by WEX Travel
Travelers are turning to search engines for inspiration when planning trips. Sure, they’re influenced by friends and family (as well as their own personal interests and travel dreams), but they’re increasingly looking online for ideas…and finding them. What’s trending among US travel searchers? What destinations are they exploring? What destinations are attracting more interest?
These are the questions Sojern and Google teamed up to answer. They shared their hospitality and hotel search findings in Sojern’s 2017 Hotel Report. Not only have they tracked year-over-year growth in searches for hotels, but they uncovered the destinations most searched by US travelers—and some might come as a surprise.
All in all, these destinations are getting more attention because they’re actively welcoming more tourists by either opening borders to US tourists, adding new hotels and resorts and/or spending significant investment dollars to attract visitors. But let’s take a closer look at the 10 destinations that are consistently getting more and more search action from US Google searchers:
Top Domestic Destinations Searched:
- Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. History, golfing and gardens are among the attractions inspiring people to visit this suburb of Philadelphia. 2016 Visit Philadelphia Annual Report shows a $150 billion impact made by the 650 million visitors to the greater Philadelphia area, demonstrating how the state’s investment in tourism has yielded phenomenal results.
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This scenic city in the Smoky Mountains offers four seasons’ worth of activities for travelers. According to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the state’s tourism sector yielded a record economic impact in 2014, boosted by international travel and visits to Nashville, Memphis and Sevier County (home to Gatlinburg).
- Washington, D.C. Ranked #8 on Trip Advisor’s 2016 Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Destinations, the nation’s capital is always a popular go-to for travelers seeking immersion in history and culture.
- Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Denver Post reports that in 2015, Colorado hosted 77.7 million visitors who spent an all-time high of $19.1 billion. Aside from clearly successful marketing efforts, the boost to visitors in Colorado Springs can likely also be attributed to Pikes Peak earning Trip Advisor’s 2016 Certificate of Excellence award and the city’s #5 listing on US News & World Report’s 2016 Best Places to Live.
- Detroit, Michigan. Touted by the state tourism office as “America’s Great Comeback City,” Detroit is being pursued as a top vacation spot for its access to culture, entertainment, sports, dining and more. Through 2016, in fact, Michigan on a whole had strong growth in hotel occupancy rates, up 2.3% statewide compared to a national average 1.7% increase, and a significant surge in visitation to natural areas.
Top International Destinations Searched:
- Havana, Cuba & 3. Varadero, Cuba. The country’s doors are now open to US travelers, making it a “hot” destination. The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control have established these 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba: family visits; official business of the US government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions. These seem to be enough to ignite searchers’ interest in Havana and other Cuban destinations for upcoming vacations. Read Cuba Prepares for Influx of American Tourists for more insights.
- Sodankyla, Finland. Natural beauty, a clean environment, and cosmopolitan cities, like Sodankyla, make Finland a growing international tourist destination. According to World Travel & Tourism Council, Finland’s direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was EUR4.4bn (2.1% of total GDP) in 2014, and is forecast to rise to EUR6.1bn (2.4% of total GDP) in 2025. And the Invest in Finland website reports International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4% (50 million tourists) in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million in 2015, marking the 6th consecutive year of above-average growth, with international arrivals increasing by 4% or more every year since the post-crisis year of 2010. What’s more, Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide publisher in the world, recently ranked Finland as the third best travel destination for 2017.
- Lisbon, Portugal. Travel Pulse’s Why Are US Tourists Flocking to Portugal? says that both the media and word-of-mouth advertising are driving interest in the country and its capital and cultural center of Lisbon. Its “gothic cathedrals, hilly streets navigated by vintage funiculars, colorful neighborhoods, cobblestone streets, traditional music,” says the site, makes Libson “the whole package.”
- Thera, Greece. This ancient city is on the island of Santorini. US News & World Report ranks Santorini #1 in Best Island in the World and Best Honeymoon Destination in Europe, #2 in Best Romantic European Getaways and Best Summer Vacations…and that’s just to name a few. Thera simply has a lot to offer the international traveler, from cultural experiences to beach life, archeological curiosities and romance.
For more on travel planners’ search behavior, turn to Appreciating the Nuances in Travel Trends.