Don’t be surprised if more and more travel talk turns to Turkey. The country—famously at the crossroads of Europe and Asia—is having a moment. The World Travel Awards selected the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism as Europe’s Leading Tourist Board in 2012, and the ministry’s hard work appears to be paying off with an increase in preliminary bookings for 2013.
A red-hot hotel scene makes Istanbul a stand-out destination. Home to the only Edition hotel in the world, this beguiling metropolis has witnessed a parade of recent openings, including the Marti and Pera Palace, the historic landmark that once pampered Orient-Express passengers and is now managed by Jumeirah.
“This beautiful city is one of the fastest growing destinations in the world,” said Sinan Yilmaz, general manager of the Shangri-La Bosphorus, opening this spring. As the first Asian hospitality brand to arrive in Istanbul, Shangri-La is pulling out all the stops with its hotel, located on a prime piece of Bosphorus real estate between the Dolmabahce Palace and Naval Museum. More than 60 percent of the guest rooms will have waterfront views. Raffles will follow suit in the summer with a luxury hotel in the Zorlu Centre, one of the city’s largest new developments.
For 2013, Turkish Airlines has inexpensive tickets for nonstop flights between the East Coast and Istanbul (compared to other European hubs). Istanbul is an easy sell for travelers looking to explore “new” destinations in Europe, after having checked Paris, London, and Rome off the list. —Mary Winston Nicklin
More than 60 percent of the rooms at the new Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, will have waterfront views.
Another place to be in 2013 is the south of France, not just because of the sun and sea on the fabled Riviera, but also because Marseille-Provence has been elected European Capital of Culture, and is putting on a show that’s unrivaled in the history of the designation. The social calendar is brimming with exciting events (imagine thousands of horses crossing the Provencal plains and marching into the port during “TransHumance”!). As the oldest city in France, Marseille has long embraced the Mediterranean, and the city’s melting-pot diversity, along with 300 days of sunshine per year, is one of its chief assets. Recently this maritime hub has witnessed massive urban regeneration projects by the world’s starchitects (like Norman Foster), and is now buzzing with an undeniable energy.
|The Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde overlooks the harbor in Marseille, France’s oldest city. Marseille-Provence is the 2013 European Capital of Culture.|
Easily accessible from Paris in three hours by high-speed train, Marseille is also connected to the world via the Marseille-Provence airport. In fact, XL Airways will launch twice-weekly service between Marseille and New York JFK on May 31. —M.W.N.
Croatia, Dubrovnik and the Balkan Peninsula
The Balkan Peninsula is emerging as one of the great hidden gems of Europe, with increased brand-hotel development in cities like Zagreb. Dubrovnik is a city of living history, thanks to a law that forbids building new hotels until the older properties damaged in the wars of independence are repaired. As such, all new hotels in the city are built in historic properties.
There are no direct flights to Dubrovnik from the United States, but the city gets plenty of air traffic from Paris, London and Rome, so transfers are easy.
Your well-traveled clients who have already toured France, Italy and Spain and their historic cities and beaches will appreciate the culture, architecture and coastline of Dubrovnik and other cities along the Adriatic coast. —Jena Tesse Fox
Famous for its ultra-swank chalets and picture-perfect mountains (not to mention the celebrities who call it home), Gstaad has been a perennial favorite among luxury travelers and dedicated skiers for decades. New for 2013 is Gstaad’s first new luxury hotel in more than a century: Alpina Gstaad opened its doors in December. At the same time, the iconic Gstaad Palace is celebrating its centennial this year.
While Gstaad does not have a major airport of its own, private planes can land at Airport Gstaad-Saanen. Otherwise, it’s best to rent a car and drive in from Bern Airport. Guests who love the luxe life or enjoy top-notch skiing are prime candidates for a vacation in Gstaad. —J.T.F.