Never has a year impacted travel quite like 2020. So when the team at Lonely Planet sat down, topped up the coffee, pulled out the maps and started brainstorming their annual best in travel feature for the year ahead, something clearly felt awry.
How could it be responsible to plunge in and recommend places based on their allure, on their uniqueness, or encourage people to travel willy nilly despite the lessons of the last 12 months – and the huge impact a world not travelling has had upon the environment (positive) and the people and places that rely on tourism to survive (not so positive).
Shying away from the bucket list mentality, Lonely Planet CEO Luis Cabrera puts it nicely: “As our world came to a full stop this year, we looked in the mirror to reflect on how we can best empower our readers to travel responsibly and become agents of positive change. And we realized that to reimagine travel post-2020, we needed to reinvent ourselves first, so we updated our editorial practices to highlight more local and diverse voices.”
This year then, a list with a twist. A shift in focus away from the towns, places and countries that usually adorn it and instead a focus on sustainability, community and diversity. “Travel in 2021 and beyond will be a much more considerate exercise than it has been ever before,” continues Cabrera. “With travelers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focusing on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to make genuine contributions through regenerative travel.”
The result is the most diverse and interesting list Lonely Planet has ever made, perfect for some serious pondering over to pick the perfect place to visit once the skies, roads and rivers are clear to traverse once more.
Highlights in the Sustainability category include Greece as the number one food destination and Palau the top island chain. In Community, Australia gets recognized for its amazing community restoration work following the fires a year ago. And in the third category, San Diego’s cultural diversity is awarded alongside the indigenous food of Hiakai in New Zealand.
Here’s the full list for your deliberation…
Best in Sustainability
- Best City Stay – Gothenburg, Sweden
Topping the Global Destinations Sustainability Index, Gothenburg has introduced a range of progressive and measurable solutions to achieve fossil-independence by 2030.
- Best islands – Palau, Pacific Ocean
This pristine Pacific archipelago is at the forefront of environmental sustainability thanks to its progressive policies and protective measures.
- Best Accommodation – Grootberg Lodge in Etendeka Plateau, Namibia
This luxurious low-impact lodge is helping to preserve lion and black rhino populations through community empowerment.
- Best Cycling – Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
Stretching nearly 500 miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Mountain Trail gives cyclists an easy, environmentally friendly way of interacting with nature.
- Best Food Destination – Greece
With its organic produce markets and island seafood Greece finds itself an unintentional leader of the world’s most sustainable food.
- Best Train Journey – Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer has reduced its CO2 emissions by 18 tons a year, increased onboard recycling and introduced initiatives to protect local wildlife.
- Best Emerging Destination – Antigua & Barbuda
These Caribbean islands are leading the way in mitigating climate change with sustainability as a priority – they’ve banned single use plastics and styrofoam and established a green corridor of environmentally friendly businesses.
- Best Conservation Programme – Rwanda
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme has brought Rwanda’s famed wild mountain Gorilla population back from the brink of extinction.
- Best Walks – Le Vie di Dante, Italy
The Roads of Dante is an epic 245-mile network of trails you can explore by foot or bike only.
- Best Storyteller – Soraya Abdel-Hadi
Soraya Abdel-Hadi wants to help people make more mindful decisions about travel through her blog at soraya.earth and social media channels.
Best in Community
- Best Restoration – Australia
Following the worst bushfire seasons in history, the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife are slowly rising from the ashes thanks to a number of community restoration efforts.
- Best Tour – Invisible Cities, UK
Invisible Cities is a UK city walking tour company and social enterprise giving people affected by homelessness the opportunity to become tour guides in their cities and generate funds for homeless projects.
- Best Tourism Project – The Burren EcoTourism Network, Ireland
The Burren EcoTourism Network in County Clare is bringing more than 60 local enterprises together to become a global leader for sustainable tourism.
- Best Accommodation – Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan rural villagers are being trained in hospitality to provide homestays while providing fresh economic opportunities for the local community.
- Best Immersion – Faroe Islands
The close-knit Faroe Island community provides personable, home-hospitality tourism and invites so-called voluntourists to help preserve the natural landscape.
- Best Revitalisation – Medellín, Colombia
This initiative is transforming the world’s once most dangerous city to its most innovative through community-driven revitalization.
- Best Trekking – Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Tesfa Tours employs locals to lead visitors on perspective-altering treks through the extraordinary landscapes and homestays.
- Best Storyteller – Hesham Moadamani
A Berlin based tour guide for Refugee Voices Tours, Hesham calls upon his personal experience of fleeing the Syrian civil war to draw parallels between the current Syrian conflict and the history of migration in Germany.
- Best Small Business – Footprint Café, Siem Reap Cambodia
A social enterprise blending wholesome (and delicious!) Khmer cuisine with a unique approach to coworking and community empowerment.
- Best Expat Storyteller – Georgette Jupe, Girl in Florence
Through the lens of local artists and artisans, Georgette’s blog offers travelers a deeper connection to Italy’s most culturally significant city.
Best in Diversity
- Best Under-Explored History – Gullah Islands, USA
The Gullah Islands’ isolation has allowed the Gullah and Geechee people to foster the most comprehensive African cultural heritage in the USA.
- Best Cultural Diversity – San Diego, California
A diverse artist haven and cultural hot spot, this Californian beach city is shaped by the Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and American communities.
- Best Welcoming Destination – Amman, Jordan
With its origins stemming from Levantine and Bedouin traditions, the famed Jordanian hospitality is what gives this capital city its soul.
- Best Emerging Voice – Gabby Beckford
Founder of the Young Travelers Network and cofounder of the Black Travel Alliance, Gabby Beckford is empowering travelers and increasing black representation in the travel industry.
- Best Accessible Destination – Costa Rica
With its strict accessibility laws, Costa Rica is a leading destination for wheelchair users.
- Best Multi-generational destination – El Hierro, Canary Islands
This far-flung, go-slow jewel of Spain is an environmentally minded escape that enamors travelers of all ages.
- Best Indigenous food – Hiakai restaurant, Wellington, New Zealand
Māori-Samoan chef Monique Fiso brings her native ingredients and Indigenous cooking techniques to the fine dining stage with spectacular results.
- Best Inclusive Storyteller – Jeff Jenkins
With The Chubby Diaries blog Jeff Jenkins provides practical information for plus-sized travelers.
- Best Inclusive Tours – Wheel the World, California
A travel company that empowers people with disabilities to enjoy travel experiences in more than 30 destinations across 15 countries.
- Best LGBTIQ+ Storytellers – Couple of Men
Amsterdam-based bloggers A Couple of Men share insight on LGBTIQ-friendly travel destinations with the aim to inspire and motivate travelers.
Copyright 2021 Forbes Media LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.forbes.com. By Duncan Madden.