Uber travel advisor Jack Ezon, the founder of Embark Beyond, shares his picks for 20 destinations – near and far – to add to your travel list for 2020. Email Jack at Jack@EmbarkBeyond.com.
1. St. Barts
6. Cape Town
11. Virgin Islands
12. Mexico City
13. Mexico’s Pacific
18. East Africa
1. St. Barts
This is the year of St. Barts, which is finally ready for its post-Irma close-up with the opening of hallmark properties like Eden Rock, Le Guanahani, the Carl Gustaf and a complete refurbishment and expansion of Cheval Blanc Isle de France. The latest cruise wear along Shellona Beach has never been this chic.
We see 2020 as the comeback year for Paris, especially with exceptional boutique jewels such as the Cheval Blanc and JK Paris, the latter of which we expect to change the dynamic of luxury on the Left Bank. As if the new Van Gogh exhibit in the Musée d’Orsay isn’t enough, the Louvre is amping it up with a fascinating Da Vinci exhibit (sans Mona Lisa) as well. Outside the city, the Airelles Le Grand Controle Versailles is likely the most anticipated opening in Europe. Located within the Palace of Versailles, this 14-room property offers insider access to the palace grounds 24 hours-a-day. It offers guests the ability to literally live like a noble and dine like one at its Alain Ducasse restaurant.
Rwanda is hot for 2020. The opening of Singita Kwitonda Lodge heralds a new dawn of luxury in the country. Indeed, Singita is the only lodge located along the fence of Virunga Mountains National Park, where gorillas have been reported to linger on the property. One&Only Gorilla’s Nest offers a sprawling resort concept with access to the same park. These combine with the opening of the One&Only Nyungwe House, the sole luxury resort within access to the exceptional primate viewing in Nyungwe National Park. Plus, no visit is complete without a visit to the ever-so-fascinating liberal arts hub of Kigali, which rounds-out Rwanda as both a culture and nature lover’s paradise.
As if the heat factor of Marrakech wasn’t enough, this year brings four new non-stops between the USA and Casablanca from gateways like Miami and Philadelphia. New treasures in towns like Fez, new art and design studios on Marrakech, and unique desert resorts make this exotic destination within close reach to many explorers.
2020 is the year that Milano finally gets its due attention as a must-see city in Italy. The city emerges amidst a total renaissance, with a host of new cultural and fashion experiences. It has become the art and design hub in Italy, if not all of Europe, with one-of-a-kind studios, galleries, a “society” of compelling lounges, unique fashion experiences and an acclaimed food scene. The fabulous new Vik Galleria Milano, located inside the Galleria, as well as an outpost of the uber-exclusive Core Club Milano at the base of Via Montenapoleone, brings boutique luxe to an already heightened hotel scene.
6. Cape Town
For adventure seekers, nature lovers and sophisticated travelers, Cape Town is not just a bucket list destination. It’s becoming a cosmopolitan city like London or Paris, calling for multiple visits even without a safari component. United’s new non-stop service from New York is a game-changer for the city, giving travelers easier access to explore Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and the breathtaking Winelands. Art lovers flock to the new Zeitz MOCCA Museum and a slew of art galleries, while food lovers dive in for what is arguably the best value in the culinary world.
Olympics aside, Japan seems to continuously heat up. Insatiable Tokyo is often coupled with adventure hub Hakone and cultural icon Kyoto, the location of a new Aman, Park Hyatt and the boutique Mitsui Kyoto. What’s different in 2020 is that more than ever, people are venturing outside of the ‘usual’s’.
There’s a growing interest in places like Oita, known for its fabulous spas and hot springs. Naoshima is for art lovers who seem obsessed with Benesse House, a beautiful hotel cum art museum that offers unrivaled views of the Seto Inland Sea.
Niseko is the ski resort du jour. It will catapult with the opening of the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono and the nearby Ritz-Carlton, both of which bring Western comforts to exotic Japanese mountain resorts.
Bhutan continues to climb in popularity, thanks to the attention it has been getting from the five new sexy lodges by Six Senses. Together with the venerable Amankora lodges, these forge the way for luxury explorers to experience this unique country, with a focus on wellness and slick design. Active travelers are lured to the country’s incredible hiking and biking, while cultural enthusiasts appreciate its control on over-tourism by significantly restricting visitors. This preserves one of the last authentic destinations with little Western influence.
Israel is going prime time, beyond the Bar Mitzvah herds and pilgrimage tour bus groups. As iconic brands bring serious sophistication to this fascinating country. Tel Aviv has become a cool capital of the world during the past five years with fantastic food, incredible nightlife, and a unique joie de vivre lifestyle. Joining game-changing hotels such as the Setai Jaffa, the Ritz-Carlton, and The Norman is the new Nobu Tel Aviv.
Six Senses Shahrut (pictured above) brings visitors to recreational adventures deep in the Negev Desert just outside of Eilat, while Setai has opened up near the Sea of Galilee in the country’s north abutting the Syrian border.
