Travel and tourism have the potential to grow the wealth of a country, provide thousands of jobs for locals, improve infrastructure and really put a destination ‘on the map’. But it would be naïve to think that tourism is only positive – you only have to walk through the streets of Barcelona in the height of summer to feel the negative effects that tourism can bring. Intrepid uses the tourism density ratio of tourists to locals to determine ‘over-touristed’ and ‘under-touristed’ countries. For example, France had 90 million visitors in 2018 – almost 25 million more than their 66 million population. By comparison, Papua New Guinea received 212,000 tourists in 2018 compared with their 8 million-strong population.
As a travel agent and a tour operator, we’re endeavouring to raise the profile of under-touristed destinations as we enter a new decade. Here are our five favourite under-touristed destinations to visit in 2020.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a prime example of an under-touristed destination. Despite the fact that they are one of our closest neighbours, only a very small number of Aussies travel to the destination each and every year. PNG has lots to offer – for those a little active there is the Kokoda Track and Mt Wilhelm, as well as excellent diving, surfing and other water sports. For those interested in cultural activities, there are a variety of festivals in PNG including the Mask Festival in July and the Fire Dance Festival as well. They are also working hard to ensure the tourism industry that develops is sustainable and has a minimal impact on the pristine natural environment.
Of all of the ‘stans’ in Central Asia, Turkmenistan is possibly the most mysterious and unexplored. It is far more than the “gateway to Hell”, aka Darvasa’s gas crater, that it is best known for. There are deserts, ancient Silk Road history and mountain regions to explore. The city of Ashgabat is certainly an interesting place to visit – recent investments in the architecture have transformed this to an almost completely marble metropolis. Lonely Planet describes it as “a mix between Pyongyang and Las Vegas”.
Despite the high potential for tourism in Madagascar, the industry is still relatively undeveloped. What draws people to this unusual island are its gorgeous beaches, forests, complex biodiversity and of course – lemurs. However, once you arrive in this interesting destination, you’ll see there is more to offer. Madagascar has an interesting history and a range of historical sites, excellent diving and hiking, and unforgettable landscapes.
Outside of Bali, the rest of Indonesia does get a little neglected. Comprised of over 13,500 islands, this South-East Asian nation has plenty to offer in terms of cultural and nature-based experiences. Visitors can enjoy the relatively untouched Raja Ampat region of West Papua for diving and nature experiences, or see the variety of temples from as far back as the 8th century, at places like Borobudur in Central Java.
The fact that Kenya is on the list may surprise some, but the 1.4 million passengers in 2018 are easily eclipsed by the Kenyan population of almost 50 million people. Kenya is the quintessential African landscape – savannah plains as far as the eye can see, with lonely acacia trees dotted throughout. It is home to the Masai Mara and a key site of the Great Migration that many come to see each and every year. The strong influence of the local cultures here – The Maasai, the Samburu, the Turkana, the Swahili, the Kikuyu, to name a few is also a powerful motivator to visit. Conservation is a key priority of the Kenyan Government, making it a great country to visit if you want to make a positive difference with the power of travel.