Skift Take

For nearly a decade, the New York Times publishes one of the world’s most popular annual travel destination lists, inspiring travelers to choose their next destination. The following is a trend review and analysis of the destinations featured by the publication.

Each January the New York Times publishes its “Places to Go” list of travel destinations to consider in the coming year.

While dozens of other print and digital publishers vie for consumers’ attentions with their own annual travel lists, “Places to Go” is a powerful influencer in the travel-planning process. It is also an important list for tourism industry professionals, particularly destination marketers and management companies, to turn to when developing their tourism products and services in tandem with current and emerging trends.

In reviewing the Times’ 2016 “52 Places to Go” list of suggested destinations, Mexico, Spain, and France are clear winners, since each country has three of its destinations selected this year.

We’ve covered the past two years of selections with interviews with the editor behind the annual list (2014 is here, and 2015 here), but we thought it would be interesting to go a little deeper and look at how the destinations have been spread out since the list was started in 2008. We’ll try to identify and analyze these trends and, in turn, offer tourism industry professionals insight into patterns in how destinations are listed.

9 Years of Picks

Between 2008 and 2016, 416 destination listings in 122 countries/territories have been presented on the “Places to Go” series. To help understand the trends, this analysis can be divided into four categories: amount, type, variety, and frequency. Here are the key findings:

Amount: For the purpose of this story, seven geographical regions have been identified in the travel list series. [see chart below] The Americas have the highest number of destination listings, averaging 16 per year. Europe follows with an average of 14 listings per year. Asia, with an average of eight listings per year, wraps up the top three spots.

With 22 countries featured, Africa is represented on average five times a year. At the bottom of the list are the Middle East and Oceana regions, averaging two listings per year.

With 416 destinations listings in 122 countries/territories, the average number of destination listings per country/territory is approximately three. 33 out of 122 countries/territories have higher than the average number of listings, 79 countries have lower than the average number, and 10 countries are on par with the average number of destination listings. Those 33 countries with higher than average number of listings are spread among 18 identified sub-regions; however, the North America, Mediterranean Europe, and Western Europe sub-regions have the highest percentage of countries with higher than the average three destination listings. In other words, the majority of the countries in these three sub-regions have higher than the average number of destination listings.

Type: The travel editors have featured the 416 destination listings in three categories: country/territories, city/town, or a specific site/area. 83 (20%) destination listings are featured by country and 332 (80%) destination listings are featured by city/town/individual site.

Of the 122 countries/territories represented in the destination listings, 46 (38%) are represented solely as countries, 57 (47%) are represented solely as cities/towns, and 19 (13%) are dually represented both as a country and a city/town. Again, the North America, Mediterranean Europe, and Western Europe sub-regions, totaling 14 countries, have nearly 100% of their combined 143 destinations listed by individual cities/areas.

Variety: Countries in Europe, North and South America, and some parts of Asia (mainly China, India, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand) have the widest array of cities/areas. The remaining countries tend to only have their destination listed by country or capital city.

For example, Portugal and South African destinations are each listed five times; however, while five different Portuguese cities are listed, there are only three different South African cities listed. A high variety of destinations listings in a single country leads to greater awareness of its attractions.

Frequency: 40 destinations (country and city) are listed multiple times. The majority of the 23 multiple listed city destinations are either European or from U.S. The majority of the 17 multiple listed country/territory destinations are non-European.

Favorites

Not only do Europe and the U.S. dominate the travel lists series in terms of amount, type, and variety, but their city destinations appear so often that many are repeated. This is contrary to many of the remaining countries, which have only been represented once on the travel list series over nine years. For example, Kazakhstan, a large country centrally located along the Silk Road route has only been listed once, while Las Vegas, a small strip in a desert, has been listed three times.

In the end, North American and European destinations are the most popular choices among the travel editors. While a range of geographical regions are home to top listed destination on the annual travel lists, the subsequent regional distribution is not as balanced, leaning in favor of the more traditional European and North American regions.

So where does this leave emerging destinations? According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals increased by 4.7% in 2014, continuing an upward trend since 2009. In 2014, tourism arrivals and receipts increased in all regions.

Emerging destinations, such as Jordan or Republic of Georgia, appear on the travel lists; yet, they are less frequently listed for its individual cities/towns. It’s no surprise that this disparity leads to a higher level of awareness of attractions in Europe and North America than in emerging destinations, despite the growth of these new markets and the real potential of travel to boost emerging economies, as well as recovering ones.

The most popular destination picked by the travel editors is the U.S. city of Miami, which made the list four times in nine years. That said, there are a myriad of other domestic and international destinations that could benefit from more attention. More tourist arrivals and spending – if managed properly – could help reduce the footprint on heavily congested tourist destinations, like Miami, while also increasing wealth redistribution, job creation, and economic development across the country and around the world.

