Looking for travel inspiration for summer 2023 (1st July – 31st August)? ForwardKeys, a travel analytics firm, has revealed the 100 most appealing destinations this summer, based on how extensively travel to them has been searched online. The company’s Flight Searches data covers many billions of searches a year, via an extensive list of online travel agencies, airlines and metasearch companies including Google Flights, Kayak, Kiwi.com, Skyscanner, Wego, and more. The data can help leisure destinations seeking to quantify travel intent.
Top of the list is Bangkok, far ahead of the second most searched destination, Paris. As over 1.1 billion searches were analysed for the report, to make the list more digestible, ForwardKeys has produced the ranking indexed on the basis that Bangkok is 100.
The top 20, in order, with their index values are: Paris, 73; London, 72; Denpasar, 69; Barcelona, 68; New York, 61; Lisbon, 54; Istanbul, 52, Madrid, 52; Athens, 51; Palma Mallorca, 48; Singapore, 46; Tokyo, 45; Kuala Lumpur, 45; Amsterdam, 44; Copenhagen, 42; Los Angeles, 42; Rome, 39; Manilla, 34 and Frankfurt, 34. Positions 21 – 100 also include Antalya, Berlin, Cancun, Cairo, Delhi, Dubai, Dublin, Ho Chi Minh City, Malaga, Marrakech, Miami, Milan, Punta Cana, San Francisco, Seoul, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Warsaw, Valetta and Vienna.
The search rankings are also compared to last year, giving a rise and fall in relative popularity. Bangkok is up three places, pushing Paris off the top spot. London holds its position, in third place. In capturing fourth position, Bali’s capital, Denpasar, rose six places, pushing down Barcelona to fifth, Lisbon to seventh, Istanbul to eighth, Madrid to ninth and Palma Mallorca to 11th. A new entrant in the top 10 was Athens, up one place from 11th, while New York rose two places from eighth in 2022, to sixth this year. Impressive risers that charged into the top 20 were Tokyo, up 53 places to 13th, Kuala Lumpur, up 24 places to 14th, Singapore, up 14 places to 12th and Manilla, up eight places to 19th. Their rise is principally explained by the relatively late relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions, which triggered a surge in interest.
The top 10 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. The highest climber is Taipei, up 161 places to 56th. It is followed by Hong Kong, up 129 places to 39th; Seoul, up 56 places to 35th; Tokyo, up 53 places to 13th; Hanoi, up 41 places to 76th; Auckland, up 41 places to 103rd; Melbourne, up 31 places to 75th; Ho Chi Minh City, up 30 places to 52nd; Kuala Lumpur, up 24 places to 14th; and Phuket, up 24 places to 57th.
Analysis of ForwardKeys’ air ticketing database reveals some interesting new trends. Throughout the pandemic and at the start of the recovery, leisure travel to beach destinations has been in the lead. However, that is now starting to change. Compared to this time last year (2022), summer flight bookings to beach destinations are 22% ahead; however, urban destinations are 42% ahead, nature destinations are 45% ahead, and shopping destinations are 53% ahead.
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. The US is followed by Canada, 4% ahead. The UK is just 3% behind, and the EU 11% behind. Latin America is the next best revived continental source market, at 14% behind. It is followed by India, 17% behind; South Korea, 29% behind; GCC countries, 36% behind; and China 69% behind.
Other notable trends to emerge from a more in-depth analysis of flight bookings include the growth of London as a hub for multi-destination, long-haul trips to Europe, the attractiveness of music festivals, and the greater speed of recovery in outbound travel from China compared to Japan.
Congratulations to Bangkok in becoming this summer’s top of the travel pops. Its 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. The Caribbean also deserves congratulations because it has managed to maintain its popularity in the face of greater competition from numerous other destinations which are now open again. While the outlook for summer travel currently looks relatively rosy, there are a few reasons to be cautious. Inflation is high, so while consumers may again be travelling, they may not be spending quite so liberally. Also, if there is a late surge in demand, the recovery could be thwarted if operators are not prepared; and stories of travel chaos deter last-minute bookings.
Founded in 2010, ForwardKeys has pioneered the way forward for tourism organisations, hotels, and retailers keen to understand who is travelling where, when, and for how long. The company shares such information by having the most comprehensive ticketing data covering the globe from online bookings to travel agencies and airlines. www.forwardKeys.com.