Skift Take

Flight booking data reveals Americans' top worldwide and domestic destinations so far this year. Tourism marketers take note, especially of changes from the 2019 rankings.

Americans went abroad in large numbers in 2023, and data on flight bookings has revealed their top destinations internationally and domestically — along with their most common departure cities.

Cancún led in popularity. About 17.5% of all flight bookings made from U.S. cities to international destinations were for the Mexican resort town in the prime leisure travel span of January through August 2023. The U.S.-to-Cancún bookings were at 91% of 2019’s pre-pandemic level.

Fun fact: Cancún is an invention of the Mexican government, which in 1969 took an undeveloped stretch of beach and began to create a tourism mecca. It has been a remarkable success to become the top U.S. tourism spot of 2023.

London was the second-most popular destination from U.S. airports.

Destinations that have risen in the rankings of share of total bookings since pre-pandemic times include San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; and Tel Aviv, Israel (before the conflict broke out in October).

Destination cityShare of bookings 20232023 Ranking 2019 AchievementShare of bookings 20192019 Ranking
Cancun, Mexico17.5%191%16.34%1
London, UK8.5%274%9.8%2
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic8.1%3117%5.93%3
Montego Bay, Jamaica5.8%488%5.64%4
San Juan, Puerto Rico5.6%5101%4.71%7
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico4.5%685%4.49%9
Manila, Philippines4.3%777%4.73%6
Tel Aviv, Israel4.1%893%3.75%11
Paris, France3.9%973%4.61%8
Tokyo, Japan3.7%1089%3.57%12
Rome, Italy3.6%1193%3.34%13
Mexico City, Mexico3.5%1256%5.28%5
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam3.3%1392%3.04%15
Toronto, Canada3.2%1464%4.29%10
Nassau, Bahamas3.1%1581%3.21%14
Athens, Greece2.9%16100%0%0
Seoul, Korea (ROK)2.6%17100%0%0
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico2.6%1883%2.64%17
Delhi, India2.4%19109%1.91%22
San Salvador, El Salvador2.3%2065%2.99%16
Aruba Island, Aruba2.2%2180%2.36%20

Data is from Amadeus Market Intelligence, showing January through August 2023 flight bookings for U.S.-origin cities to the top 25 global destinations. In the case of multi-city itineraries, it reflects the final destination. The “Achievement vs. 2019” column calculates the percentage of actual booking numbers achieved in 2023 versus 2019.

A note on the data: Most flight bookings made by online travel agencies and traditional travel agencies are processed through three technology companies: Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. Amadeus Market Intelligence aggregates high-level data from all three. This provides a snapshot of booking patterns reflecting the overwhelming majority of tickets booked by Americans. Skift requested the numbers.

Top Destinations Domestically and Internationally for Americans

Let’s change the question. The above table shows where Americans fly the most when they’re traveling abroad. What about blending in domestic flights, too?

Unsurprisingly, domestic destinations are relatively more visited than foreign ones. What may surprise, however, is which destinations rank high this year. After the pandemic, the rankings have scrambled. Data is for January through October.

Destination cityShare of bookings 20232023 Ranking 2019 AchievementShare of bookings 20192019 Ranking
New York City, USA4.2%269%3.95%2
Washington, USA3.08%388%2.80%7
Orlando, USA3.08%478%2.67%5
Las Vegas, USA3.05%574%2.54%4
Chicago, USA3%668%2.37%3
Dallas, USA2.54%774%2.27%8
Atlanta, USA2.5%877%2.22%9
Los Angeles, USA2.46%967%2.10%6
Cancun, Mexico2.46%1092%1.86%13
Denver, USA2.3%1183%1.82%11
Seattle, USA2.2%1284%1.72%12
San Francisco, USA2%1368%1.71%10
Boston, USA1%1471%1.68%14
Phoenix, USA1.8%1582%1.39%15
Houston, USA1.6%1683%1.31%17
San Diego, USA1.4%1784%1.22%19
London, UK1.2%1874%1.18%20
Miami, USA1.2%1960%1.10%16
Minneapolis, USA1.2%2066%1.06%18
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic1.1%21120%1.05%24
Fort Lauderdale, USA1.1%2268%1.03%21
Tampa, USA1.1%2377%0.90%23
Philadelphia, USA1%2462%0.60%22
Montego Bay, Jamaica0.8%2587%0.59%25

Data is from Amadeus Market Intelligence, showing January through October 2023 flight bookings for U.S.-origin cities to both domestic and international destinations. It compares that with January to October 2019 numbers.

An aggregation of other smaller U.S. cities accounted for 28.5% of the flight bookings in the period. Their share of overall flight bookings is only back to 69% of the pre-pandemic level. For one possible explanation, read Airline Weekly’s “Small Cities Lose Air Service as Large Airlines Exit.”

America’s Top Buyers of Flights, By City

So, who is buying all of this travel? Another chart provides a hint of where the travelers are coming from.

Below is a glimpse of flight bookings between January and October by departure market. This table shows the share of bookings and ranking for flights from U.S. origin cities to both domestic and international destinations. It compares 2023 with 2019 to get a sense of how closely patterns have returned to pre-pandemic times.

A key takeaway: One out of five flights in 2023 were booked to depart from the New York City area. That dominance partly explains why air traffic control is often such a nightmare in the New York metropolitan area.

Origin cityShare of bookings 20232023 RankAchievement vs. 2019Share of bookings in 20192019 Rank
New York City, USA21.4%274%22.18%1
Los Angeles, USA9.2%371%9.94%3
Washington, USA5.8%494%4.72%6
Chicago, USA5.76%573%6.10%5
San Francisco, USA5.65%671%6.11%4
Boston, USA4.1%777%4.06%8
Miami, USA3.9%872%4.17%7
Atlanta, USA3.5%996%2.77%11
Houston, USA3.3%1076%3.31%9
Dallas, USA2.9%1173%2.99%10
Seattle, USA2.2%1286%1.95%12
Philadelphia, USA1.7%1370%1.91%13
Orlando, USA1.6%1484%1.49%16
Denver, USA1.6%1589%1.41%17
Minneapolis, USA1.56%1678%1.54%15
Fort Lauderdale, USA1.07%1753%1.57%14
Phoenix, USA1.00%1891%0.85%18
Tampa, USA0.9%1994%0.71%19
San Diego, USA0.7%2081%0.66%20
Las Vegas, USA0.6%2176%0.59%21

Data is from Amadeus Market Intelligence, showing January through October 2023 flight bookings. It shows the share of bookings and ranking for flights from the U.S. to both domestic and global destinations.

U.S. cities not mentioned in this table accounted for 21.6% of flight departures in 2023 through the end of October.

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: amadeus, cancun, flights, gdses, international tourism, london, mexico, new york city, overtourism, us travel

Photo credit: An aerial shot of Cancún's beachfront. Source: Consejo de Promoción Turística de Quintana Roo.

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