Considering that the U.S. is a major tourism source market and the main consumers of the New York Times, the expansion of its travel editor’s selection of destination listings in future issues could encourage a shift in visitor demand and travel consumption patterns, particularly in highlighting specific locations in emerging destinations rather than the entire country or its capital city. It will also offer New York Times readers the opportunity to explore new and unique travel experiences in different parts of the world and, in turn, help gain a more balanced global perspective.

From 2008 to 2016, the New York Times has presented 416 destinations listings in 122 countries/territories in their annual list. 40 destinations are featured multiple times therefore 369 separate destinations are actually presented.

Here are some of the top highlights and trends.

  • Destination sizes range from a specific section of a beach to an entire country.
  • The top destination in each of the years represents a wide variety of sub-regions (e.g. Laos, Beirut, Sri Lanka, Santiago, Panama, Rio de Janeiro, Capetown, and Milan).
  • The most frequently featured destination is Miami, Florida.
  • The country which host the most frequently featured destinations is the U.S.A
  • The countries with the most frequent destination listings in their respective region are: Morocco, USA, China, Italy, Turkey, and Australia.
  • The cities with the most frequent listings in their respective region are Marrakesh, Miami, Shanghai/Seoul/Hangzhou (tie), London and Vienna, Istanbul listings.
  • 23 city destinations are listed at least twice. Of those, 18 are either European or U.S. cities.
  • 17 country destinations are listed at least twice. Of those, 14 are non-European.
  • Israeli destinations have never been listed as a place to visit. However, Space is listed in 2012, and Antarctica and Arctic are each featured twice in nine years.
  • The now politically unstable countries of Libya, Syria, and Ukraine have all been included on the list at one point, which demonstrates how timing and opportunity can play a vital role in travel destination considerations.
  • European and U.S. destinations dominates the listings in terms of amount, type, variety, and frequency

Highlights

Regional & Sub regional Highlights

Regional Trends

Of the nine categorized regions (one of which includes Space), the Americas region has the most destination listings with 141 out of 416 destinations, followed by Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Oceana, Antarctica and Artic tied for 7th place, and ending with Space. For 2016, the Europe had the largest increases in destination listings from the prior year,
while five out of the remaining eight regions had decreased or static destination listings.

RegionsNumber of CountriesNumber of Listings% of ListingsAverage Number of Listings per year
Africa2200.00%4200%10%5
America2700.00%14100%34%16
Antarctica100.00%200%>1%1
Artic100.00%200%>1%1
Asia2000.00%7400%18%8
Europe3500.00%12700%31%14
Middle East1000.00%1600%4%2
Oceana500.00%1100%3%2
Space100.00%100%< 1%1
Total12200.00%41600%100%46

Africa
The African region holds 10% of the total destinations listings, with a total of 42 listings. The number of listings from this region range from two to ten destinations per year, with an overall average of five. In 2008, ten countries are listed, whereas in 2010 and 2016, only two are listed. This downward trend is contrary to the tourism growth numbers to the region, which has steadily increased over the last few years, and has reached its highest level at 56 million tourists in 2014, according to the UNWTO. East and North African destinations are listed 17 and 14 times, respectively, equating to a combined 74% of the total African listings. In making the list seven times, Morocco’s destinations are the most frequently listed in Africa.

Americas
With 34% of the total destinations listed, the Americas region dominates the destination listing in having 141 listings. The number of listings from this region range from eight to 24 destinations per year, with an overall average of 16. In 2008, 2015, and 2016 over 20 of its destinations are listed, whereas in the years in between, lower numbers are listed, giving the trend line resemblance of an inverse bell curve. U.S. destinations are listed 69 times, equating to 49% of the total Americas region listings.

Asia
The Asian region holds 18% of the total destinations listings, with a total of 74 listings. The number of listings from this region range from four to eleven destinations per year, with an overall average of 8. With the exception of 2011 and 2015, destination listings from the Asia region have steady increased over the years. The upward trajectory of Asian destinations listings is in alignment with tourism trends to this region stated by the UNWTO. Southeast Asian destinations are listed 29 times, equating to 39% of the total Asian region listings. In making the list 13 times, China’s destinations are the most frequently listed in Asia.

Europe
The The European region holds 31% of the total destinations listings, with a total of 127 listings. The number of listings in this region range from eight to 18 destinations per year, with an overall average of 14. With the exception of a low of eight destination listings in 2010 and a high of 18 in 2016, destination listings from Europe has remained steady. Northern European destinations are listed 35 times, equating to 28% of the total European region listings. In making the list 13 times, Italy’s destinations are is the most frequently listed in Europe, but is closely followed by English and French destinations.

Middle East
The Middle East region holds 4% of the total destinations listings, with a total of 16 listings. The number of listings from this region have remained steady and have been continuously represented with one to three listings per year. Turkish destinations are listed six times, equating to 38% of the total Middle East region listings. The remaining nine nations are each listed once.

Oceana
Having been listed eleven times in six out of nine years, the Oceana region holds 3% of the total destinations listings. In the years the region is represented, it is listed from one to three times. Australian destinations are listed six times, equating to 56% of the total Oceanic region listings.

