Where Will U.S. Travelers Go in 2021? Here Are the Industry's Predictions
The time around New Year's Day is prediction season, which means many major travel purveyors have either surveyed their customers or opened their books to get some ideas about which destinations will be getting the most love in 2021 from American travelers.
Usually, New York, Orlando, and Las Vegas sit at the top of the heap, the only suspense being which city occupies the top spot in a given year. But the landscape, so to speak, has changed drastically thanks to the pandemic—though which destinations are now most popular varies according to which travel behemoth you ask.
Here's a quick survey of the forecasts from the big players in travel. I tried to compare apples with apples, but in a few cases that hasn't been possible because companies have used varying devices for their predictions. At the end, I'll talk about ways to find places you should go once travel is safe again.
Results: Beachy destinations are grabbing the imaginations of travelers who use this giant online travel agency. Its top 10 starred coastal Mexico and the Hawaiian islands, plus Miami, Punta Cana, and French Polynesia. But Sin City and Disney are still potent lures, with Las Vegas and Orlando coming in at #3 and #4 respectively.
Expedia's list (in order of popularity):
Cancún (pictured above)
Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico
Los Cabos, Mexico
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Key West, Florida
Results: I'm guessing business travel trends may also be reflected here (I'm looking at you, #10 Atlanta).
Priceline's list (in order of popularity):
Las Vegas (pictured above)
Results: According to the company's data, a growing number of customers (a 128% increase, in fact) say they are using Airbnb stays as a way to explore relocation destinations. The following choices are among the top ones for this type of travel (it’s unclear whether the places are listed in order of popularity; Airbnb declined to be specific).
Park City, Utah (pictured above)
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Durham, North Carolina
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Greenville, South Carolina
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
For regular vacations, Airbnb says that U.S. travel is at the top right now, as opposed to the state of things in December 2019, when such international destinations as Paris, London, and Rome were getting the most love. The following destinations are trending (once again, Airbnb declines to specify the order of popularity).
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Palm Springs, California
Results: Vrbo did not name which destinations will be most popular in 2021, but it did release a list of "emerging destinations"—those that have seen the greatest increase in popularity in the last year. Four out of the five are near inland bodies of water.
Vrbo's trending destinations, in order of increasing popularity, are:
Outer Banks, North Carolina (pictured above)
Results: I assume that different places will rise to the top when more customers are booking summer travel. Frankly, I am surprised by some of the international locations that surfaced here, like Naples in Italy, or Rosarito in Mexico, both of which are usually considered secondary destinations.
Home To Go's list:
Florida Keys (pictured above: Islamadora)
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina
Lake Tahoe, California
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Pictured above: the road to Acoma Sky City in New Mexico, one of the fascinating destinations in our annual Best Places feature