The future of tourism includes
ultra-health-conscious hotels, a surge in river cruises, abundant choices for
medical trips—and sky nannies.

 Are you looking to get healthy
while enjoying a nice getaway? More and more top-flight hotels—ranging from
yoga retreat Kamalaya in Thailand to the fitness-oriented Rancho La Puerta in
Mexico—are offering wellness expertise alongside the chance to coddle yourself.

 Care to take it a step further
and actually undergo a medical procedure? The burgeoning field of medical
tourism has little or nothing to do with spas and inner peace and everything to
do with surgery—albeit surgery in a beautiful destination with hospital
accommodations to rival those of a four-star hotel.

 Or maybe you’re a traveler who
wants to get on the water but has no interest in joining the crowds on behemoth
cruise ships. In that case, head for the river, whether you want a modern boat
on the Rhine or something more offbeat, like Volga River itineraries on
decidedly proletarian Soviet-era ships. One of the newest riverboats is the
Mekong Sun, a 28-passenger Laotian-built vessel that follows a formerly
inaccessible stretch of the Mekong River from Vientiane, past the UNESCO World
Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, and into the Golden Triangle.

 All of these trends were in
evidence at the recent 2009 ITB Berlin travel show—as good an indicator of
patterns in tourism as any convention in the world. At ITB, 11,098 exhibitors
from 187 countries spread throughout the center’s 26 halls, a carnival of
cultural displays, musical performances, handicraft demonstrations, even
antique steam trains. Visitors to ITB come to see what is hot in the travel
market today and what trends are likely to catch on in the years to come.

 All the major destinations were
there, singing their own praises, but they weren’t the only ones touting their
attractions. Among the exhibitors were Syria, Yemen, and Sudan, which did not mention
the genocide in Darfur in its travel brochures. Even poor, war-scarred Kosovo
made an appearance at a tucked-away, virtually undecorated booth. But the lack
of pizzazz didn’t stop the reporters, bloggers, and camera crews from clogging
the tiny space. Hysnije Salihu, marketing director of Kosova Airlines, wasn’t
surprised by all the attention. “Well, of course,” she said. “We are a newborn
country. Everyone is curious.”

Other convention-goers sampled
Romanian wine (the Transylvanian Cabernet makes up for in bloodred color what
it lacks in body), listened to lively Yemeni tunes, watched manic tribal
dancers from Rwanda, had their hands henna-tattooed, and learned to play the

 In the end, a visitor could get a clear vision of many of the trends
that will affect world travelers in the years to come. One thing’s fairly
certain: Transylvanian wines will not be among the upcoming fads.

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