Arctic, Antarctica, Space
Having been listed a combined five times, these three territories holds 2% of the total destinations listings.


Country Highlights

Out of the 122 countries/territories represented, U.S. holds the top place for having the most listed destinations within a country. Its destinations are listed 69 out of 416 times, equating to 17% of the total destination listings. The top ten countries have their destinations listed a combined 164 times, equating to 39% of the total listings.

The top 33 countries (which have four or more of their destinations listed) have their destinations listed a combined 164 times, amounting to 68% of the total listings. In other words, the top 27% of the countries listed have 68% of the overall listings. Of the top 33 countries, thirteen are from Europe, eight are from the Americas, and seven are from Asia, three are from Africa, and one of each are from Middle East and Oceana.

Country Number of Listings % of Total
USA 69 17%
China 13 3%
Italy 13 3%
England + (British Overseas Territory)* 12 3%
France 12 3%
Mexico 11 3%
Canada 10 2%
Germany 8 2%
India 8 2%
Spain 8 2%
Japan 7 2%
Morocco 7 2%
Australia 6 1%
Brazil 6 1%
Chile 6 1%
Thailand 6 1%
Turkey 6 1%
Vietnam 6 1%
Austria 5 1%
Croatia 5 1%
Denmark 5 1%
Portugal 5 1%
South Africa 5 1%
Sweden 5 1%
Switzerland 5 1%
Tanzania 5 1%
Colombia 4 1%
Cuba 4 1%
Greece 4 1%
Hungary 4 1%
South Korea 4 1%
Sri Lanka 4 1%
Uruguay 4 1%
89 Remaining Countries 134 32%
Total 416 100%

Destination Highlights

The term “destination” refers to a broad range of sites in the New York Times “Places to Go” series. At times, it refers to a country as a whole, like India. Other times, it refers to specific cities or towns, like Dar es Salaam or Milan. The term destination also refers to unique or specific sites like Castles in Britain, the Vatican, Northwest Passage in the Arctic Circle, or a farm in Pennsylvania.

The majority of the most frequently featured country destinations tend to be “emerging destinations;” while the majority of the most frequently featured city destinations tend to be “advanced” or well visited destinations by tourists. The chart below displays the split on how countries/territories are represented per sub-region.

  • 46 out of 122 countries/territories are represented only as a country/territory destination.
  • 57 out 122 countries/territories are represented only as city/specific destination within a country.
  • 19 out of 122 countries are dually listed both as a country and its individual destinations.

When looking at the destination listing breakdown by percentage, the following three sub-regions, consisting of 11 countries, have 100% of their destinations listed by a specific city/area/site: Western Europe, North America, and Western Africa. With a combined 125 destination listings, this represents 30% of the overall destinations listings. The remaining 70% of the 416 destinations listings are split among 111 countries in 18 sub-regions.

City Destinations vs. Country Destinations

Overall, the most frequently listed destination is Miami, Florida. Although the city has been listed separately as either Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach Miami, or Mid Beach Miami, Miami and its environs have been picked four times in nine years as the place to visit. Las Vegas, London, Singapore, Vienna, Washington D.C. have each been listed three times from 2008 to 2016.

18 out of the 23 most frequently listed city destinations are either European or U.S. cities. With singularly listed city destinations, the list offers more regional diversity and more off the beaten track locales such as Baku, Azerbaijan; Dakar, Senegal; Mysore, India; Nosara, Costa Rica; and Nozawa Onsen, Japan. On the other hand, 14 out of 17 most frequented listed country/territory destinations are dominated by non-European countries. It is a well-diversified group with a more even representation of the five out of the seven continental regions. The three European countries on this list all reign from Central/Eastern Europe.

The chart below shows the city and country/territory destinations that are listed at least twice. None of the Oceanic destinations are listed multiple times. If Turkey was classified under the European regional bucket in this report, none of the Middle Eastern destinations would been represented on either of these lists.

City Destination (23) Number of Listings
Miami & Miami Beach, FL, USA 4
Las Vegas, NV, USA 3
London, England 3
Vienna, Austria 3
Washington DC, USA 3
Cesme, Turkey 2
Copenhagen, Denmark 2
Hvar, Croatia 2
Hangzhou, China 2
Istanbul, Turkey 2
LA & Downton LA, CA, USA 2
Malaga, Spain 2
Manchester, England 2
Marrakesh, Morocco 2
Milan, Italy 2
NYC & Downton NYC, NY, USA 2
Oslo, Norway 2
Park City, UT, USA 2
Rome, Italy 2
San Diego, CA, USA 2
Seoul, South Korea 2
Shanghai, China 2
Tahoe, CA, USA 2
Total 52

Why does the distinction in the listing type matter? One of the reasons is awareness. How many people are still referring to Africa as a country? With more information and marketing of destinations within a country, the more the public and travel consumers become educated of the location of destinations and can potentially inspire them to travel there.

