Sure, the coronavirus might be grounding planes and people across Asia right now, but the region will recover, eventually, and once it does, its residents will be itching to explore beyond their borders again. But before booking that first flight back to Bangkok or Bali, Destinations Known entreats travellers to think carefully about where they want to go – yes, almost everywhere will be desperate for the tourist dollar, but this is an opportunity to spread the love rather than returning to the same, tired destinations as before … and as everyone else. Perhaps consider a “second city” approach to touring, avoiding the most prominent ports of call in favour of those that perennially fly under the radar. Take the Thai capital, for example. According to British research company Euromonitor International, Bangkok was the second-most visited city in the world, last year, behind Hong Kong, with more than 73 per cent of its 25.8 million arrivals hailing from Asia-Pacific. Which is exactly why you should give it a wide berth. Bypass Bangkok for somewhere a little less obvious, such as Buriram, in the country’s northeast, to where influencers have yet to lead followers – Buriram has been hashtagged a mere 142,000 times, compared with Bangkok’s 26.2 million posts – and where those elusive “authentic” experiences are still possible. A one-hour flight from the Big Mango (or an eight-hour coach ride, if carbon emissions are a concern and time is on your side), the eponymous capital of Buriram province might not be as cosmopolitan as the city it is being swapped for, but its Khmer temple complex, a Unesco World Heritage Site hopeful, and fiery Isaan cuisine should more than make up for the pleasures of the modern metropolis left behind. Buriram also lays claim to one of Thailand’s biggest football stadiums, home to frequent champions Buriram United, and a motorsports racetrack, earning the “city of happiness” another moniker, the “city of sports”. Goal! Of course, in Asia, overtourism affects beaches, bays and resort destinations as much as it does metropolitan settings, making “second city” tourism something of a misnomer when applied to these popular holiday spots. Take as an example Indonesia’s most overrun island, where too many tourists are already taking their toll on the environment. Bali is just one of the archipelagic nation’s more than 17,000 islands, so why not try another? May we suggest instead Sulawesi, which features on Australia-based travel agency Intrepid Travel’s “not hot” 2020 list, a line-up of lesser-visited spots well worth the time it takes to travel to them. As the 11th largest island in the world, contorted K-shaped Sulawesi – it has four distinct peninsulas kept separate by a mountainous centre – has much to offer, from colonial architecture in capital city Makassar, a bustling port that is home to the island’s largest ethnic group, the Bugis, to the stunning submarine scapes of the Togean Islands and the Bunaken Marine Reserve. Northeast Cambodia – “home to lush forests, remote lakes and waterfalls and temples lesser known than Angkor Wat, but no less fascinating” – is the other Asian entry on the not-hot list. Admittedly less accessible than their capital counterparts, and therefore often more costly to reach, both temporally and financially, the relative remoteness of these secondary destinations keeps a surfeit of sightseers at bay. And don’t let the poorly named trend fool you, these places are as deserving of your attention as any better-known hotspot, and many are more deserving of your money. Indonesian government urges airlines to drop prices to boost tourism Speaking of “second city” travel, on February 7, The Jakarta Post reported that the Indonesian government had asked airlines to cut prices for domestic routes to encourage tourism amid a decline in foreign arrivals caused by the coronavirus outbreak. “The government has initiated giving special discounts for domestic flights to Bali, North Sulawesi and Bintan Island,” said presidential chief of staff, Moeldoko, referring to destinations that are expected to suffer acutely from a lack of tourists. Transport ministry member Adita Irawati told the newspaper that it was up to the airlines how generous the discounts, which she expected to be announced soon, would be. Myanmar was the fastest growing tourism destination in 2019 The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently released its World Tourism Barometer , a look at the state of the industry, which showed that international arrivals grew 4 per cent worldwide in 2019: 1.5 billion people made trips that incorporated at least one overnight stay. Phew! The Middle East led growth, with an 8 per cent increase in visitors over the 12 months, followed by Asia-Pacific, which recorded a 5 per cent rise. Myanmar was the fastest growing nation destination last year, with Iran, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and the Maldives, also representing Asia in the top 10. Presenting the findings last month, UNWTO secretary general Zurab Pololikashvili called tourism “a reliable economic sector” in times of “uncertainty and volatility”. Uncertainty and volatility have only increased in the days since – so here’s hoping the industry is as reliable as the Georgian diplomat suggests.