Lonely Planet: controversial ‘best in travel’ for 2019

Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe take two of the top three places, despite recent violence and threats against women

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 23 October 2018 00:03 BST
Good choice? Victoria Falls bridge, connecting Zimbabwe with Zambia
Good choice? Victoria Falls bridge, connecting Zimbabwe with Zambia (Simon Calder)

The travel publisher Lonely Planet has courted controversy with its selection of the “Best in Travel” for the coming year.

The travel firm’s top country is Sri Lanka, even though a spike in violence against Muslims led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.

In addition, the Foreign Office warns of “an increase in sexual attacks against females in tourist area” on the Indian Ocean island, and says: “Western women continue to report incidents of verbal and physical harassment by groups of men.”

Lonely Planet’s destination editor, Joe Bindloss, said: “While there have been incidents of communal violence that have caught the headlines, Sri Lanka is safer for travellers – and for locals – than it has been for many years.

“Communal tensions exist in most countries in the region, but this kind of violence is unusual rather than the norm in Sri Lanka and the vast majority of visits to this fascinating island nation are trouble-free.

“Tourism has an important role to play in helping Sri Lanka build for a peaceful future.”

Second place is taken by Germany, while the country ranked third in the world is another controversial selection, Zimbabwe. As The Independent has reported, women have faced increased violence in the troubled African nation. As hyperinflation intensifies the suffering of many of its people, corruption continues.

Mr Bindloss said: “While this new phase in its history has got off to a slightly rocky start, the citizens of the country are keen to keep the nation moving along the road to recovery.

“Hyperinflation is indeed an issue for locals in Zimbabwe, but tourism is one of the few things that brings hard currency into the country – and this has the power to do good, enabling the nation to rebuild both society and its infrastructure.”

Among cities, Copenhagen is rated best for its “world-renowned food scene and credentials as a design powerhouse”.

In second place is Shenzhen in China, which neighbours Hong Kong. Known as China's Silicon Valley, this high-tech city has super-tall skyscrapers (the 599m tall Ping An Tower is the fourth tallest in the world) as well as a booming arts scene – the Shekou harbour neighbourhood was the location for the pioneering Design Society, the V&A's first international outpost. The city gets a new link with Heathrow this month.

Novi Sad, described as “Serbia’s up-and-coming youth and culture capital”, is third in the city category. No UK cities make the top 10.

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Lonely Planet has also selected 10 “Best Value” destinations, a list headed by the southern Nile Valley in Egypt. Tourism to Luxor and Aswan is slowly recovering after a series of terrorist atrocities.

The Maldives, which is highly politically unstable and relies almost exclusively on imported goods for tourist services, is rated as fourth-best value in the world.

Lonely Planet include the archipelago because of “a surge in independent travel, triggered by the proliferation of inexpensive local guesthouses on islands that were previously closed off to visitors”.

“A growing number of non-resort islands now have their own locally run guesthouses, making Maldives more accessible to travellers with smaller budgets than at any time since the islands first opened to tourism in 1972,” said the company.

The only British location to make the Lonely Planet lists for 2019 is Scotland’s Highlands and Islands – ranked fifth-best region, behind Italy’s Piedmont, the Catskills of New York State, northern Peru and Australia’s Red Centre.

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