have a minimal impact on the environment.
(Getty Images)

Colombia
With country-wide initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, preserve rainforests and support indigenous communities, Colombia is leading the charge to advocate responsible business practices and rebrand its image, Marceau says. And with the recent peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, smaller communities are poised to thrive and the country "is really looking forward to the opportunity for people to go there," he adds. For a trip to remember, join G Adventures' action-packed seven-day Lost City Trek with indigenous communities near Santa Marta, which takes visitors to Tayrona National Park with the indigenous Wiwa people to explore the Lost City of Teyuna (prices start at $799 per person).
(Getty Images)

What's on the horizon?
According to Christ, "we are beginning to hit a tipping point where more and more travel companies – such as Uniworld River Cruises in Europe, who helped to establish the criteria for environmentally friendly river cruising, and Asia-based hospitality groups like Six Senses Resorts and Spas – have also made sustainability practices a cornerstone of their brand." Though he cautions the work is far from finished, "the United Nations declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism [for] Development will be a milestone in bringing more awareness on why the travel industry must make sustainability business as usual," he says.
(Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)

Smiling volunteer planting tree in woods.
The Great Bear Rainforest on the British Columbia coast in Canada.
Famous Bryggen street in Bergen Norway - architecture background
A view of the main harbor on Aruba looking inland. This photo, from a cruise ship, looks down over the city and boats. Dutch province named Oranjestad, Aruba - beautiful Caribbean Island.


[url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/17371806#5e1cc24][img]http://static.wixstatic.com/media/ec71de_a1ad61570ca54213b6bcd8633aae24e6.jpg_256[/img][/url]
Clouds float above the Wind Farm (Wind Power Generation) on Hulunbuir Grasslands in Mongolia, China.
Landscape rice terraces and valley near Chimi Lhakhang Temple, Punakha, Bhutan.
Sunset
High angle view of Catarata del Toro waterfall at sunset, Costa Rica.
La Merced, Bogota, Distrito Especial, Colombia.
Volunteers posing together outdoors

Make a difference in these forward-thinking destinations.
Leaving a positive impact through responsible tourism practices can feel like a daunting task. While industry-wide initiatives to promote social and animal welfare and reduce carbon emissions have helped trailblaze a path for sustainable travel, determining which destinations allow you to empower the local community isn't always clear-cut. "Each of our travel choices makes a difference when we take a trip or go on holiday. Forward-thinking travelers should reward those destinations working towards a more sustainable future for people and the planet," says Costas Christ, one of the world's leading sustainable travel experts. If you're ready to tread lightly and do good on your next getaway, head to these destinations.
(Getty Images)

Canada
With a focus on conservation and human rights, it's no wonder Canada has become a "hot and trending destination," says Yves Marceau, vice president of global buying and contracting with travel outfitter G Adventures. With the country's recent adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, our northern neighbor earns high marks for its social welfare efforts. Canada also happens to be spearheading environmentally friendly practices. Take the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, which collaborated with the First Nations and academics to preserve forests, conserve coastal ecosystems and promote local well-being, says Martha Honey, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
(Getty Images)

Norway
Aside from maintaining one of the highest standards of living in Europe, Norway is "also a global leader in environmental protection," Marceau explains. Plus, the country offers plenty of environmentally certified lodging options and tour operators, which limit the carbon footprint through energy-efficient materials. Norway also promotes social welfare rights for its workers with a Scandinavian model for maternity leave and paternity leave, which gives parents 46 weeks of paid time off. If you want to experience Norway's iconic fjords responsibly, G Adventures is offering an eight-day cruise in May 2017 (starting at $1,874) that takes you to UNESCO-protected treasures, charming fishing villages and spectacular glaciers.
(Getty Images)

Aruba
"It may come as no surprise that small islands like Aruba, dangling on the front lines of climate change impacts, are also putting major emphasis on policies and projects to usher in what one day could become fossil-fuel-free societies," Christ says. The Dutch-Caribbean island contains one of the biggest solar parks in the Caribbean, along with a renewable energy plant that six other isles in the region have adopted, Christ adds. Aruba is even aiming to offset carbon fuels by 2020, Honey adds. The island also boasts eco-friendly hotels like Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, which prides itself on solar paneling and aiding community foundations, like the Donkey Sanctuary.
(Getty Images)

