All you had to do was browse the headlines in 2016 to understand that it was a tumultuous year for travel.

In France, a truck barreled through a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, killing more than 80 people. December brought a similar attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, killing a dozen as of press time. Suicide bombers detonated at the Brussels airport, a coup attempt rocked Turkey and the arrival of the Zika virus stoked questions and concerns throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a contentious presidential campaign raged in the U.S., and the Brexit vote shocked people around the world.

But amid the tragedy and uncertainty, the travel industry showed signs of resiliency.

"It was an excellent year for us," said Yves Marceau, vice president of buying for G Adventures. From the U.S. market, he added, 2017 is also looking "extremely good. We've surpassed all our targets so far."

For the Toronto-based tour operator, Iran has emerged as a trending destination. G Adventures' sales to the Middle Eastern nation doubled in the last year, and the company anticipates the growth will continue. "We're approaching 50 different departures," Marceau said.

Ait Benhaddou, an ancient city in Ouarzazate, Morocco. The country is seen as an alternative to Turkey by a number of operators.
Ait Benhaddou, an ancient city in Ouarzazate, Morocco. The country is seen as an alternative to Turkey by a number of operators.

British Airways relaunched direct flights between London Heathrow and Tehran in September, and Marceau said Americans are "outpacing growth from any other source country by 100%."

Intrepid Group is also seeing a boom in Iran from all markets, said North America regional director Leigh Barnes: "Lots of bookings and interests and buzz. It's definitely come into the consumer psyche. We've sold out some departures."

One destination that hasn't fared as well is Turkey. Even before the July 15 uprising, the country had suffered a series of terrorist assaults, including the Ataturk Airport attack that killed 42 in late June. In response, tourism has plummeted. Through October, international arrivals were down 31% year over year.

Tauck's suspension of its ground trips and small-ship cruises will continue in 2017, while G Adventures plans to relaunch most of its Turkey itineraries this month, and Intrepid has maintained departures even as interest in the country has cooled.

However, visitors who in previous years might have wandered Istanbul's bazaars or ballooned over the "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia might instead be heading to Morocco next year.

"We think Morocco for next year is going to be an alternative for people going to the Mediterranean," said Barry Karp, co-owner of shore excursions company ShoreTrips, who was recently in the northern African country testing tour guides. "It's extremely clean, the people are wonderful here, the value is very good here.

"For us, [Morocco is] a very Intrepid destination," Intrepid's Barnes said. "You get to have that local experience, you get to have that mint tea with a Berber family in the Sahara."

Tauck CEO Dan Mahar said the company is returning to Morocco in 2017. Its 10-day Magic of Morocco itinerary visits Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca. It is already 91% sold out.

In Europe, Mahar said, perceived danger dampened interest in France and Germany and pushed travelers to other destinations. "Spain and Portugal had a great 2016, and they're booking very strong again," he said.

"Portugal has everything Europe has to offer: history, food, it's a very liberal country," said G Adventures' Marceau. "It's an exceptional value for the dollar and an exceptional experience."

International arrivals in Spain, meanwhile, were up 10% over the previous year through September, and Barcelona has gotten so clogged with tourists that the mayor enacted a moratorium on licenses for new hotels and short-term rental apartments.

North America

In the U.S., the National Park Service's centennial drove visitors in record numbers in 2016, and G Adventures is betting on continued interest with a pair of new National Geographic Journeys tours in the American West.
Karp pointed to radical growth in Alaska. "Advanced bookings for next year are 50% higher than they were last year," he said. "Alaska is going to be huge."

Dan Marmontello, Caribbean product manager for, said that many destinations in the company's portfolio were up significantly in 2016, despite uncertainty surrounding the emerging Zika virus.

Cheaper airfares and a greater number of all-inclusive options have helped boost business on St. Maarten, said Marmontello, who said the island's Dutch and French territories hold particular appeal for visitors.

"It's a great island to go out and explore," he said. "You can freely go from territory to territory on the same island. It's completely different cultures on the same island."

Marmontello also bookmarked Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a big year ahead, thanks to 6,000 additional rooms coming online in 2017, primarily in four- and five-star resorts.

Longer-term, Marmontello sees the most potential in Haiti. The product manager visited in 2014 and was impressed by the destination, the food and the coral reef. "I hadn't seen a reef like that in a while that was so pristine," he said. "We've seen triple-digit growth year over year, but the base is rather small. I do believe it can continue to grow. It wasn't that long ago that Punta Cana wasn't the massive market that it is."

With some government stability and a little bit better luck, he added, "Haiti has that potential."

Sarah Feldberg is a contributing editor.

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