Regional & Sub-Regional Focus

Africa


The 42 listed African destination listings represent 22 of the approximately 54 countries in the continent. Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, and Egypt all have at least three of its destinations make the list. These top four countries, which hold the most frequently listed destinations in Africa, make up 50% of the times African destinations are listed. For the remaining 50%, 18 other African countries have its destinations listed. 12 out of the 22 African countries represented are solely listed as a country destination, while the other ten countries are represented by its city/area/site destinations. 18 African cities/areas including Laikipia Plateau (Kenya), Accra (Ghana), Tlemeen (Algeria), and Virunga National Park, (DRC) are listed as destinations.

Africa Sub Regions Number of Countries in Sub Region Number of Listings %
East 11 17 40%
North 5 14 33%
South 2 7 17%
West 2 2 5%
Central 2 2 5%
Total Africa 22 42 100%

East Africa

Although the East African region consist of approximately 18 countries, only 11 from this sub-region are listed. The combined destinations from these countries made the list 17 times, equating to 40% of the total African region listings. With five listings, Tanzania leads the East African sub-region with the most number and array of destinations listed. Nine East African destinations are listed by country, while the remaining five destinations are listed by city or area. Ethiopia and Kenya are solely represented by its city/area, while eight countries do not have any of its individual destinations listed. For the seven years destinations in this region are listed, it has been listed one to four times per year, the most often of all the African sub-regions.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia11
Laikipia Plateau, Kenya11
Madagascar11
Malawi11
Mauritius11
Mozambique112
Seychelles112
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania11
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania11
Tanzania112
Zanzibar, Tanzania11
Uganda11
Zambia11
Zimbabwe11
Total East Africa43012042117

North Africa

Destinations in five North African countries have made the list 14 times, equating to 33% of the total African region listings. With seven listings, Morocco leads the North African region (and the entire African continent) with the most number and array of destinations listed. With two listings, Marrakesh is the most listed African in the continent. Three North African destinations are listed by country, while the remaining ten destinations are listed by city or area. Libya and Tunisia do not have any of its individual destinations listed. For the seven years destinations in this region are listed, it has been listed one to two times per year, the 2nd most often of all the African sub-regions.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Algeria11
Tlemeen, Algeria11
Alexandria, Egypt11
Port Ghalib, Egypt11
Red Sea, Egypt11
Libya11
Casablanca, Morocco11
Dakhla, Morocco111
Essaouira, Morocco11
Marrakesh, Morocco12
Oualidia, Morocco11
Rabat, Morocco11
Tunisia11
Total Northern Africa52131101014

Southern Africa

Destinations in two Southern African countries have made the list seven times, equating to 17% of the total African region listings. With five listings, South Africa leads this Southern African region with the most number and array of destinations listed in this region. With neighboring Botswana and Lesotho, which contains a myriad of tourist friendly adventures and UNESCO designated sites such as the Okavango desert and Tsodilo rock art (also known as the Louvre of the Desert), perhaps more destinations from this sub-region will appear on future travel lists.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Namibia112
Cape Town11
Constantia11
Durban11
South Africa112
Total Southern Africa1110012107

West Africa

Although the West African region consists of approximately 16 countries, only Accra, Ghana and Dakar, Senegal are listed. This region of Africa is rich with tourist friendly adventures, activities, and far too many UNESCO designated sites to mention. Perhaps more destinations from this sub-region will appear on future travel lists.

Central Africa

Although the Central African region consist of approximately eight countries including Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, only one country from this region has been listed. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Belgian) and Republic of Congo (French) are the only two countries listed from this region, which is filled with visitor attractions such as national parks, beaches, and cultural institutions.

The Americas


The 141 listed destination listings from the Americas region represent 27 countries/territories. Two countries/territories are solely listed as a country/territory while the other 25 countries/territories represented are listed by its city/area/site destinations. The U.S. destinations listings represent 49% of all the Americas listings. Miami, being the most frequently listed destination with four listings in nine years, has more frequent listings than 21 countries in the Americas regions over the same time period. Without accounting for U.S. destinations, there are 56 cities/areas listed as destinations including Charlevoiz, Canada; Puebla, Mexico; Roatan Honduras; Star Island Bahamas; and Tozeur, Uruguay.

Americas Sub Regions Number of Countries in Sub-Region Number of Listings %
North (USA) 1 69 49%
South 8 27 19%
Caribbean 11 17 12%
North (Canada) 1 10 7%
North (Mexico) 1 11 8%
Central 5 7 5%
Total Americas 27 141 100%

United States

Out of the 50 United States, 30 states are listed. With holding 16% of the total U.S. listings, California holds the top spot for having the most listed destinations in a state. In combination with placeholder #2 Florida and #3 New York, all of which have at its destinations listed at least six times, these top three states with the most destination listings make up 35% of the times U.S. states destinations are listed. For the remaining 65%, 27 other states have destinations listed. 46% of the U.S. destinations are from the western region of the country. U.S. destinations are listed three to thirteen times per year.

Cities
After Miami, Las Vegas and Washington D.C. are the next most frequently listed U.S. city destination with making the list three times. Tied for 3rd place are L.A., NYC, San Diego, Tahoe, and Park City, each having been listed twice. These top eight most frequently listed city destinations make up 29% of the listings coming from USA. The remaining 71% of the destinations listed are made up of 49 different destinations, offering a wide representation of what the U.S. has to offer visitors.

State 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Total
California 3   1   3   3   1 11
Florida 2 1   1     1 2   7
New York 1 1       1 1 2   6
Colorado     1       1 1   3
DC   1       1     1 3
Hawaii   1   1   1       3
Nevada 1 1 1             3
Texas   1       1     1 3
Washington       2   1       3
Michigan 1               1 2
New Mexico               2   2
Pennsylvania   1           1   2
Tennessee         1   1     2
Utah       1         1 2
Wyoming           1   1   2
Alaska   1               1
Arizona   1               1
Georgia             1     1
Illinois   1               1
Indiana             1     1
Kentucky                 1 1
Louisiana               1   1
Missouri                 1 1
North Carolina       1           1
North Dakota                 1 1
Ohio               1   1
Oklahoma               1   1
Oregon               1   1
Rhode Island                 1 1
South Carolina                 1 1
Total 8 10 3 6 4 6 9 13 10 69

Canada

Canadian destinations are listed ten times in total, equating to 7% of the total Americas region. These destinations represent five out of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories, with British Columbia province taking the lead with 50% of the destinations listed. Each of the ten destinations presented on the list are different, which displays Canada’s diversity in its tourist destinations.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Calgary11
Rossland11
Squashmish11
Vancouver Island11
Southern Gulf Islands11
Whistler11
Fogo Island11
Toronto11
Quebec City11
Charlevoiz11
Total00120212210

Mexico
Mexico City was chosen as the #1 destination in the 2016 list series. With two other of its cities also chosen, Mexico appears to be the top choice by the editors for the year. Overall, Mexico’s destinations are listed eleven times in the nine year series, representing 8% of the total Americas region. Each of the destinations presented on the list are different, which displays Mexico’s diversity in its tourist destinations.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Campeche11
Holbox11
Loreto11
Mazatlan11
Mexico City11
Monterrey11
Puebla11
Puerto Vallarta11
San Jose del Cabo11
Todos Santos11
Yucatan11
Total Mexico00120212311

South America

Out of the America’s 141 destination listings, South American destinations are listed 27 times, equating to 19% of the total Americas region listings. These 27 individual destinations are from eight countries. Brazil and Chile, each with six destination listings, tied for the top spot. Three South American destinations are presented by country, while 24 destinations are represented by city/area. Bolivia is the only country that doesn’t have any of its individual destinations listed. The wide array of individual destinations already listed plus the fact that none are repeated indicate the immense diversity this sub-region has to offer to tourist to visit. South American destinations are listed two to five times per year, the 2nd most often of all the Americas sub-regions.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Buenos Aires, Argentina11
Road of the Seven Lakes11
Bolivia11
Bahia11
Fernando de Noronha11
Florianopolis11
Itacare11
Paraty11
Rio de Janeiro11
Chilean Patagonia11
Chiloe Island11
Easter Island11
Elqui Valley11
Patagonia Wine Country11
Santiago11
Bogota11
Cali11
Colombia11
Medellin11
Ecuador11
Galapagos Islands11
Quito11
North Coast of Peru11
Colonia del Sacramento11
Garzon11
Tozeur11
Uruguayan Rivera11
Total South America52343134227

Caribbean

Destinations in 11 Caribbean islands have made the list 17 times, representing 12% of the total Americas region. With four destinations listed, Cuba is the most frequently represented country in the sub-region. Eight destinations are listed by country, while five destinations are listed by city. Destinations in this sub-region are listed seven out of nine years, with one to four listings in each of those years.

Destination2008200920122013201420152016Total
Cuba112
Havana11
Vinales11
Barahona11
Puerto Plata11
Samana11
St. Vincent & the Grenadines112
Guadeloupe11
Anguilla11
Puerto Rico11
Coral Bay11
St. Kitts11
St. Lucia11
Star Island11
Virgin Gorda11
Total Caribbean423113317

*Although some of the Caribbean Islands mentioned are technically overseas territories of other countries (e.g. Puerto Rico and St. John belongs to the U.S.; Anguilla and Virgin Gorda belongs to Britain), for geographic simplicity, they have been categorized under the Caribbean.

