As the global community adjusts to the “new normal” following the Covid-19 pandemic, the upcoming summer season holds significant importance. While travel volumes have rebounded, preferences have undergone noticeable changes.
The pandemic gave rise to new travel trends, such as digital nomadism and remote work, that have altered traditional patterns. Economic pressures, especially in Europe, have influenced the frequency and duration of trips. Additionally, heightened awareness regarding the environmental impact of air travel has transformed the behavior of both consumers and industry operators. Amidst these shifts, emerging destinations pose a challenge to established favorites, while further diversifying the travel landscape.
A report from ForwardKeys, a travel analytics firm, has revealed the hundred most looked for destinations this summer, from July 1st to August 31st. The rankings for the report were determined based on the extensive online search activity related to these destinations, which encompasses billions of searches a year. The results are also presented in comparison to summer 2022.
(Bankok’s) popularity is a clear sign that with the reopening of the Asian markets, we are about to see the first “normal” summer since the pandemic, with 19 mainstream Asian cities listed in the top 100.Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights – ForwardKeys
Top of the list is Bangkok, far ahead of the second most searched destination, Paris. As over 1.1 billion searches were analyzed for the report, to make the list more digestible, ForwardKeys has produced the ranking indexed on the basis that Bangkok is 100. Following Thailand’s capital, Paris scores 73; London, 72; Denpasar, 69; Barcelona, 68 and New York, 61.
Comparing to Summer 2022, Bangkok is up three places, pushing Paris off the top spot. While London holds its position, in 3rd place, Bali’s capital, Denpasar, rises six places, to 4th position.
Aside from New York, which has testified for a steady growth in popularity among travelers since last summer, the rest of the top 30 is dominated by large European cities, which have stayed relatively stable in terms of consumer preference. The top 30 on ForwardKeys’ report reflects both the strong apetite amongst consumers to travel to Asia Pacific and the resilience of mainstream urban destinations.
The top ten list of highest climbers is dominated by Asian and Australasian cities, which, last summer, were still subject to some of the strictest and most enduring pandemic travel regulations.
This summer, traveler intent reveals a strong pent-up demand for travel to a fully reopened Asia Pacific market — reactivating global competition.Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights – ForwardKeys
Looking further down the ranking line, this surge interest in destinations in Asia Pacific, due to relatively late relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions, is confirmed by the presence of a few impressive risers charging into the top 20: Tokyo, up 53 places to 13th, Kuala Lumpur, up 24 places to 14th, Singapore, up 14 places to 12th, and Manilla, up 8 places to 19th.
Major cities across the region experienced this growth in travel intent, with Seoul, Tokyo, Hanoi, Auckland, and Melbourne climbing top spots among the fastest climbers. This diverse array of destinations, encompassing bustling megacities, tranquil countryside retreats, and scenic coastal gateways, vividly reflects the pent-up demand among travelers seeking a mix of leisure, visiting friends and relatives (VFR), and business travel experiences.
Among the leading contenders, Taipei and Hong Kong have remarkably surged in popularity, securing the 161st and 129th positions, respectively, in the global ranking of searched destinations for the season. Formerly off-limits to vacationers last summer, these cities are now captivating significant attention from both the Chinese market and long-haul travelers.
While the Covid-19 recovery factor undeniably plays a significant role, it is worth noting that the lineup of popular destinations is not exclusively Asia Pacific-centric. Las Vegas has witnessed an impressive surge in popularity, boasting a remarkable 100% growth compared to summer 2022. This upward trend may be indicative of consumer confidence in attending high-density leisure activities and the return of major trade shows operating at full capacity.
In Europe, off-the-beaten-track gems such as Tirana and Funchal are capturing tourists’ interest.
While “sun and beach” destinations recovered quickly from the Covid-19 downturn, as travel routes gradually opened over the last couple of years, their continued growth into 2023 has been outpaced by alternative destination types.
The constraints and uncertainties brought by the pandemic are gradually fading away, allowing travelers to explore a wide range of destinations without the limitations imposed by previous travel patterns. This newfound freedom signals a return to the diverse mix of popular destinations and regions that characterized pre-pandemic times.
Compared to this time in 2022, summer flight bookings to beach destinations are 22% ahead; however, urban destinations are 42% ahead, and nature and shopping destinations are up by 45% and 53%, respectively. Global shopping hotspots, such as Dubai, Singapore, Paris and New York, have recorded the highest increase in indexed demands, creating significant opportunities opportunities for travel retailers.
Looking at the global travel recovery, benchmarked against pre-pandemic (2019) levels, worldwide summer bookings are just 13% behind. However, there is a huge difference geographically. The strongest major source market is the USA, where summer outbound flight bookings are now 11% ahead of 2019. It is followed by Canada, 4% ahead.
The UK is just 3% behind and the EU 11%. The current insecurity in the economic situation of the EU, flooded by inflation, makes traveling unfeasible for many, specially long-haul trips. Latin America is the next best revived continental source market, 14% behind.
According to ForwardKeys’ data, these are the most searched destinations for this summer: