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More than one-quarter of global travelers now opt to visit less popular travel destinations, with 31% saying they’d pick an alternative to their preferred destination to avoid overcrowding. That’s according to a 2022 report on sustainable travel from Booking.com.

The world’s best-known destinations have become victims of their success. Millions of people visit annually, crowding attractions and putting immense strain on local infrastructure. The situation has become so dire in tourist hotspots like Venice that officials have recently imposed additional restrictions to curb visitor numbers. Where are vacationers going instead?

Flight booking data from travel analytics firm Forward Keys finds the following destinations benefit from this new travel shift.

Costa Rica

Summer flight bookings to Costa Rica increased by 19% in 2023 versus 2019 and 15% compared to 2022. No other country experienced that much growth. According to the Tico Times, people from North America represent a sizable chunk of the increase. Visitors from United States, Canada, and Mexico in 2023 increased 21% more than the year before.

Numerous factors help explain Costa Rica’s rising popularity as a vacation destination, with accessibility being a key influence. Direct flights are common from many U.S. airports and take less than three hours from places like Miami. Of course, Costa Rica is also notorious for its natural beauty, biodiversity, adventure activities, safety, and eco-friendliness. It’s almost more surprising that the masses have only just discovered it.

Dominican Republic

With an 18% boost in summer flight bookings compared to 2019 and a 5% increase since 2022, the Dominican Republic ranked second after Costa Rica in terms of growth. Comprising two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, this Caribbean country has long been famous for its pristine beaches and tropical atmosphere. Yet 2023 set records in terms of visitor numbers. For the first time in its history, more than 10 million people decided to go.

A recent Forbes article notes how successful marketing campaigns helped produce such impressive figures. Seeds planted during the pandemic are now bearing fruit in terms of both tourist arrivals and outside travel investment. If the current growth rate continues, tourism will contribute around $29.8 billion to the country’s economy by 2028.

Colombia

Colombia’s summer flight bookings surged 36% last year versus 2022 and 14% compared to 2019. International visitor growth in the first quarter of 2023 was particularly robust. According to Finance Colombia, 1.4 million nonresident visitors entered the country between January and March, 25.1% of whom were from the U.S. Overall, 49% more people visited in Q1 of 2023 than in 2022.

Colombia’s visitor numbers are rising quickly for various reasons. Like the Dominican Republic, a concerted push from the government is having an impact. Despite lingering misconceptions and safety concerns, there’s no denying the country’s beauty, diversity, exotic food, and rich history. Throw in the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains, and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and Colombia’s growing appeal among tourists is no surprise.

Jamaica

Jamaica saw 14% more summer flight bookings in 2023 than in 2019 and 15% more than in 2022. Such figures meant the Caribbean island was on track for a near-record-breaking year for tourism. Current data is hard to find, but in September 2023, they predicted 3.88 million visitors by year’s end, contributing $4.2 billion to the economy.

This uptick in tourism is already creating logistical headaches. For example, in April last year, Jamaica made headlines when the influx of visitors in Q1 caused significant queues and delays at the island’s main airport. Jamaica’s sun-kissed beaches, turquoise waters with overwater bungalows, tropical atmosphere, and friendly locals are proving harder than ever to resist.

Puerto Rico

Like Colombia, Puerto Rico ‘s tourist industry grew more last year than it did relative to pre-pandemic levels. The number of summer flights to the island climbed by 20% compared to 2022 and 14% versus 2019. That’s no small feat, considering 2022 was a record-breaking year for the island’s tourism sector. Early last year, Discover Puerto Rico, the official Destination Marketing Organization for the island, said they’d seen peaks in incoming travelers, record revenues, and more local tourism employees than ever before in its history.

They attributed that success to creative global marketing campaigns highlighting Puerto Rico’s unique attributes and ease of travel. It’s safe to assume these factors also played a role in 2023. Not only do direct flights take less than three hours from many parts of mainland America, but U.S. travelers don’t need either a passport or visa either. Pristine beaches, fine weather, exotic food, and a rich cultural heritage add to the appeal.

 

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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