Central America

Destinations in five Central American countries have made the list seven times, equating to 5% of the total Americas region. Four destinations are listed by country, while three destinations are listed by city. Destinations in this sub-region are listed five out nine years, with one to two listings per in each of those years.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Belize11
Costa Rica11
Nosara11
Roatan11
Nicaragua11
Panama11
Playa Blanca11
Total Central America2010211007

Asia

The 74 Asian destinations listings represents 20 countries. China, India, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, all have at least of five of its destinations make the list. These top five countries make up 54% of the times Asian destinations are listed. For the remaining 46%, 15 other Asian nations are represented. Eight out of the twenty Asian countries represented are solely listed as a country destination, while the other twelve countries are represented by its city/area/site destinations. 51 Asian cities/areas including, Mergui Islands (Myanmar), Changbaishan (China), and Kalpitiya (Sri Lanka) are listed as destinations. Destinations in this region are listed four to eleven times per year.

Asia Sub Regions Number of Countries in Sub Region Number of Listings %
Southeast 9 29 39%
Northeast 5 26 35%
South 5 18 24%
Central 1 1 >1%
Total Asia 20 74 100%

South East Asia

Out of Asia’s 74 destinations listings, Southeast Asian destinations are listed 29 times, representing 39% of the total Asian region listings. These destinations are from nine countries. Vietnam and Thailand destinations dominated this sub-region with a combined 12 out of the 29 listings, equating to 41% of Southeast Asian region listings. In making the list three times, Singapore, is Southeast Asia’s sub-region most frequently listed destination. Five Southeast Asian destinations are listed by country, while the remaining 22 destinations are listed by city or area. Laos and Singapore are the only countries that do not have its individual destinations listed. Destinations in this sub-region are listed two to five times per year, the most listings of the Asian sub-regions.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Kohh Rong11
Phnom Penh11
Siem Reap11
Lombok11
Ubud11
Yogyakarta11
Laos11
Kuala Lumpur11
Malacca11
Penang11
Mergui Islands11
Myanmar11
Boracay11
Philippines11
Singapore1113
Bangkok11
Koh Kood11
Koh Phangan11
Koh Samui11
Krabi11
Phuket11
Dalat11
Danang11
Halong Bay11
Mekong River11
Quang Binh11
Vietnam11
Total South East Asia33224552329

Northeast Asia

Out of the Asia’s 74 destinations listings, Northeast Asian destinations are listed 26 times, representing 35% of the total Asian region listings. These destinations are from five countries. China and Japan dominated this sub-region with a combined 20 out of 26 listings, equating to 77% of Northeast Asian region listings. In making the list two times, Shanghai, Seoul and Hangzhou, are Northeast Asia’s most frequently listed city destinations. Three North East Asian destinations are listed by country, while 21 destinations are listed by city. Mongolia and Taiwan are the only countries that do not have its individual destination listed. For the seven years destinations in this region are listed, it has been listed three to four times per year.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Changbaishan11
Chengdu11
Guizhou11
Hangzhou112
Lhasa11
Moganshan11
Ningxia11
Pingyao11
Shanghai112
Shenzhen11
Xishuangbanna11
Ishigaki11
Kansai11
Niseko11
Nozawa Onsen11
Okinawa11
Shikoku11
Tokyo11
Mongolia11
Pyeongchang11
Seoul112
South Korea11
Taiwan11
Total NorthEast Asia00344344326

South Asia

Out of the Asia’s 74 destinations listings, South Asian destinations are listed 18 times, representing 24% of the total Asian region listings. These destinations are from five South Asian countries. India dominated this sub-region with eight out of 18 listings, equating to 44% of South Asia region listings. Five South Asian destinations are listed by country, while nine destinations are listed by city or area. Bhutan, Maldives, and Nepal are the only countries that do not have its individual destination listed. Destinations in this region are consistently listed one to four times per year.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Bhutan112
Chennai11
Hyderabad11
India11
Kerala11
Mumbai11
Mysore11
New Delhi11
Tamil Nadu11
Maldives112
Nepal112
East Coast of Sri Lanka11
Kalpitiya11
Sri Lanka112
Total South Asia12412321218

Central Asia

Out of the 6 “stans” in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is the only country listed in this sub-region. With burgeoning awareness of the Silk Road route as a tourist destination, this region may see more of its destinations being highlighted in future travel lists as a place to visit.

Europe

The 127 European destination listings represent 35 countries. Although Italian destinations are presented the most in this region, it is London and Vienna, each listed three times, that are the most frequently listed destination out of all the European destinations. The countries that hold the top five positions include Italy, England, France, Germany, and Spain, all of which have more than five destinations make the list between 2008 and 2016. Combined these countries make up 42% of times European destinations are listed. For the remaining 58%, 30 other European nations are represented. Seven out of the 35 European countries represented are solely listed as a country destination, while the other 28 countries are represented by its city/area/site destinations. 102 European cities/areas including, Faro Islands (Denmark), Andarmatt (Switzerland), Salonika (Greece), Gdansk (Poland) are listed as destinations. Destinations in this region are consistently listed eight to eighteen times per year, the 2nd highest regionally.

