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Hot 2009 Destinations and Virtual Tours

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

TRENDWATCH

Hot, or Not?

This being December, it's time once again for those swamis of the travel world -- the trend prognosticators -- to come out of wherever it is they've been hiding (since, that is, it became clear that none of last year's predictions would come true). And despite their less than stellar records, we can't resist devouring such lists. Why? Well, for one thing, everyone else produces lists at this time of year, so why shouldn't the travel industry? For another, they're a great way of discovering how in touch certain publications are with the times.

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For instance, it was the Lonely Planet folks who had the good sense to predict that the hottest destination of 2008 would be . . . the United States. Sure, you didn't have to be a genius to see what the economic downturn portended, but that didn't stop other experts from putting Mozambique at the top of their lists. And even Lonely Planet seems to have rediscovered a taste for the exotic. Its 2009 list is crammed with 10 countries you never thought you'd visit. Or rather nine unexpected countries and Canada. (Algeria, Bangladesh, Georgia, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Peru, Rwanda and Sierra Leone are the others.)

For its part, TripAdvisor.com, true to its vox populi mission, would never think of relying on editors to determine 2009 hotness. Instead, it uses a "proprietary algorithm that looks at several criteria including changes in search activity and postings throughout" its site, according to the company. So it was cutting-edge technology that determined that Budoni, Sardinia, would top the Web site's list of hottest international destinations, followed by, um, Agia Galini, Crete, and Petra, Jordan. The site brought the same algorithmic muscle to the homeland, declaring St. George, Utah; Englewood, Fla.; and Keauhou, Hawaii, its top three domestic contenders.

New York makes it to Concierge.com's 2009 "It List," along with a few other great cities (Tel Aviv and Toronto) and such unlikely bedfellows as Bolivia, Utah and "central Philippines." And Frommer's takes a sign-of-the-times approach to a few of its 2009 picks, including Berlin (the 20th anniversary of the wall's fall is in November) and that other hot, happening town where "the influx of new blood and governing energy isn't the only reason to visit."

That's right, you are living in one of the world's hottest destinations, also "one of the world's great budget cities." Enjoy!

Oh, but "wait until after the millions leave on January 21."

DEPT. OF STAYCATIONS

Leaving the Field

How badly is the recession hitting our pocketbooks, you ask?

"TRAVEL BUDGET TIGHT? TAKE KIDS ON VIRTUAL TOURS."

So announces a press release from MeetMeAtTheCorner.org, a Web site that hosts three- to four-minute video clips it likes to call virtual field trips. The interesting wrinkle here is that while each featurette is geared toward youngsters ages 7 to 12, the production values are quite good and the destinations reliably kid-friendly. Viewers can accompany a boy as he goes birding in New York's Central Park or listen in as a 12-year-old Broadway baby interviews the musical director of "Hairspray." They can go to Colorado and hear about a firefighter's job, visit a Florida strawberry field or, soon, travel to San Francisco for a lesson in growing mushrooms. Donna Guthrie, a children's book author and the site's founder, tells CoGo that her site was originally designed to appeal to home-schoolers, but that "it's grown way past that." Times being what they are, MeetMeAtTheCorner.org also doubles as "an inexpensive way to see New York City," among other places.

Of course, no one actually goes anywhere, and to be honest, CoGo finds it a bit depressing that virtual tourism might be substituting for the real thing. But it's hard to disagree with Guthrie's assessment that her videos are "a good preview of the real thing," something to keep the kids occupied while their parents are saving up for something beyond the virtual.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Southwest is offering a systemwide Big Year-End Sale, with fares of $49 to $109 one way. (Washington Dulles is excluded.) For example, fly nonstop from BWI Marshall to San Diego for $239 round trip, including taxes. Book by Dec. 29 at http://www.southwest.com, and travel Jan. 6-March 11. Cheapest fares are Monday-Thursday and Saturday; 14-day advance purchase required. Other airlines are matching in some markets.

Reporting: Scott Vogel

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company


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