Jerusalem has seen a recent renaissance as well with the opening of the Waldorf Astoria, the Orient and complete redo of the David Citadel. Whether you are going to party, sitting in the sun, exploring ancient cultures, partaking in adventure activities, or just enjoying a cosmopolitan city, Israel attracts people from all walks of life
Egypt is back for 2020 with luxury Nile Cruises already chock full of explorers who have been waiting years to return to this incredible country. Notable in 2020 is the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
11. Virgin Islands
After an arduous recovery almost three years in the making, the pristine Virgin Islands emerge with sparkling new resorts and greater access from the U.S. mainland. Rosewood Little Dix Bay leads the way with a swanky, yet true-to-form rustic style on a heavenly corner of Earth. Nearby, Valley Trunk and Oil Nut Bay offer over-the-top villa experiences with full hotel services.
On the island of St. Thomas, the Ritz-Carlton opens its doors with its family-friendly residences and meeting facilities. These developments will attract the needed tourism business to the now-rebuilt island.
12. Mexico City
Mexico City tops the list this year for food and art trendsetters. Its bustling restaurant scene and art galleries make it a place to be for 2020. New hotels like the trendy Kimpton Polanco and a buttoned-up Ritz Carlton join favorites like the boutique Los Alcobas and the glamorous St. Regis and Four Seasons.
13. Mexico’s Pacific
On the resort front, we are keen on the Puerta Vallarta region with the opening of the new Mandarina development, launched with a One&Only Mandarina resort set to complement its older Cabos-based sister, One&Only Palmilla.
Speaking of which, Cabos is getting more attention with exceptional development this year. Zundun by Ritz-Carlton Reserve opens in the central tourist zone, Four Seasons Costa Palmas launches a private development secluded from the bustle of the resort area. Foodie destination restaurants like Acre and Flora Farms are as much a magnet as the superlative resorts, world-class golf, and reliable weather.
Qantas pushes its boundaries in 2020 with non-stop service from New York, further shrinking the world and the perception of inaccessibility to the South Pacific.
Melbourne is growing in popularity as a fashion and boho-chic outpost, while Sydney keeps sizzling with growing interest in cool ‘hoods like Barangaroo. This newly-reclaimed area has recently transformed with cool lounges, boutique shopping, restaurants, hotels, and parks designed by world-class architects with the likes of Renzo Piano.
Lombok is the new Bali. Now, with the opening of the Legian and renovation of the Oberoi just across the water, it is an ideal hideaway for people looking for Bali without the over-tourism On the waterfront, the incredible new Aqua Blue sets off on luxury expeditions around Komodo Island, while smaller settlements like Nihi Sumba and Amanjiwo continue to attract luxury explorers.
This overlooked cornerstone of American independence is undergoing a renaissance. Its food scene rivals those of America’s top cities while its revitalized museum district competes with Boston for art and history. All this and a burgeoning music and art scene to boot!.
The opening of the Four Seasons Philadelphia (above), set atop the city’s tallest tower and featuring a Jean-Georges restaurant, elevates the lodging scene. The Notary, set inside City Hall’s annex, is a trendy hub that joins the more conservative and posh Rittenhouse, which has just been completely redone.
The growing fascination with this often overlooked country is met with a host of luxury lodges dotting this sky-high South American country. A burgeoning arts and food scene vie to steal the show from Bolivia’s spectacular mountainscapes. The new Kachi Lodge opens up the photogenic Salt Flats, which seem to be topping every adventure seeker’s bucket-list for 2020.
18. East Africa
Kenya and Tanzania are finally coming into their own after years of lagging behind South Africa as a safari destination. With so many having been enthralled by South Africa’s safari, city, and culinary experiences, travelers are now venturing further afield into the broad cinematographic savannas and Out of Africa luxury tented experiences.
Outside of the Serengeti and Masaai Mara, the Laikipia is a haven for Kenyan safaris without the crowds Singita’s Grumeti Reserve, adjacent to the Serengeti, remains one of the most elite and privileged pieces of earth in the world.
The exotic beach resorts of southern Thailand are taking the lead, with a growing interest in the Andaman Sea region including Phuket and Ko Samui. The northern hill country continues to attract explorers to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Anchoring it all is the renewed interest in its electric capital city of Bangkok which is always reinventing itself.
This year, Capella and Four Seasons push along the growing focus on the revitalized Charoenkrung district with its emerging local culinary and art scene. Spearheaded by local and expatriate artists and entrepreneurs who have launched independent art galleries, multi-use spaces, bars and restaurants, the neighborhood is one of the hippest in Southeast Asia and the site of the country’s new Biennale.
This college town cum music center, cum techie capital, cum city of cool is totally in the now. Outside of downtown, East Austin is an emerging neighborhood and ground zero for many new boutique hotels, lounges, art studios, and restaurants.
For 2020, a hot new dose of luxe makes it even more attractive. Miraval opens with its famous sanctuary spa. Lake Austin Spa is nearby.., Auberge restores the Commodore Perry Estate into an epic Americana resort just outside the city. Not to be overlooked is Kelly Wearstler’s Proper Austin. It serves up her boutique version of luxe in downtown Austin, just minutes from the posh Four Seasons.