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The Hottest New Travel Trends

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Launch Slideshow
Photo: Courtesy of Mekong River Cruises

See our slideshow of The Hottest New Travel Trends.

Are you looking to get healthy while enjoying a nice getaway? More and more top-flight hotels—ranging from yoga retreat Kamalaya in Thailand to the fitness-oriented Rancho La Puerta in Mexico —are offering wellness expertise alongside the chance to coddle yourself.

Care to take it a step further and actually undergo a medical procedure? The burgeoning field of medical tourism has little or nothing to do with spas and inner peace and everything to do with surgery—albeit surgery in a beautiful destination with hospital accommodations to rival those of a four-star hotel.

Or maybe you’re a traveler who wants to get on the water but has no interest in joining the crowds on behemoth cruise ships. In that case, head for the river, whether you want a modern boat on the Rhine or something more offbeat, like Volga River itineraries on decidedly proletarian Soviet-era ships. One of the newest riverboats is the Mekong Sun , a 28-passenger Laotian-built vessel that follows a formerly inaccessible stretch of the Mekong River from Vientiane, past the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang , and into the Golden Triangle.

All of these trends were in evidence at the recent 2009 ITB Berlin travel show—as good an indicator of patterns in tourism as any convention in the world. At ITB, 11,098 exhibitors from 187 countries spread throughout the center’s 26 halls, a carnival of cultural displays, musical performances, handicraft demonstrations, even antique steam trains. Visitors to ITB come to see what is hot in the travel market today and what trends are likely to catch on in the years to come.

All the major destinations were there, singing their own praises, but they weren’t the only ones touting their attractions. Among the exhibitors were Syria, Yemen, and Sudan, which did not mention the genocide in Darfur in its travel brochures. Even poor, war-scarred Kosovo made an appearance at a tucked-away, virtually undecorated booth. But the lack of pizzazz didn’t stop the reporters, bloggers, and camera crews from clogging the tiny space. Hysnije Salihu, marketing director of Kosova Airlines, wasn’t surprised by all the attention. “Well, of course,” she said. “We are a newborn country. Everyone is curious.”

Other convention-goers sampled Romanian wine (the Transylvanian Cabernet makes up for in bloodred color what it lacks in body), listened to lively Yemeni tunes, watched manic tribal dancers from Rwanda, had their hands henna-tattooed, and learned to play the alpenhorn.

In the end, a visitor could get a clear vision of many of the trends that will affect world travelers in the years to come. One thing’s fairly certain: Transylvanian wines will not be among the upcoming fads.

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