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Asian cities, off the beaten path in Europe

Tokyo, Japan.

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When it comes to travel abroad, popular destinations like London, Paris and Rome always seem to top the wish list for Americans.

But many travelers are looking beyond those mainstay cities for trips in 2024. Interest in major Asian hubs, off-the-beaten-path locales in Europe and other areas has surged, experts said.

“It’s clear that 2024 is shaping up to be the year of globetrotting,” Airbnb wrote last month.

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Broadly, overseas travel is hot: Searches for international flights are up 13% year-over-year, even though prices are about 10% higher, according to Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak, a travel website.

“Americans are looking to go abroad,” Hafner said. “They’ve done the domestic stuff the last couple years.”

Here are the trending destinations for Americans in 2024.  

1. Asia takes the crown again

Hong Kong

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Americans flocked to the Asia-Pacific region in 2023 — and that love affair is poised to continue in the new year.

Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea, respectively rank as the No. 1 and 2 trending international hot spots next year among U.S.-based travelers, according to travel app Hopper.

Kayak data shows a similar trend. Its top five hot spots are in Asia: Hong Kong; Shanghai; Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan; Tokyo; and Osaka, Japan, respectively.

For example, searches for Hong Kong and Shanghai are up 355% and 216%, respectively, year-over-year, according to Kayak. (The travel site analyzed search traffic among Americans from March 16 to Sept. 15 this year, for travel planned in 2024, and compared it to the same period last year.)

Kyoto, Japan

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Japan also ranks highly among non-U.S. travelers: Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo are among the top 24 worldwide destinations next year, according to Airbnb data.

Asian nations were among the slowest to ease border closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now that they’re open again, tourists are unleashing a pent-up wanderlust, experts said.

“People couldn’t travel there, and now they are making it up,” said Sofia Markovich, a travel advisor and founder of Sofia’s Travel.

China reopened its borders in January 2023, “one of the last places” to do so, Hafner said.

Japan reopened to tourists starting in June 2022. There are other factors driving increased interest to that nation, like a historically strong U.S. dollar relative to the Japanese yen (and other currencies), which gives Americans additional buying power, and more flights from budget airlines, Hafner said.

Search traffic for Japan has more than tripled for trips during the first nine months of 2024 relative to the same period in 2023 — a larger increase than any other nation, Airbnb said.

Americans are looking to go abroad. They’ve done the domestic stuff the last couple years.

Historically, Tokyo has “hands down” been the most popular city for Americans to visit in Asia, said Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper. Now, demand is “even greater” than usual, she said.

Tourists may also pay a hefty premium to fly to Asia next year: “Good deal” prices for airfare to the continent is $1,204 for 2024, on average — 45% more than 2019, a much larger increase relative to other continents, according to Hopper.

2. Going off the beaten path in Europe

Stockholm, Sweden.

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Overcrowding in the traditional European hubs is driving an influx of tourists to generally less-frequented areas, experts said.  

For example, Stockholm, Sweden; Budapest, Hungary; Helsinki, Finland; and Prague, Czech Republic, respectively rank seventh to 10th on Kayak’s list of trending destinations abroad.

Copenhagen, Denmark, is No. 4 on Hopper’s 2024 hot spot ranking. Prague and Edinburgh, Scotland, are No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

“People are really discovering the off-the-beaten path places,” Markovich said. “Because your Paris and your Rome and London and Barcelona are just too crowded. And experienced travelers want to get away from that.”

She recommends “a lot” of Scandinavian travel since it’s “so unspoiled by overtourism.”

The Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Additionally, Finland became a member of the NATO military alliance in 2023, driving more awareness of the nation among Americans, Kayak’s Hafner said.

Cities like Budapest and Prague have always been popular but not to the extent of some European tourist magnets, Markovich said.

One of those typical magnets — Paris — is poised for an additional burst this year: The City of Light is hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics.

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Demand for flights to Paris — and for nearby cities — during the Olympics has more than doubled versus this time last year, according to Hopper data.

Lower relative prices for some lesser-known spots in Europe are also likely attracting people, Berg said, especially since average flights to Europe overall are 5% more expensive in 2024 versus 2023, at $717, Hopper data shows.

3. The Atlantic tropics over the Caribbean

Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands.

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Although places like Cancun, Mexico, remain popular as warm-weather beach destinations, Americans are increasingly turning to Atlantic tropical vacations over the Caribbean, said Hopper’s Berg.

“This is something new this year that we started seeing emerge” and the trend “will definitely continue” in 2024, she said.

For example, Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, and Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s Madeira archipelago, ranked No. 9 and 10, respectively, on Hopper’s international trend list. Both are located off the West African coast.

People are really discovering the off-the-beaten path places.

Sofia Markovich

travel advisor

Though not on the Atlantic, Málaga, a Mediterranean port city on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, ranked sixth on Kayak’s list. The Andalusian city gets about 300 days of sunshine a year, on average, and, according to one recent report, is the No. 1 city in the world for expats.

Search interest there is up 60% year-over-year, Kayak data shows. And that’s following a year in which Málaga was already “overrun,” Hafner said.

“I think that word has gotten out,” he said.

4. Canada’s ski mountains are having a ‘renaissance’

A ski slope at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada.

Daisuke Kishi | Moment Open | Getty Images

Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal in Canada ranked third, fifth and sixth, respectively, on Hopper’s international trend list for 2024.

Winter tourism likely plays a big role, Berg said.

“We’ve seen a real renaissance of Canadian ski destinations,” she said. “They’re rivaling a lot of European ski destinations.”

Plus, air travel to Canada is generally about a third of the price of a trip to Europe, Berg added.

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