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I’m a sucker for lists or just about anything that provides me a quantitative glimpse into what the rest of the world is buzzing about. One list I’ve been fawning over recently comes from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys, which analyzed billions of search queries from online travel agencies and aggregators like Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner, Wego, etc., to rank the most popular summer travel destinations this year.
I think the list is pretty interesting, revealing the rebound of travel to Asia, the dominance of Europe as a summer travel destination, and a few surprisingly popular off-the-beaten-path destinations. You can check out the list below, as well as three of my biggest takeaways.
|2023 Ranking||Change Since 2022||Destination||Share of Searches|
|4||6||Denpasar Bali (ID)||1.79%|
|6||2||New York (US)||1.60%|
|11||-2||Palma Mallorca (ES)||1.26%|
|14||24||Kuala Lumpur (MY)||1.18%|
|17||-3||Los Angeles (US)||1.09%|
|30||-1||San Francisco (US)||0.71%|
|39||129||Hong Kong (HK)||0.56%|
|51||3||Tel Aviv-Yafo (IL)||0.48%|
|52||30||Ho Chi Minh City (VN)||0.48%|
|61||-17||Mexico City (MX)||0.42%|
|82||-27||San Jose (CR)||0.34%|
|96||-20||Punta Cana (DO)||0.28%|
|100||4||Buenos Aires (AR)||0.27%|
European cities dominate the top 10
Bangkok has secured the top spot this year, displacing Paris and London with a 2.61% share of searches. The only other Asia-Pacific destination to crack the top ten is Bali, which moved up six places to fourth place, and the only city in the Americas in the top ten is New York, coming in sixth place. That means that a surprising 70% of this year’s most popular summer travel spots are in Europe (assuming we consider Istanbul part of Europe).
Biggest winners and losers
Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong have seen substantial increases in their ranking from the previous year, with Tokyo making an impressive 53-place jump to 13th, Seoul climbing 56 places to 35th, and Hong Kong catapulting 129 places to settle at 39th. Taipei made the biggest leap of all, soaring 161 places to rank 56th. The rise of Asian destinations likely indicates pent-up travel demand following the relaxation of pandemic-era restrictions.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lima dropped a dramatic 37 places to 85th, likely due to political turmoil roiling Peru. Other significant drops included Mikonos down 28 places to 71st, and San Jose, Costa Rica, down 27 places to 82nd.
Some lesser-known travel destinations have also found their place on the list showcasing the increased interest in off-the-beaten-path destinations. Tirana, Albania gained popularity, moving up 20 places to 40th. Funchal, Portugal also climbed 15 spots to 84th place.
ForwardKeys’ list of top summer travel spots gives us some cool insights. Europe’s still king in the top 10 list, though cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taipei are also on the upswing as travel restrictions have eased up. Lima, Mikonos (as well as other Greek destinations), and San Jose have seen a bit of a tumble, while places like Tirana and Funchal are climbing the ranks, showing us that folks are keen on mixing up their travel plans. All in all, these search trends are a fun way to keep track of where people want to go. Just as importantly, they reveal where people don’t want to go, which is important information for those of us who prefer traveling to less popular spots.