European Sub RegionNumber of Countries in Sub RegionNumber of Listings%
North103528%
West63326%
Mediterranean53124%
Central/East142822%
Total Europe35127100%

Europe North

Out of the Europe’s 127 destinations listings, Northern European destinations are listed 35 times, representing 28% of the total European region listings. These destinations are from ten countries. England (including its overseas territories) dominates this sub-region with 12 out of 35 listings, equating to 34% of the sub-region listings. London is the most frequently listed city in this sub-region, followed by Manchester, Copenhagen, and Oslo, are each listed twice. Six North European destinations are listed by country, while 29 destinations are listed by city or area. Greenland, Ireland, and Wales are the only countries that do not have its individual destinations listed. Destinations in this region are consistently listed two to six times per year, the most in the European sub-region.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Aarhus11
Copenhagen112
Elsinore11
Faro Islands11
Birmingham11
Cartmel11
Castles in Britain11
Falkland Islands*11
Liverpool11
London1113
Manchester112
Saint Helena*1
Yorkshire11
Helsinki11
Greenland11
Highlands11
Iceland11
Reykjavik11
Dublin11
Ireland11
Norway11
Oslo112
Glasgow11
Scotland11
Skane11
Dalarna11
Fjallnas11
Stockholm11
Umea11
Wales11
Total Northern Europe35236263535

Europe West

Out of the Europe’s 127 destinations listings, Western European destinations are listed 33 times, representing 26% of the total European region listings. These destinations are from six countries. France dominates this sub-region with 12 out of 33 listings, equating to 36% of Western Europe sub-region destination listings. Vienna is the only city listed more than once in this sub-region. All of these countries have individual destinations in their countries featured. No destinations are listed by country which implies that these countries are well known and advance tourist destinations. Destinations in this region are consistently listed two to six times per year.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Kitzbuhel11
Tyrol11
Vienna1113
Antwerp11
Bordeaux11
Burgundy11
Colmar11
Courcheval11
Deauville11
Ile-de-France11
Ile-de-Re11
Lens11
Marseille11
Metz11
Montpellier11
Paris11
Berlin11
Cologne11
Dresden11
Frankfurt11
Leipzigy11
Mosel Wine Country11
Munich11
Sylt11
Amsterdam11
Rotterdam11
Andermatt11
Canton Valais11
Crans-Montana11
Verbier11
Total Western Europe45223443633

Europe Mediterranean

Out of the Europe’s 127 destination listings, Mediterranean European destinations are listed 31 times, representing 24% of the total European region listings. These destinations are from five countries. Italy dominated this sub-region with 13 out of 31 listings, equating to 42% of Western Europe sub-region destination listings. Malaga, Milan, Rome, each listed twice, are the most frequently listed cities in this sub-region. Although the number of countries in this sub-region category is the least of the European sub-regional categories, five out of 35, it has similar average percentage of destination listing as the other categories with more countries. This indicates that the Mediterranean is the most popular of all the European sub-regions. Except Malta, all of the countries have individual destinations in their countries listed which implies that these countries are well known and advance tourist destinations. Destinations in this region are consistently listed two to four times per year.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Aegean Sea11
Athens11
Salonika11
Thessaloniki11
Florence11
Gargano11
Maremma11
Milan112
Portovenere11
Rimini11
Rome112
The Vatican11
Turin11
Tuscany11
Vernazza11
Malta11
Alentjeo11
Algarve11
Guimaraes11
Lisbon11
Porto11
Barcelona11
Burgos11
Caceres11
Getaria11
Malaga112
Minorca11
San Sebastian11
Total Mediterranean43233424131

Central/Eastern

Out of the Europe’s 127 destination listings, Central/Eastern European destinations are listed 28 times, representing 22% of the total European region listings. These destinations are from 14 countries. Hungary and Croatia, dominates this sub-region with a combined nine out of 28 listings, equating to 32% of the sub-region listings. The remaining 12 countries have one to two listings each. Having been listed twice, Hvar is the most frequently listed city from this region. Five Central/Eastern European destinations are listed by country, while the 20 destinations are listed by city/town/area. For the eight years destinations in this region are listed, it is listed two to six times per year.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Brno11
Jeseniky11
Prague11
Budapest11
Danube11
Pecs11
Tokaj11
Lodz11
Sopot and Gdansk11
Moscow11
Ukraine11
Albananian Coast11
Dubrovnik11
Hvar112
Korcula Island11
Varazdin11
Macedonia112
Montenegro112
Kosovo11
Subotica11
Tallinn11
Lithuania11
Baku11
Georgia112
Total Central/East30264533228

Middle East

Out of 416 destination listings that made the NY Times list, 16 of them are from the Middle East, representing ten countries in the region. Turkish destinations are the most often listed with six listings, including Cesme and Istanbul which are each listed twice. Four destinations are listed by country (including UAE, Iran, Jordan, and Oman), while eleven destinations are listed by city. Surprisingly, Israeli destinations have never been listed in the nine years. Destinations in this region are consistently listed one to three times per year.

