Splurgecations, Vaxications, Catchup Travel… we’re all going on a (summer) holiday this year in a mass unleashing of pent-up wanderlust and there’s a whole new lexicon of words to describe it. International tourism is on the rebound to near pre-pandemic levels and the forgotten high street travel agent is back in business, sorting out the mind game of vaccination visas and cross-border regulations. We’re ready to explore again – but differently. And it’s good news for the planet! essential checks out five hot trends for 2022.


Splurgecations, Vaxications, Catchup Travel… we’re all going on a (summer) holiday this year in a mass unleashing of pent-up wanderlust and there’s a whole new lexicon of words to describe it. International tourism is on the rebound to near pre-pandemic levels and the forgotten high street travel agent is back in business, sorting out the mind game of vaccination visas and cross-border regulations. We’re ready to explore again – but differently. And it’s good news for the planet! essential checks out five hot trends for 2022.


Dark Sky Tourism

Stargazing is not just for astrophysicists. The new mood for sustainable escapism is enticing a growing number of travellers to the darkest corners of the globe to experience a lost piece of their ancestral heritage: a natural night.

A century ago everyone could look up and see the Milky Way. Today 80 per cent of the world’s population will never see it where they live because of light pollution. Light bulbs were a brilliant invention but they have a dark side. The excess light we dump into the environment confuses nocturnal animals, pollinating insects and migratory birds, lures hatchling turtles away from the sea to their deaths and disrupts our own circadian rhythms.

America’s International Dark Sky Association has been promoting sustainable ‘astrotourism’ since 1988 but destinations in our own back yard are also selling the romance of the science with starlit dining, use of a telescope and bedrooms made for naked-eye constellation spotting.

The UNWTO-recognised Starlight Certificate has been a reference point for star-studded travel in Iberia and beyond since 2009. Set up by the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysicists to champion our inalienable ‘right to starlight’, the non-profit Starlight Foundation promotes towns, parks, rural houses and hotels that are actively involved in dark sky conservation. In Andalucía, the sierras of Jaén, Huelva and Cádiz are perfect for stargazing with heavenly-themed hotels scattered throughout the region.

Check them out at fundacionstarlight.org

Be Starstruck In Badajoz
Get better acquainted with the galaxy at the romantically-named Entre-Encinas-y-Estrellas where some of the world’s most renowned astronomers have telescopes trained on the skies. Set in the wilds of Badajoz, Extremadura, Europe’s largest astronomical telescope hosting centre also offers stays in seven charming casas rurales. Run by a group of keen astrophotographers, you can focus on the science or just lie back and look up. www.e-eye.es

Green Label Getaways

‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’ was last decade’s mantra. In the new normal, travellers want a complete breakdown on the carbon content of those footprints.

Alas, in the year sustainable travel is tipped to go mainstream, it’s still not easy being green. There are over 450 types of eco certificate in use today and, with everyone doing their own thing on offsets too, it’s a greenwash jungle out there.

But searching online for a net zero holiday could soon be as simple as shopping for lactose-free milk. Our collective climate consciousness is putting pressure on the travel industry to standardise the whole process with regulated eco certification and emissions and offsets as clearly labelled on travel products as the calories and chemicals in foods. The pandemic was a tipping point for 43 per cent of travellers in Booking.com’s end-of-year survey of 29,000 adults across 30 countries. Nearly half intend to travel sustainably from now on.

We’re just a click away from a Compare the Meerkat for carbon emissions and smart travel firms are already working on it. Major players like Tripadvisor, Booking.com, Google and Skyscanner have signed up to Travelyst.org, a Prince Harry eco initiative driving sustainable tourism from niche to mainstream. Establishing a green hotel rating system of 20 million properties worldwide is just one of their goals. Tour companies whose operations are more difficult to quantify are also entering the fray. “Do I think carbon labelling will be everywhere? I do,” predicts Sam Bruce, co-founder of Much Better Adventures, the first international travel company to introduce the concept last year. “It should go beyond travel and they should be on all products that we buy; carbon labels should be the new calorie.”

Indeed, more than a few of us are ready to go on a crash diet and cut down on their bucket list. Which? magazine recently compared the CO2 emissions of a long haul spa break in the Maldives and an equivalent-length rail holiday in Switzerland. The result was 2,931 kilos for the spa break – equal to eight years of 15-minute daily showers – versus 290 kilos – equal to leaving a 100-watt light bulb on for a year. No prizes for guessing which was which. Half of the readers said they would definitely choose a greener option if the data was available.

