Trends, new groundbreaking attractions, law changes, and amped tourism campaigns can drastically alter the travel landscape. Although countries like the United States of America, United Kingdom and Singapore have consistently been popular with travellers, there are new “hot” destinations rising to the tops of bucket lists every year.
With over 300 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve revealed the most popular travel destinations, many of which may come as a surprise. From the Netherlands and Greece to Cuba and Saudi Arabia, there’s reason to wonder how some previously underrated destinations have created even greater pulling power than the seemingly “unmissable” travel hotspots.
Located far from the world’s biggest cities, Australia is for many a faraway land with incredibly rare wildlife, attractive beach culture and mesmerising natural landmarks. Travellers are typically drawn in by the country’s culturally rich cities like Sydney and Melbourne, Great Barrier Reef, and iconic Australian Outback. However, it seems two previously secondary destinations are catching travellers’ attentions as of late. According to the Courier Mail, the Northern Territory has seen a 26 per cent increase in Japanese visitors this year with its creative tourism campaigns highlighting unmissable attractions that include crocodile safaris and Nitmiluk National Park. South Australia was also ranked in the top five regions of the world by Lonely Planet this year, partly due to its appealing wine country, produce festivals and uncrowded beaches.
2. United States of America
Although there’s been a slight drop in US visitors, this premier travel destination is still one of the most popular around the world. For years people have seen this country as the “Land of Opportunity”, where it’s possible to surf and ski on the same day in California, cruise the Mississippi on a riverboat in New Orleans, or dine among A-list celebrities in New York. It’s not just the main cities like Los Angeles or Miami attracting travellers, as The Telegraph recently highlighted Philadelphia, Austin and Charleston as new favoured destinations.
Greece has weathered the storm of its economic crisis, pushing back with its booming travel industry. The country lowered the cost of hotels and made sure the travel experience for visitors remained rewarding, attracting people from around the world. To be fair, the rest of the world should’ve never doubted Greece’s pulling power, thanks to its picturesque beaches, historic sights and quaint island towns. In fact, HotelsCombined bookings to Greece increased by more than 17 per cent compared to last year. Popular publications, such as The Huffington Post, also supported the country with numerous articles highlighting reasons to visit Greece, including The Acropolis, Crete and the Ionian Islands.
A holiday destination for all seasons, that’s how many travellers see Japan these days. Cherry blossoms in spring, festivals and fireworks in summer, colourful autumn leaves in autumn, and skiing in winter; Japan is full of fun and adventure year round. Travellers have picked up on this, with a consistent interest for holidays in Japan every month according to HotelsCombined bookings. Lonely Planet also listed Hokkaido, Japan as its top Asian destination for 2017, which isn’t a surprise considering the island is home to snow festivals, heavenly hot springs, vast national parks and eclectic coastal cities.
With its hot springs, friendly locals, diverse mountain terrain, eclectic festivals and breathtaking islands, no one could’ve expected Taiwan to remain an under-the-radar destination for long. The country is experiencing a well-earned rise in popularity but remains a very affordable holiday destination. According to local Indian news provider, Zee News, Taiwan has also become more popular with India, the second-largest population in the world, thanks to low-cost airfares with Scoot Airlines and a greater variety of accommodation.
6. United Kingdom
Interest in the United Kingdom has picked up significantly since Brexit. Britain’s decision to separate from the European Union has made it more affordable to visit the UK now than the last two years. This classic holiday destination is still as incredible and accessible as ever. From Scotland and Northern Ireland to Wales and England, the United Kingdom boasts a range of beautiful nature and historic cities. London is still also one of the most captivating cities for both first-time and experienced travellers, offering Michelin-starred restaurants, world-renowned attractions and unique monarchy culture and history.
Lonely Planet just named Perak in its top 10 travel regions for 2017. This widely unheralded region of Malaysia is just one of the many reasons we’ve seen a 26 per cent increase in HotelsCombined bookings to the country. Part of a growing popularity in Asian countries, Malaysia is a cultural melting pot filled with tropical beaches, wildlife sanctuaries and unimaginable cave environments. Tourism Malaysia is also committed to attracting visitors through partnerships with leading airlines and niche tourism experiences such as immersive homestays, according to Travel Daily Media.
8. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates packs a lot into its small landmass. Dubai and Abu Dhabi may be two of the most opulent cities in the world delivering luxury, adventure and culture unlike anywhere else. In Dubai, visitors can combine world-famous attractions such as Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall with skydiving and desert safaris. Abu Dhabi, however, delivers zoos, traditional markets and eco tours. Dubai’s plan to build the world’s biggest theme park by the end of 2016 will officially establish it as the theme park capital of the world, attracting more and more families.
Indonesia has had its ups and downs with holidaymakers over the years but has enjoyed relatively consistent popularity recently. One local travel guide attributes this to the country’s diversity. With more than 18,000 islands, including holiday hotspots such as Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia is considered the most varied archipelago on the globe. The Indonesian Rupiah offers travellers a favourable exchange rate, making this an ideal destination for both budget-savvy and luxury-inclined travellers to stretch their dollars. Whether it’s surfing in Bali, diving off Lombok or hiking volcanoes in Sumatra, there’s an affordable holiday for everyone.
Thailand has recently veered away from promoting its party scene, instead focusing on the delicious street food, immersive railway trips, island excursions and vibrant festivals. However, for most travellers, the biggest reason to visit Thailand is its promise of a cheap and rewarding holiday. In November, Travelers Today highlighted Chiang Mai as one of the best Thai destinations for budget-savvy travellers. Not only can visitors enjoy meditation retreats, visit majestic Buddhist temples or bathe an elephant in an animal sanctuary, they can also purchase meals for less than $1 and stay in top hotels for a bargain price.