Hot Spots for International Travel

It’s not a huge stretch to characterize meeting professionals as modern-day explorers, smartphone-toting, latte-juggling adventurers committed to discovering bold new experiences with which to entertain, enrich and engage their audiences. Whether the event is down the street, across the country or in some far-flung, exotic port of call, the planner’s task remains the same: identify what’s unique, imaginative and memorable about the destination and create access to that magic for your guests. More than a few planners freely admit that the more exotic their destination, the better.

The explorer/event-pro parallel sprang to mind while glancing over a list of the 2016 fastest-growing travel destinations for Americans, compiled from sales data by Squaremouth, a Florida-based travel insurance comparison site. Bear in mind, these figures are based on the top 30 destinations for American travelers insured through Squaremouth, and those who traveled to multiple countries only had to enter one destination to purchase a policy.

Here’s Squaremouth’s 2016 hot list, with percentage year-to-year growth from 2015:

  1. Cuba (153%)
  2. Iceland (88%)
  3. Canada (47%)
  4. Japan (33%)
  5. Belize (31%)
  6. Thailand (31%)
  7. Spain (28%)
  8. Vietnam (26%)
  9. South Africa (24%)
  10. Ireland (24%)

canadaAt first glance, U.S. travelers seem positively smitten by more exotic alternatives to the old New York-London-Paris-Munich paradigm. That Cuba tops the list is unsurprising, given that U.S. travel opportunities there, including direct flights to Havana, finally opened up this year.

“The number of U.S. travelers buying travel insurance for trips to Cuba more than doubled this year,” notes Squaremouth spokesperson Rachael Taft. “Overall, we’ve seen alternative destinations grow at a much faster rate than traditionally popular destinations like France and the United States.”

But the allure of a fresh Cuban mojito or Icelandic Mondlukaka almond cake tells only half the story. As enticing as these alt-travel destinations may seem, part of the reason for their recent bump in U.S. tourism is financial. Simply put, they’re bargains compared to the world’s A-List destinations. In fact, six out of these 10 hot spots saw a year-to-year decrease in trip cost, as shown below:

2016 Average             Year-to-year

Trip Cost                   Change

Cuba                $3,968                         -9.3%

Iceland             $3,528                         +2.3%

Canada             $2,679                         +6.5%

Japan               $3,187                         -8.1%

Belize              $2,685                         -8.8%

Thailand          $1,947                         -12%

Spain               $3,836                         +0.3%

Vietnam           $3,547                         +7.1%

South Africa    $7,715                         -9.4%

Ireland             $3,469                         -2.9%

japanIt’s not unreasonable to assume that travel costs have had a similar but adverse impact on domestic tourism to some perennial favorites. While the United States remains the top travel destination for Americans, its share of overall travelers has been in decline for the past three years, by Squaremouth’s estimate. Slow growth also had an impact on France, which fell out of the top five for the first time in five years.

Whether your event destinations require a visa or not, it’s good to know where our peeps are headed, if only for the opportunity to substitute Mondlukaka for French pastries.


Photo credits: Cover image: Havana, Cuba. Top: Kirkjufell volcano, Iceland. Middle: Banff, Alberta, Canada. Bottom: Kyoto, Japan

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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