Go Net Zero In The Galápagos
Wallow in carbon neutral luxury at Ecuador’s top eco hotel, perched on the edge of an extinct volcano on Santa Cruz Island. Relais & Chateau’s 29-room Pikaia Lodge has underwritten the guilt factor for you. Run on solar power, surplus CO2 is offset through reforestation and its own green acres double as a reserve for the Galápagos giant tortoise. www.pikaialodge.com

Contactless Cruising

After two years becalmed in the Covid Doldrums, big cruising is back and riding the crest of a new wave in touchless technology. The pandemic fast-tracked smarter safety protocols at sea and wearable tech, once a premium extra, is being rolled out as standard. Wrist bands that act as a boarding pass, key cards and a track-and-trace system sync with your phone to book shore excursions, order room service or give you a running total of your bar bill. Celebrity’s Edge-class ships have a ‘butler’ app to open your door, dim the lights and turn on the telly. MSC Cruises have Zoe, in-cabin voice-activated artificial intelligence, to cater to your every need. QR codes have replaced menus, buffets are no longer help yourself and, instead of the dreaded muster drill, guests watch a safety video in the comfort of their staterooms and check in any time. Cruising is still at the mercy of Covid, with some ports still closed to ships and others only allowing passe ngers ashore in small group ‘bubbles’. But Oceania’s January 2023 Around the World in 180 Days cruise sold out in a day. And with 33 new ships due to have Champagne cracked over their bows this year, the industry is clearly waving, not drowning.

Meet The New World Wonder
The world’s new largest cruise ship sets sail around the Caribbean on her maiden voyage this month before heading to the Med in May for cruises from Barcelona and Rome. The 7,000-passenger, 18-deck megaship Wonder of the Seas will premiere the tallest water slide at sea, a nine-deck zipwire, the Ultimate Family Suite with a slide to the living room from the kid’s bedroom and the largest poolside movie screen in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Not forgetting RCCL’s flagship Virtual Balconies in inside cabins that show live, floor-to-ceiling footage of the view you’d get if you had a window. Sail on!


The Land of the Pharaohs is frantically engaged in pyramid selling this year. And not only because Kenneth Brannagh’s dazzling Death on the Nile remake is inspiring travellers to splash out on a river cruise.

It’s 100 years since British Egyptologist Howard Carter took the chisel his grandmother bought him for his 17th birthday and chipped open the door to the best-preserved tomb ever to be found in the Valley of the Kings. And this autumn the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo will swing open to display Tutankhamun’s entire treasure collection in all its glittering glory. It will be the largest archaeological museum in the world dedicated to one civilisation with over 100,000 artefacts on show.

It’s also the centenary of the deciphering of the mysterious Rosetta Stone which gave the world new understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs, adding to the country’s magnetism. The original resides in the British Museum, a sore point with Egyptians who only have a replica.

Meanwhile in November the eyes of the world will be trained on Sharm El-Sheikh for Cop 27. The country’s leading beach destination is working towards declaring itself a zero carbon city before the conference takes place.

Sail in the Wake of Poirot
There are many ways to do the Nile but for authentic Belle Epoque romance, only the Steamship Sudan will do. She was, after all, where Agatha Christie got the idea for her famous 1937 Poirot novel. The Queen of Suspense was a passenger in 1933, when she accompanied her husband on an archaeological mission, and the Agatha Christie Suite still offers panoramic river views from its bay windows. Built for King Fuad in 1915 and in service on the Luxor-to-Aswan route since 1921, she’s the oldest Nile boat in operation, with polished teak decks, period décor and the services of a grand hotel. www.steam-ship-sudan.com


Digital nomads used to be exclusively hipster bloggers hostelling around the world with a Mac in their backpack. Now they’re as likely to be well-paid city suits doing their day job somewhere sunnier for a while (minus the suit).

During lockdown, a whole new cohort of people, who had spent their entire careers in an office realised they could technically work from anywhere, and the digital nomad visa was born.

Barbados was the first country to realise the commercial potential of inviting salaried foreigners over on a 12-month ‘workation’ and Spain is among a wave of European countries launching similar schemes. There’s a minimum earnings requirement and double taxation to consider, which varies from offputtingly high in Spain (not yet ratified), to semi-exempt in Portugal and zero in Croatia. And villa rentals across the Atlantic aren’t cheap.

But now there’s a budget option – digital nomad villages where you can co-share a villa in a complex with workspaces, wifi and a swimming pool. You also get social events and a ready-made network of business contacts. Madeira’s government-backed start-up based in the pretty port town of Ponta do Sol was the first in Europe last year; Croatia followed suit with Digital Nomad Valley Zadar on the Dalmation coast; and there will be many more.

Rescue A Dying Pueblo
Medieval Sigüenza in Castilla-La Mancha is technically a city. It has a cathedral boasting an El Greco and a castle parador that once hosted the Catholic Monarchs. But over the decades a mass exodus of its young people to the coast has reduced the city’s population to a village-sized 4,356 residents.

Now Sigüenza and 26 other ‘abandoned’ Spanish towns with populations of under 5,000 and decent 4G have formed the Red Nacional de Pueblos Acogedores para el Teletrabajo to court remote workers and liven up the place. Each pueblo has its own photo bio allowing users to search for their ideal spot, or live chat with a local organiser. Why not rent a room at that parador and make your office your castle! pueblosacogedores.com