scorecardA luxury travel company exec says Japan, Slovenia, and Antarctica will be the hottest travel destinations of 2020
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A luxury travel company exec says Japan, Slovenia, and Antarctica will be the hottest travel destinations of 2020

Katie Warren   

A luxury travel company exec says Japan, Slovenia, and Antarctica will be the hottest travel destinations of 2020
LifeThelife3 min read
Slovenia is an under-the-radar European travel destination.    Getty Images

Forget Italy and Bali.

The three hottest travel destinations of 2020 will be Japan, Slovenia, and Antarctica, Albert Herrera, senior vice president of global product partnerships at luxury travel company Virtuoso, said in an interview with Business Insider at Bloomberg's The Year Ahead: Luxury Summit in New York City last week.

Bloomberg's second luxury summit, which this year focused on sustainability in the luxury sector, drew power players in the industry such as Tiffany & Co. CEO Alessandro Bogliolo, Rent the Runway cofounder and CEO Jennifer Hyman, legendary architect Robert A.M. Stern, and Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America.

Virtuoso is a global network of more than 1,800 luxury travel advisers and operators. Herrera oversees the company's relationships with luxury hotels and properties, cruise lines, on-site destination companies, and tour operators.

Here's his take on the biggest luxury travel destinations of 2020.

Japan will be one of 2020's top travel hotspots thanks to the Olympics

2020 will be a big year for Japan.

"Japan is very hot because of what's happened this year with the evolution of the dynasty and the Olympics next year," Herrera said.

Earlier this year, Naruhito became Japan's new emperor after his 85-year-old father, Akihito, became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate the throne in more than two centuries.

In 2020, Tokyo will host the summer Olympics, drawing an estimated 10 million visitors.

Getty Images

Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympics.

Tokyo was named the world's best big city of 2019 by the 600,000 respondents to Condé Nast Traveler's annual Reader's Choice Survey. According to the survey, the Japanese capital took the top spot thanks to its combination of big-city life and natural landscapes, as well as its tasty cuisine.

And Japan tied for first place with Spain, France, and Germany as the best country for tourists in 2019, according to the World Economic Forum.

Slovenia is an under-the-radar alternative to European hotspots

The central European country is not yet a household travel destination, but according to Herrera, it should be.

"It's fresh, it's different, and yet it's in Europe," he said, adding that it's a short flight from popular destinations like Venice.

lake bled


A view of Slovenia's Lake Bled.

Bordered by Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Italy, Slovenia is known for its mountains, ski resort towns, and picturesque glacial lakes. And it won't break the bank: Lonely Planet named it one of the best value destinations to visit in 2020.

Antarctica is attracting multigenerational travelers as an up-and-coming luxury destination

Antarctica will also be a top destination for travelers in 2020, according to Herrera.

More than 55,000 tourists visited Antarctica in the 2018-2019 season - a more than 18% increase from 10 years earlier, according to data from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Most visitors come from the US, China, Australia, and the UK, many of them on luxury cruises.

Many Antarctica travelers are multigenerational adults - "not just the honeymooners," Herrera said.

"For example, the Lindblad [Expeditions] ships, they have about 40 or 45 people, and some of them are complete with two families. Grandma pays for everything. ... It's like the high-end version of saying, 'I'm going on a big Alaska cruise.'"

antarctica travel tourism

Getty Images/David Merron Photography

More and more people are visiting Antarctica - possibly thanks to "last-chance tourism."

And then there's the fact that warming waters and winds due to climate change have been eating away at the frozen continent's ice sheet. Antarctica is now losing six times more ice annually than it did in the 1970s, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to travel blogger Barry Choi, Antarctica's perceived impermanence may be adding to its appeal, a phenomena he calls "last-chance tourism."

"Last-chance tourism is basically people trying to see sights that are under threat, either due to over-tourism, weather or nature," Choi told Global News in 2018. "And there's a real possibility that in a few years, these attractions won't be available to the public anymore."

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