Mongolia
In Mongolia, the local government has "worked really hard to get electricity and access to remote areas," Marceau says. In fact, 70 percent of the area's herder population is striving to attain 100 percent solar-powered electricity by 2017, Marceau explains. Mongolia has also championed land conservation and protected the region from mining and development, Marceau adds. And that's not all Mongolia has going for it. Mongolia also celebrates International Women's Day and pushes for senior welfare, Marceau explains. For a far-flung getaway like no other, tag along G Adventures' eight-day "Local Living" experience on the Mongolia-Nomadic Life tour ($1,099 per person), which takes visitors through Terejl National Park with nomadic families.
(Getty Images)

Bhutan, South Asia
According to Christ, Bhutan has established "national tourism plans for the country, based upon sustainable tourism development criteria including environmentally friendly business practices, support for the protection of cultural heritage, tangible social and economic benefits to local people, and safeguarding biodiversity and natural resources for future generations." Marceau also highlights the country's priority for low-impact tourism with locally owned properties to boost the area's social development and infrastructure. If you want to meet Bhuddist monks and explore ancient temples, join a 10-day journey with G Adventures ($3,099 per person).
(Getty Images)

Grenada
Grenada's commitment to environmentally friendly practices and ensuring tourists' dollars fuel the local community through small-scale tourism makes the island an ideal choice for conscientious travelers, Honey says. Despite the island's small size, Grenada has raised funds and awareness around climate change and benefited its local people, Honey adds. Grenada has also made great strides to preserve its coral reef ecosystems through the International Coral Reef Initiative, a coalition to use sustainable management practices and increase awareness of vanishing coral reefs across the globe. On your next trip, don't skip visiting Grand Anse Beach or checking out the impressive marine life at Grenada's numerous dive sites.
(Getty Images)

Costa Rica
When you picture Costa Rica's cloud-blanketed rainforests, diverse wildlife and UNESCO World Heritage-protected areas, it's easy to understand its appeal to nature and wildlife seekers. Tourism demand spiked in the 1980s when small-scale ecotourism paved the way for a growing international market, Honey explains. But while the initial boom helped create jobs, in 2000 a series of hotel chains were built and cruises began stopping at the Port of Puntarenas, ushering in outside labor that no longer benefitted local employees. That said, while Costa Rica could stand to improve its social welfare, hotels have taken great strides in reducing water consumption and adding solar panels to have a minimal impact on the environment.
(Getty Images)

Colombia
With country-wide initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, preserve rainforests and support indigenous communities, Colombia is leading the charge to advocate responsible business practices and rebrand its image, Marceau says. And with the recent peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, smaller communities are poised to thrive and the country "is really looking forward to the opportunity for people to go there," he adds. For a trip to remember, join G Adventures' action-packed seven-day Lost City Trek with indigenous communities near Santa Marta, which takes visitors to Tayrona National Park with the indigenous Wiwa people to explore the Lost City of Teyuna (prices start at $799 per person).
(Getty Images)

What's on the horizon?
According to Christ, "we are beginning to hit a tipping point where more and more travel companies – such as Uniworld River Cruises in Europe, who helped to establish the criteria for environmentally friendly river cruising, and Asia-based hospitality groups like Six Senses Resorts and Spas – have also made sustainability practices a cornerstone of their brand." Though he cautions the work is far from finished, "the United Nations declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism [for] Development will be a milestone in bringing more awareness on why the travel industry must make sustainability business as usual," he says.
(Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)

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Tags: travel, vacations


Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Finalist in Journalism, award-winning food and travel writer, and coauthor of PratesiLiving.com, where she shares the stories of her international food and travel experiences. She also freelances for other regional, U.S., and international publications. You can follow her at Twitter (@pratesiliving), Linkedin, Google+, Facebook, and Instagram.

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