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jan9-homespun-web.jpgBy Ellen Creager

RISMEDIA, January 9, 2009-(MCT)-Yesterday, France. Tomorrow, Uzbekistan. Countries rise and fall in a cycle of popularity, just like fashion.

“Countries are brands whether they act on them or not,” says Rina Plapler of New York-based FutureBrand, which annually measures countries’ brand strength on many factors, including a country’s tourist growth, infrastructure improvements and visitor perception.

While some countries such as France and the United States are struggling to save their tarnished brands, other nations like Morocco, Cambodia, Vietnam and Canada are either rising or in vogue and still other nations-Colombia, Ethiopia, Libya and Uzbekistan-are emerging. Why is France, a tourist favorite, on the downside?

“There is such a high expectation for France that some people actually come back disappointed,” says Plapler. “They have slipped a little.”

Mon dieu! But that’s not the only trend you’ll see in 2009. Here’s a peek into the crystal ball:

Hot Destinations

– Sardinia, Italy
– Crete, Greece
– Petra, Jordan
– Ardmore, Ireland
– Medellin, Colombia
– Granada, Spain
– Protaras, Cyprus
– Wadduwa, Sri Lanka

(Source: Yahoo, TripAdvisor hot list)

Wi-Fi Supplanting Cells on Fights

The horrible idea of allowing cell phones to be used on airplanes is fading away, replaced by the much better idea of allowing Wi-Fi instead. Alaska Airlines, Virgin America and American have it; Delta is next.

(Source: Detroit Free Press research)

Best U.S Hotels

– Twin Farms, Woodstock, Vt.
– Ritz Carlton, Dallas/Ft. Worth
– Peninsula, Chicago
– Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
– Casa Palmero, Carmel, Calif.

(Source: Zagat Survey 2009)

Fewer Will Travel…

Business travel is expected to be down 2.7%, leisure travel down 1.3% and overseas visitors to the United States down 3%.

(Source: Travel Industry Association, American Express)

… But Costs Will Be Up

The average domestic trip in 2009 will cost $1,539, up 2.8%, while the average international trip will cost $3,956, up 4.3%.

(Source: American Express)

Domestic Gems

– St. George, Utah
– Englewood, Fla.
– Keauhou, Hawaii
– Mt. Pocono, Pa.
– Haines, Alaska
– Bainbridge Island, Wash.
– New Buffalo, Mich.

(Source: 2009 hot destinations list)

Two Big Developments

1. On June 1, drivers at land borders between Canada and the United States will need a passport, passport card, enhanced drivers license or equivalent.
2. Sometime in 2009, the name Northwest Airlines will disappear and be replaced by its new owner, Delta.

Intriguing Trips

– Yoga Canoe Weekend, Winnipeg, Manitoba
– Hard Rock Park, Myrtle Beach
– John Mayer cruise
– Antarctica with writer Paul Theroux
– Dauphin Island, Ala.
– Easter Island and Chile
– Kutztown folk festival, Pa.
– Bike and sail Polynesia

(Source: Free Press research)

Even on Vacation, We’ll Be Wired

About 28% of us check e-mail daily when on a weekend trip-and 39% of us do when on weeklong trip.

(Source: TripAdvisor)

But Many of Us Won’t Go Far

– 37% of Americans have been to 10 states or fewer in their lifetimes.
– 19% have visited Mt. Rushmore.
– 35% have visited Niagara Falls.
– 42% have visited the Washington Monument.
– 62% have been to Florida.
– 13% have been to Alaska.
– 73% say they plan to visit a national park in 2009.

(Sources: Greyhound Lines Inc., TripAdvisor)

Best Place to Take a Dip

Try the biggest swimming pool in the world, at San Alfonso del Mar resort in Algarrobo, Chile. The turquoise pool, which looks more like a long, narrow lake, is 3,324 feet long and covers 19.77 acres. Its saltwater is cleaned not by chlorine but by a new pulse technology. It’s even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Three Weird But Real Travel Stories

– Resorts in Jamaica are stealing sand from each other’s beaches.
– The island of St. Barts has issued a discount dining card. When St. Barts visitors need to use coupons, you know the economy is in trouble.
– The White Cockatoo nudist resort in Queensland, Australia, hit by a bad economy, has decided to rev up business by bringing back orgies. So far, it seems to be working.

(Sources: Travel Weekly,, Free Press research)

Best Fake Travel Story

Headlined “American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers,” the story reveals that AA plans to charge $25 to anyone traveling with another airline, $15 for every piece of luggage customers have inside their bedroom closet and a onetime payment of $40 for any American whose name is Greg.


© 2008, Detroit Free Press.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.