Myanmar, Marseille, New Zealand and Gettysburg are all on the travel radar for 2013, thanks to new tours, events and anniversaries. But the best pitch for travel in the new year might just be coming from Ireland, which is running ads "calling all Flynns, O'Malleys and Schweizenbergs" to the Emerald Isle for a unique grass-roots homecoming called "The Gathering."
Here are details on these and other places, events and travel trends for 2013.
Ireland's 'The Gathering'
"It's a citizen-led initiative to attract people who are Irish-born, Irish-bred or Irish in spirit to join us in 2013," said Bernard McMullan of Tourism Ireland. "It's almost become a competition where one county, town or village tries to have as quirky a gathering as the next."
More than 2,000 events are already planned, including events for redheads and left-handers as well as reunions based on family names and clans.
The U.S. Census Bureau says 34.7 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and Arabella Bowen, executive editorial director of Fodor's Travel, is one of them. Even President Barack Obama has an Irish ancestor in the family tree.
"There are Irish people all over the world," Bowen said. "It will be great fun being able to connect with others going back for this event. It's like an entire year of St. Patrick's Day parties."
President Obama's historic recent visit to Myanmar -- the first ever by a sitting U.S. president -- is adding to already heated-up interest in the country, which has fully opened to tourism only in the past few years. Fodor's Bowen says it's especially attractive to people who are already well traveled and are seeking that next unknown destination.
Many tour companies are adding Myanmar trips due to demand, and the U.S. Tour Operators Association's active members named Myanmar No. 1 on a list of "off-the-beaten path" countries they foresee becoming popular in 2013.
New Zealand received a huge boost in tourism from fans of "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy, and the release of the new movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is focusing attention on the destination once again. All four of the movies were filmed in New Zealand.
The French port city Marseille is one of two European capitals of culture in 2013, along with the Slovakian city of Kosice. Fodor's Bowen says Marseille "has been overlooked in the past" by a lot of travelers heading to the lavender fields and wineries of Provence, but she believes it's ripe for a "renaissance" with new hotels, art galleries and culinary hotspots.
Several important anniversaries take place in 2013, with exhibits and events to mark them.
Marquee events for the battle commemoration, including re-enactments and tours, will take place June 28 to July 7, but there will be activities and programs throughout the year. On July 1, the new Seminary Ridge Museum opens in a building that was used as a soldiers hospital. Union Gen. John Buford also used the structure's cupola to scout the countryside on the battle's first day.
At Disneyland in Anaheim, spring will see the opening of Fantasy Faire, located at Fantasyland and dedicated to Disney heroes and heroines. At Disney World near Orlando, Fla., a new attraction called Princess Fairytale Hall, where guests can meet Disney princesses, is also scheduled to open in 2013. Princess Fairytale Hall will be located at the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, which opened in early December, doubling the size of the original Fantasyland. Both parks are offering weekly surprises for guests as part of a yearlong 2013 program called Limited Time Magic.
Next summer will see the popular 3-D ride based on the "Transformers" movies opening at Universal's theme park in Orlando. "Transformers: The Ride -- 3D" previously opened this past May at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles.