Every year the United Nations organizes World Tourism Day on September 27, which aims to foster awareness among the international community on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. This year the theme is “One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities” (our industry has never lacked ambition). According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) tourism highlights this year, international tourist arrivals grew by more than four percent and generated $1.5 trillion in export earnings in 2014 – plus UNWTO forecasts a three to four percent growth in international tourist arrivals in 2015. As we look out over the next 15 years, UNWTO expects growth to steadily continue, especially as arrivals in new destinations are forecasted to increase at twice the rate of those in advanced economies between 2010 to 2030.
As a proud member of the travel industry, we wanted to see what our data shows are the top destinations with the highest year over year tourism growth. In looking at our Expedia US data in the first half of 2015, we found that overall the top four places that had the highest number of flight demand included Cancun, MX; San Juan, PR; Punta Cana, DR and London, UK. Interestingly, when looking at what we can consider emerging destinations, half of the top 20 with the greatest percentage increase in travelers are to less well-known islands—such Iceland, Seychelles, New Zealand, Grenada, and others—based on percentage of growth between the first half of 2014 and 2015. This trend in particular could indicate what we are already seeing with up and coming generations of travelers (such as HENRYs) who are looking for experiences and adventures off the beaten path, in pristine places outside of the mainstream.
In today’s digital age, social and video play a big role in raising awareness of destinations and crafting compelling experiences that entice travelers. Travel is a very personal and emotional journey, and these tools help marketers create a vivid picture so that travelers can really get a feel for a place as they dream, research, and book their trip. For instance, we recently partnered with Visit Denmark and Bermuda Tourism to help them reach younger audiences in new ways through interactive videos where viewers can choose their own travel adventure as they experience a day in Copenhagen or Bermuda.
With the wealth of information and accessibility to online content, established and emerging destinations are better equipped than ever to drive awareness, create new jobs and build more sustainable societies through tourism. What a great thing to celebrate.