Luxury beckons

Opulent travels and immersive experiences are set to dominate choices, writes Neeta Lal

South Africa

Romance, culture, adventure and gastronomy will all feature on Indian travellers’ bucket list as they clinch their favourite travel destinations for 2020. However, ‘luxury’ incorporating bespoke and immersive experiences will dominate the choices, predict travel curators.

Driving this trend will be rising disposable incomes, a thirst for adventure, peer influence and social esteem. According to a new report by the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) India and Luxury Travel Congress, India is estimated to generate over 2 million outbound luxury and MICE tourists annually by 2020, reiterating the country’s influence as a key source market for these two segments. By 2025, both these segments will likely reach USD 9 billion.

So what are the top destinations for the sybaritic Indian traveller to consider while planning his vacation in 2020? Here’s a ready reckoner:

Vienna

Museums brimming with rich art collections, ornate palaces, iconic coffee houses, UNESCO World Heritage sites… the Austrian capital city ticks all boxes of a great luxury destination. Make your sojourn even more special by staying in a truly imperial accommodation. An apartment in the east wing of the breathtaking Schönbrunn Palace has now been converted into a 167-square metre suite following a carefully monitored refurbishment project. A compelling stop for travelling gastronomes, Vienna offers Michelin star dining at top notch eateries, buzzy cafes and atmospheric pubs while its coffee house culture has been included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list since 2011.

The year 2020 will be particularly rewarding for music connoisseurs who visit Vienna, also known as ‘the world capital of music’ when the metropolis marks the 250th birth anniversary of Beethoven. The great composer made Vienna his home, and the city will pay special homage to music through the year. Concerts, operas and events revolving around its all-time greats from Beethoven to Mozart — along with contemporary international artists like Billy Joel, Hans Zimmer, Yuja Wang and Joshua Bell, will mark the celebrations of musical geniuses. Every night around 10,000 music fans will also be treated to live classical music at the State Opera, Musikverein, Konzerthaus, Volksoper and other music institutions.

Kazakhstan

This gorgeous Central Asian country — hitherto confined to oblivion — is fast climbing the discerning travellers’ popularity charts. A kaleidoscopic culture, vast steppes, towering mountains, wild nature, heritage buildings and a mint-fresh capital Nur-Sultan (earlier called Almaty) make it a deep cultural immersion. Alternatively, spike your adrenaline by skiing in alpine resorts, or trekking/horse riding in the mountains. Honeymooners can enjoy syrupy sunsets in breathtaking locales while tucking into delicious nomadic food.

Alakol Lake in the east is ideal for wellness seekers. Did you know astronauts used to prep for their space flights here? The Burabay National Park hosts glassy lakes, lush mountains and forests. Heritage lovers will be drawn instinctively to the ancient city of Turkestan while the shores of the Caspian Sea in Mangystau, the largest lake in the world, will beckon water babies. Or why not nip up to the Baikonur space port from where the first human ever travelled to space?  

New Zealand

For the world-weary globetrotter, New Zealand offers a genuinely refreshing and diverse landscape featuring unique premium experiences. Enjoy locally grown artisanal foods and world class wines on specially curated trails. Or spend a day with the indigenous Moris in their native villages. Walk among misty kauri forests to soak in its rich flora and fauna. Drop anchor at a contemporary Mori artist’s studio and watch him at work.

Golf enthusiasts can enjoy world-class teeing at Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers. As well as the chance to sail the subtropical waters of the Bay of Islands — where dolphins and whales frolic — go on a dramatic journey into Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park where bush-clad peaks rise from still blue waters, waterfalls cascade into deep coves and wildlife abounds.

London

If you’re looking to explore ‘Hidden London’ why not take to the skies, to the waters, or to a luxury limousine? See hitherto unseen sights at your own pace on a chauffeur-driven tour or enjoy a private helicopter ride and soar across London’s spectacular skyline in style.

Set sail on River Thames aboard the city’s first Venetian-crafted water limousine, the ‘Thames Limo’ which glides past major sights including the Houses of Parliament, The Shard, and the Cutty Sark. London’s world-renowned art and theatre scene offers William Blake: The Artist at Tate Britain until February 2. Or perhaps you’d like to book tickets to the Picasso and Paper exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts from January 25 to April 13 — the most comprehensive exhibition devoted to Picasso’s uses of paper ever to be held? Alternatively, celebrate 100 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Tutankhamun

Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh showing at the Saatchi Gallery until May 3, the exhibition features 60 artefacts that have never been seen outside of Egypt before. Add to that a range of new theatre productions for 2020, including Samuel Beckett’s Endgame (starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe), and The Prince of Egypt and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

South Africa

Imagine getting a chance to sleep in a boutique bedroom on a rocky outcrop — with no walls or under the starlit skies with all the trappings of a suite? Or, looking out of the cage into the deep blue sea to view a shark emerging from murky depths? These are just some of the star attractions drawing a large pool of global and Indian tourists to the Rainbow Nation.

Deep pockets of wildlife regions and game parks encircle every possible landscape from deserts to forests, mountains to coast, teeming with wildlife species.
Savannah regions host Africa’s majestic Big 5: leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros.

Nestled in the rustic settings are luxury game reserves that cater to wildlife enthusiasts and extravagant luxury seekers. After dusk, enjoy the
authentic Boma dining (an open-air reed fenced area) complete with song and dance, drumming sessions, sundowners and delicious braais (barbeques) under a
star-speckled South African sky.

Los Angeles

From celebrity-filled restaurants and clubs to five star hotels — the City of Angeles has it all! Indulge in a behind-the-wheel experience on a professional racetrack, a bird’s-eye view of LA via helicopter, an exclusive meal hosted by a Michelin-starred chef, and more.

Set your pulse racing by getting behind the wheel of a world-class sports car. Exotics Racing School provides private driving experiences on their thrilling 1.2-mile professional track in Fontana.

Choose from 60 dream vehicles, including Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin, and Ferrari. LA also boasts one of the most varied, iconic skylines, so it’s worth booking the ‘Ultimate Tour of Los Angeles,’ which covers the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, the beach, and more. Movie buffs can experience Hollywood on the action-packed Universal Studios Hollywood VIP tour to get front-of-the-line action on popular rides and rare access to actual sound stages where blockbuster movies/TV shows are filmed.

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