It's that time of the year when publishers are compiling their 'best of lists' for international travel – but how does that process look in a year when few people have been anywhere at all?
The Lonely Planet's Best in Travel is normally all about places they've been and experiences that readers will be wanting to see for themselves in the year ahead. However in light of the Covid crisis, their picks for 2021 has seen a bit of a shakeup.
They've taken this year's list in a new direction and, if their picks for 2021 are correct, Zealand is well positioned to benefit from a return of travel-starved tourists, whever that may be.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit pause on this year's travel plans. CEO Luis Cabrera says this has opened an opportunity "to reflect on how we can best empower our readers to travel responsibly and become agents of positive change."
Instead of their usual format, the destinations in the Best in Travel 2021 list have focused on the values of Sustainability, Diversity and Community.
Reflective of these shifting tastes, one New Zealand experience made this year's list for travel-hungry tourists.
Chef Monique Fiso's Wellington restaurant Hiakai was nominated one of the best travel experiences for diversity.
Wellington-based Lonely Planet contributor Cass about Food said Fiso's restaurant "blew her away." The menu of indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques is complimented by a service that embraces te reo. For the Lonely Planet it is an experience that has marked Hiakai out in the world's fine dining scene.
The restaurant is "something Kiwis can be proud of", said the Lonely Planet's Sarah Reid, who complimented Hiakai's menu "that doesn't just explore the possibilities of native ingredients, but also how they relate to Māori myths and legends."
Most of the Lonely Planet's readership may not be able to make reservations while New Zealand's borders remain shut to inbound tourists. However, Reid said Fiso's recipe book – also called Hiakai – was the perfect appetiser for travel-starved tourists looking for a taste of Aotearoa.
This year the Lonely Planet's sustainable country winner was Palau. The introduction of the "Palau Pledge" which binds visitors and operators to carbon-neutral tourism won praise for the Micronesian nation. Sweden's post-industrial port of Gothenburg was the Lonely Planet's sustainabile city winner, cleaning up its image to become a European hub of green energy. Costa Rica's surf scene won top spot for diversity. National parks and operators in the the South American beach paradise were singled out for making experiences accessible to all travellers, with initiatives such as modified wheelchair surf boards.
The readers' choice award is yet to be decided, and is open to public vote until January.
The 2021 list is a big departure from the usual format. In previous years The Lonely Planet has focused on dividing destinations into top countries, top regions and best value holidays.
The Bhutan topped the 2020 list, which New Zealand failed to feature in.
Lonely Planet's Best in Travel List 2021
•Le Vie di Dante (Roads of Dante)
•Antigua & Barbuda
•Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
•Grootberg Lodge, Namibia
•Gabby Beckford, Packs Light
•El Hierro, Spain
•Hiakai, New Zealand
•Jeff Jenkins, Chubby Diaries
•Wheels of the World
•Karl Krause and Daan Colijn, Couple of Men
•Gullah Islands, USA
•San Diego, USA
•Invisible Cities, UK
•Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia
•Hesham Moadamani, Refugee Voices Tours
•Footprints Café, Cambodia
•Burren EcoTourism Network, Ireland
•Georgette Jupe, Girl In Florence
This story was first published in the New Zealand Herald Travel on 22 November