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Best of 2023: New design hotels and luxury train routes coming soon

By Maureen O’Hare, CNN

This was a bad, bad week for holiday travelers in the United States. First there was the raging storm that caught many people in perilous situations far from home: Here are some of their stories. Then Southwest went into an almighty days-long meltdown that left hundreds of thousands of passengers delayed or stranded. Insiders blame it on outdated tech.

Now let’s look at what else has been happening as we close out 2022 — and some cool things we can look forward to in 2023.

It was a wild year (and it’s not over yet)

Southwest’s spectacular implosion was very on brand for what’s been a chaotic year for the aviation industry. Here are 22 ways it’s been a very, very bumpy ride.

Airline passengers, international tourists and even airplane pilots got more than a bit lively this year too, with fisticuffs, high jinks and underclad exhibitionism breaking out all over the place. Have a read here.

Finally, tourism authorities also got carried away in the post-Covid fervor, throwing their efforts at creating destination campaigns that were often bizarre, misguided or, very occasionally, an inspired moment of genius.

China’s Covid surge

China is fighting its biggest ever outbreak of Covid-19, having abruptly dropped its restrictions and partially reopened its borders. Inbound quarantine to the country ends January 8, meaning families will be able to reunite after nearly three years of separation.

Chinese tourists are eager to begin traveling again too, but some countries are hesitant to welcome them. The US, Italy and Japan are among the nations to have reintroduced Covid testing for travelers arriving from China and others may follow suit. Chinese state media calls the new rules “discriminatory.”

Destination inspiration

It’s time to take down the holiday decorations, grab your laptop and start planning your 2023 vacations. Here’s our guide to the hottest hotels to book in the new year, from luxury escapes in Dubai and Mozambique to hip hideaways in Paris and Palm Springs.

The Italian Dolomites are particularly bursting with gorgeous design hotels: Our roundup has the lowdown on where to soak, indulge, ski and apres-ski.

If you’re looking for a rural retreat, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has just announced its list of the world’s best villages for tourism, with idyllic spots in Chile, Ethiopia and South Korea among those to make the cut.

Life on the rails

There were plenty of new rail experiences that got us excited in 2022, such as a night train running from Austria to the Italian Riviera, the new semi high-speed line across Laos and a luxurious 2,000-mile trans-African odyssey.

Coming down the tracks in 2023, there’s China’s spectacular new $3.1 billion Panda Panoramic Express, linking Dujiangyan with a panda reserve and the Mount Siguniang scenic tourist area in Sichuan province.

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula should be opening its 948-mile Tren Maya route by the end of the year, which will connect Caribbean resorts such as Cancun with cities and cultural sites inland.

And for the very grand traveler, there’s Orient Express La Dolce Vita. Accor Hotels group’s new 11-car train, with interiors inspired by Italian decor of the 1960s and 1970s, will visit Italian cities including Rome, Venice, Siena, Matera and Palermo.

New Year’s Eve hotspots

Why not spend your December 31 planning how you’ll do New Year’s Eve a whole lot better in 2023? Check out our list of top destinations to ring in the new year and then — in not unrelated news — learn what people around the world eat and drink to beat a hangover.

In case you missed it

Sad the holidays are nearly over?

If you lived on Christmas Island, it’d be Christmas every day.

A puppy was abandoned at San Francisco airport.

But now a United Airlines pilot and his family have adopted him.

One of the world’s most densely populated cities opened its first metro line.

Dhaka commuters hope it will ease congestion.

These stunning natural wonders aren’t US national parks.

But perhaps they should be.


If there’s any New Year’s resolutions we should be making, it’s to be better, smarter, more conscious travelers in 2023. Our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have this list of six resolutions to inspire you.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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