Political shifts offer new destinations
Libya is renowned for antiquities, like the Sabratha theatre.

What can we look forward to in 2012? The travelling world believes there is a shift in politics in Burma and it has become one of the moment's most talked-about destinations. (This newspaper's policy is still to call it Burma rather than the new name of Myanmar, given by the junta, as we call the capital Rangoon rather than Yangon.)

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Burma is viewed by many as one of the world's most promising emerging destinations, as it appears to be opening up politically and economically, and the Myanmar Tourism Board's aim is that it remain so for years into the future.

Earlier this month, the first-ever Travel Leaders' Symposium on Sustainable Tourism was held in Burma, and this was hailed a landmark moment.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) believes that Burma will end this year as one of the world's fastest-growing markets, with tourism up by 25 per cent.

Travel Indochina, one of Australia's leading travel specialists in Asia, quickly sold out its January and February small group tours of Burma - another clear sign of the strength of demand for the new destination.

Travel Indochina managing director Paul Hole says the results confirm that the choice to launch Burma tours was right, following clear indications that the time was appropriate to travel to the nation.

The sight of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embracing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon will have helped, though our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel advice for Burma overall is to exercise a high degree of caution and not to travel to areas bordering China, Laos and Thailand.

Mr Hole says: "As a country with limited tourism infrastructure and a history of restricting access, Burma is best suited to small-group, journey-style travelling. The quick take-up of our inaugural nine and 13-day journeys has validated our choice of beginning to offer tours to the country in 2012."

There are still places on guaranteed departure tours throughout 2012 and into 2013.

But Mr Hole adds: "Demand is outstripping supply at the moment in Burma."

Nine of the Travel Indochina team travelled to Burma. "Personal experience of the destination is very important for our team," says Mr Hole.

Like many tours, the nine-day Highlights of Burma visits Rangoon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.

Big companies such as Scenic Tours are there too, with trips like the 12-day Myanmar Highlights and Irrawaddy River Cruise, and Venture Holidays has a 10-day, small-group round trip from Rangoon to Bagan's ancient temples and pagodas and the Mt Popa monastery with other highlights including Mandalay.


Another country further down the road to change and looking to welcome visitors is Libya.

And WA's Travel Directors is set to be the first Western tour company in the world to go back there.

Travel Directors has a tour that will arrive in the capital, Tripoli, with a group on April 25.

It will be personally led by Tony Evans who says: "Having spoken to our operators in Tripoli we are confident that all infrastructure is in place for this tour."

Post-Gaddafi elections will take place by June. From June to September it is too hot to travel, and the main tour season starts in October.

Mr Evans has been eager to get there long before everyone else and adds: "The Libyans are keen to get tourists back in."

The 21-day Travel Directors tour continues from Libya to Malta and Sicily and has been reduced to $13,847.

Details: traveldirectors.com.au and 1300 856 661.


In WA, look out for a renewed focus on driving holidays, as the RAC launches its Rediscover WA. It promises some great weekends and drive breaks.

The West Australian

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