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What's on your top 10 travel list?

Perfect destinations: myth or reality?

Hector Dsouza, eTN India  Sep 13, 2011

(eTN) - It is a question that has been asked several times over, by visitors as well as national tourist bodies governing destinations, across the world. What makes a destination perfect? Is it plausible there exists the top 10 destinations on Mother Earth? What makes one place better than the other? The yardstick often adopted by analysts and organizations in most cases is quantitative in nature and is expressed by way of footfalls each destination generates, be it a village, town, city, or country. The more footfalls, the more successful the destination, although, not the best way to determine its perfectness.

Visitors on the other hand are constantly on the watch for "perfect" destinations and may not be necessarily influenced by numbers visiting a place. Explorers, for example, are delighted by uncertainty and relish opportunities for carving out paths in quaint surroundings. There’s fun in imperfectness! It’s quite common for trekking groups to visit pristine locales where they may never encounter other travelers. In the upper reaches of Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, and the Western Ghats of Southern India, you are likely to experience the phenomena. For this select band of tourists, these are picture perfect locations, notwithstanding the hardships encountered along the route, be it in terms of habitation or vagaries of weather.

On the other hand, backpackers in search of virgin beaches find perfect solace when they "discover" an untouched beach surrounded by the vast ocean. Barriers are broken, and perfect bonding takes place. Visiting a wildlife lodge in the heart of summer (Kanha and Bandhavgarh) and spotting countless species of flora and fauna not easily visible during less severe months, is yet another example of an inhabitable forest becoming a near perfect destination for the discerning, "ready-to-encounter-hardship" traveler. In this instance, it’s adjusting to discomfort which ultimately provides a high satisfaction level and not necessarily great facilities. It took me 24 hours (each way) to reach Thimpu from Kolkatta more than fifteen years ago. To this day, Bhutan makes it to my all time favorite list of destinations I’ve visited.

A vast majority of visitors, though, are pampered by comforts, convenience, and cost effectiveness. These factors by themselves are responsible for many countries in the world becoming mass-tourism destinations, with tourism becoming a major revenue churner. Hence, it’s not uncommon for Thailand and Sri Lanka to make it to the list of top 10 destinations for the Indian market, mainly because these are value-for-money destinations for regular and first time travelers.

The exotic charm of each of these countries brings in many brownie points. Foremost on the mind of these visitors are hassle-free happy holidays with low tension value and high recall value. This partly explains why destinations the world over, offering sound infrastructure, affordable accommodation and boarding, are free of political tensions, and take good care of their tourist offerings, generally see a steady stream of visitors all year around. Innovative ideas and brilliant marketing campaigns provide the necessary stimulus, ensuring the "perfect destination" brand is retained over a period of time - and "Year of the Car" celebrations in Southwest Germany keep coming back to mind.

A small percentage of visitors equate a perfect experience with the hotel/guest house/heritage home they reside in and its immediate surroundings. Irregularities and other existensial issues outside of the premises rarely matter for this visitor. Of late, we have countless boutique, heritage, and luxury hotels offering outstanding comfort and exotic lifestyle during a stay. It’s quite common for these travelers to add the "perfect" tag to the location, though they may not deem it necessary to explore the destination. Due credit must be given to the creators of these masterpieces, so long as they respect local laws, maintain the ambience, and complement a destination.

There is no denying that some (resorts) go beyond the destination and are known to be the prime reason for visiting a location, rather than the other way around. Deogarh Mahal, Our Native Village, and Wildernest are names that bring instant recall and are visited many times over by regular visitors.

Perfect destinations are more an imaging of the mind and vary from traveler to tourist. There’s no denying that while the "perfect" tag may not come by for every holiday and may remain a myth for many travelers, awesome moments can be experienced by one and all on each outing. My personal list of fine moments could run into pages, a chosen few are mentioned here:

Viewing Emerald Lake (resembles India) from Red Hill top, sunsets from Simtokha and Ladakh, spotting tigers at at Kanha, viewing "strassenfeste" in Hinterburg, spectacular mountain views at Binsar and Kalpa, the wine festival in Mumbai, Taj Mahal in morning light (time stands still), making deals to buy horses at Pushkar, following footsteps to reach monuments in Prague, sighting giant tuskers and elephant herd at Corbett and Nagarhole, interacting with Changpas at TsoMorari, a day tour of Lucknow – least talked about awesome city, arriving at Grand Canyon by helicopter (very touristy but quite enjoyed the ten-minute ride), a week at Algonquin, and finally, very interesting conversations I’ve had with fellow tourists and locals during my sojourns across different lands.

As they say, beauty lies in the heart of the beholder, perhaps, the same could be said for destinations and peregrinators.

The author of this article, Hector Dsouza, is the President of L’orient Travels Mumbai.

Perfect destinations: myth or reality?

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