A new year calls for new adventures — satisfy your wanderlust by travelling to these amazing places projected to be the most popular for Singaporeans in 2016
Famous for its spectacular natural and man-made landscapes across all four seasons, Japan remains the favourite among Singaporean travellers.
Now that 2016 is in full swing, you may already be planning your next getaway, or at least seeking inspiration from travel websites such as Expedia, Kayak and Zuji.
However, it can be tough to corral the wealth of information that’s available from so many sources.
To help you shortlist a few choice destinations, we spoke with the experts from these travel portals to bring you the trendiest places for Singaporeans to visit this year, based on the most-searched flights in and outside of Asia.
REIGNING CHAMPION: JAPAN
Osaka is home to the colourful and bustling Dotonburi, where giant shop signs light up the street in a neon glow and choruses of store jingles fill the streets. (Photo: Pigprox / Shutterstock.com)
Across all three travel portals, Japan retains its position as the country to which most Singaporeans search and book flights for. It’s no wonder; every prefecture in Japan has a different character, speciality and arresting landscape, and each visit can yield a whole new experience, different from the last.
Chua Hui Wan, CEO, Zuji, attributes the popularity of Japan to “the sharp decline in the value of the Yen”, she shared with Weekender.
According to Zuji, the most popular cities are Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo. While all of these three places are Japanese cities, they each offer remarkably dissimilar sights and cultures.
Osaka is home to the colourful and bustling Dotonburi, where giant shop signs light up the street in a neon glow and choruses of store jingles fill the streets. Osaka is also a gateway to other popular cities such as Kyoto and Kobe, which are mere minutes away by train.
Tokyo, while an equally-busy hive of activity, will never be mistaken as being similar to Osaka. Tokyo holds a fascination for all things shiny and new, while clutching dearly onto tradition. Amid streets peppered by fashion and pop culture icons, you can still spot traces of the past: kabuki stages, sumo wrestling tournaments and lantern-lit skewer stands.
Meanwhile, Sapporo, capital city of Hokkaido, is the quintessential destination for all who yearn for a peaceful and scenic holiday in Japan. Besides being the birthplace of its namesake, Sapporo Beer, the city is renowned for its
Personally, my fondest memories of Sapporo were a piping hot meat barbecue and sweet soft-serve ice cream atop Sapporo’s Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium.
ASIA’S RISING STAR: LAOS
Laos is an increasingly popular Asian destination for Singaporeans, thanks to its rich biodiversity, adventure trails and cultural experiences.
If you’re looking for somewhere closer to home and less expensive, Laos has been growing in popularity among Singaporeans. Zuji reported an 80 per cent spike in bookings for Laos, year on year.
Previously forgotten in favour of neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, Laos is now back on travellers’ maps, especially with the growing interest in adventure tourism.
The country is a wonderland for adrenaline junkies, with its underground caves, limestone cliffs, white-water rapids and jungle zip-lines peppered throughout its rich natural landscape.
Wildlife lovers can go batty over Laos’ astounding biodiversity. Here lie some of Southeast Asia’s most untouched
forests, where rare and endangered creatures reside.
Nevertheless, don’t let the rural side of Laos fool you. Its city areas are abuzz with exciting cultures and — how can anyone forget? — succulent food for adventurous foodies and gourmands alike. Be sure to stuff yourself silly with the many variations of the Laotian speciality of sticky rice, or khao niaw.
While in Laos, you may want to take your adventure further with different Southeast Asian experiences. Expedia, Kayak and Zuji have also reported increased interest in Yangon in Myanmar, Phu Quoc in Vietnam, Krabi and Pattaya in Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia.
It’s time to visit the neighbours.
FAVOURITE OUTSIDE ASIA: NEW ZEALAND
Auckland, the Pacific city by the sea, is a top choice for Singaporeans travelling outside of Asia. (Photo: DmitrySerbin / Shutterstock.com)
As though blessing New Zealand with rustic surf beaches, islands with microcosms of culture and the glittering horizon of the sea wasn’t enough, the gods also graced this stunning country with rolling hills, wineries, thermal springs and teeming rainforests.
It’s no wonder that New Zealand pops up as the most searched-for destination outside of Asia. In particular, Zuji and Kayak report that Auckland is a growing favourite among Singaporeans, who are perhaps drawn by its homely charm as one of the world’s top cities for quality of life.
Among the things to do there, island-hopping through the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park comes highly recommended as some of the islands are mere minutes from Auckland. The wineries of Waiheke and the volcanic landscape of Rangitoto are two quintessential musts and while the Great Barrier Island takes more planning and cash to get to, its idyllic environs makes it more than worthwhile.
Despite not owning a driver’s license, a friend of mine recently took a solo journey through the valleys and roads of
New Zealand by researching bus routes and bed-and-breakfast stops. So, while taking a self-drive adventure through the Land of Kiwis is often recommended, hopping from town to town on buses and hitchhiking can be half the adventure too.
THE MYSTICAL NORTH: SCANDINAVIA
A city of surprises, Oslo, Norway’s capital, beckons with world-class museums, scenic train routes, adventure trails and views of the Northern Lights.
This finding came as a surprise to the travel experts whom we spoke to. On Zuji and Expedia, the searches and bookings for Scandinavian countries — such as Norway, Iceland and Finland — have surged in recent months.
Chua, Zuji’s CEO, suggested that this could be due to the recent news that the Northern Lights would be diminishing for a decade due to the last leg of its down-ward cycle. Debby Soo, Vice-President of Kayak Asia Pacific, added that this points to Singaporeans “becoming more adventurous in their holiday choices”.
For a comprehensive Scandinavian ex-perience, travellers tend to like travelling to Oslo, the capital of Norway. Not only will you be able to observe the Aurora Borealis from the Lofoten Islands, you’ll also be spoilt for choice with the myriad of hiking, cycling, skiing and boating trails in the beautiful natural backdrop.
Oslo is also home to world-class museums and galleries that rival those in continental Europe, and a train journey from here to the city of Bergen is rated as one of the best train journeys in the world.
Whether you’re looking out for a regional getaway or the voyage of a lifetime in a mystical, far-flung land, you can’t go wrong by following our guide to the trendiest destinations of 2016.
By Pamela Chow
Weekender would like to thank Expedia, Zuji and Kayak for their cooperation in this feature.
Visit Travel Revolution at Sands Expo & Convention Centre from Feb 26 to 28 for deals on New Zealand (Chan Bros, EU Holidays), Scandinavia (EU Holidays), Laos (EU Holidays, EU Asia) and Japan (Chan Bros, EU Holidays, EU Asia).