Without Turkey, the Middle East region would hardly be featured. This region is rich in architectural, religious, and natural sites and offers of medley of gastronomical and shopping delights for visitors to enjoy. Jordan and Oman have maintained continuous political stability over the years. Hopefully their destinations will be featured again in future “Places to Go” lists.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Iran11
Iraqi Kurdistan11
Jordan11
Kuwait City11
Beirut11
Oman11
Doha11
Damascus11
Cesme112
Erzurum11
Istanbul112
Kas11
Dubai11
UAE11
Total22321112216

Oceana

Out of 416 destination listings that made the NY Times list, eleven are from the Oceanic region, representing five countries. With six listings, Australia has 55% of the total destination listings in the Oceanic region. Three destinations are listed by country, while eight destinations are listed by city. In the seven years Oceanic destinations are listed, it has been listed one to three times in those years.

Without Australia, the Oceana region would hardly be featured. Hopefully more destination listings from this region will be mentioned again in future “Places to Go” lists.

Destination200820092010201120122013201420152016Total
Adelaide11
Barrosa Valley11
Melbourne11
Perth11
Sydney11
The Kimberley11
New Caledonia11
Christchurch11
Waiheke11
Papua New Guinea11
Tasmania11
Total Oceana11010232111

Future Directions

This paper has identified and discussed the trends in the New York Times’ annual travel list, “Places to Go,” despite the travel editors’ assertion that the selection is “just” a “selection.” However, an analysis of the 416 destinations listings shows that there is a clear tendency to spotlight the more traditional North American and European destinations over emerging ones.

To recap, here are the key findings of the nine “Places to Go” issues from 2008 to 2016:

  • Amounts: 369 separate destinations are listed 416 times. Of these separate destinations, 65 are country destinations that are listed 83 times; 304 are city/town/specific sites destinations that are listed 332 times.
  • Type: For destination listings by country/territory, Asia leads the regions, followed by Africa, Europe, Middle East, Antarctica, Oceana, and Space. For destination listings by city/area/site, America leads the regions, followed by Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Arctic
  • Variety: The sub-regions with the most array of destination listings are Western Europe, Mediterranean Europe, and North America. Combined that is 32% of the 416 destination listings
  • Frequency: 334 destinations are listed only once (49 by country/284 by city), while 40 destinations are listed multiple times (17 by country/23 by city). Europe and USA have the most cities that are listed multiple times. Asia has the most countries that are listed multiple times.
  • 34 destinations are listed 2 times (16 by country/18 by city)
  • 5 destinations are listed 3 times (1 by country/4 by city)
  • 1 destination is listed 4 times (0 by country/1 by city)
Sub Regions Country/Territory City
Africa-Central Republic of Congo/Dem Rep of Congo *
Africa-East Tanzania *
Africa-North Morocco Marrakesh
Africa-South South Africa *
Africa-West Ghana, Senegal *
Americas-Caribbean Cuba, *
Americas-Central Costa Rica, Panama *
Americas-North U.S.A Miami
Americas-South Brazil, Chile *
Antarctica Antarctica *
Arctic Arctic *
Asia-Central Kazakhstan *
Asia-Northeast China Shanghai, Seoul and Hangzhou
Asia-S.E. Thailand Singapore
Asia-South India *
Europe-Central/East Croatia, Hungary Hvar
Europe-Med Italy Malaga, Milan, Rome
Europe-North England London
Europe-West France Vienna
Middle East Turkey Istanbul
Oceana Australia *
Space Space *

Although there is geographic representation across the regions, the findings show that there is a disproportionately larger amount, variety, and frequency of cities/areas within U.S. and European countries that are presented in the travel list series. Combined, the 36 U.S. and European countries out of 122 total countries/territories represented in the travel destination series, hold 47% of the 416 destinations listings. The remaining 53% of the destinations listing are from 86 countries/territories.

With the rise in digital and social media and shared economy products, as well as the evolution of travel planning, visitors of all ages – from millennials to retired silver sneakers – are traveling in record numbers. As their travel appetites become more diverse and as the middle class continues to grow in emerging economies, it would behoove publications to adapt their travel lists to reflect changing audience interests. As international tourist numbers continue to grow, visitors who have “been there, done that”, will certainly look for more unconventional locations to visit.

Of course, there will always be newcomers entering the travel arena. They may initially seek the traditional popular destinations, such as Paris, Las Vegas, or Singapore, but nine years is a relatively short period of time to have so many destinations already appear multiple times in the “Place to Go” series. Copious listings of well-known destinations, which tend to favor European and U.S. destinations reinforces awareness of those regions and does an injustice to equally evocative worldwide destinations.

Whether it’s scuba diving in Djibouti, volunteering in Guatemala, camping in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, or ice wine tasting in Niagara, Canada, there are tourism attractions, activities, services, and experiences worldwide that can suit a myriad of tastes. This is where travel lists, like the New York Times “Places to Go,” have a role to play, which means that the travel editors need to move beyond spotlighting traditional destinations in Europe and North America and give their readers a more open perspective of travel destinations in the world.

Tags: new york times, tourism