Google released its “Year in Search 2019” results this week, which showed the travel destinations that had the highest spikes in searches in the U.S. from this year to last.
The list shows what’s trending — not necessarily what’s most popular — so don’t be surprised if your favorite Caribbean island or mouse-themed amusement park didn’t make the list. Instead, Google taps into the changes in the travel zeitgeist, revealing the places where Americans went — or simply aspired to go — more in 2019 than previous years.
So what’s hot in travel this year? Americans searched for “trip to…” these 10 places:
The underwater glass master bedroom of the Muraka residence at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
Courtesy of Justin Nicholas
One photo of this small south Asian nation easily explains its popularity. It’s simply beautiful. Made up of a chain of atolls, the Maldives is famous for its one-per-island resorts, translucent turquoise waters and pristine coral reefs.
A trip to the Maldives is not about exploration; it’s about staying put, which makes choosing a hotel the most important decision of the trip. Google Trends shows newer properties, such as Kudadoo Maldives and Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, were the most popular in terms of searches this year.
A stay in an over-water villa in the Maldives is de rigueur for many Americans. Then, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island upped the ante with the world’s first over-water villa with an underwater bedroom. A night there can set you back a cool $38,000 for a full-board package during peak season, which makes the low-season $10,000 bed-and-breakfast daily rate seem like a steal.
Japan’s Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.
Marco Bottigelli | Moment | Getty Images
The world is fascinated by Japan, and Americans are no different. The United Nations World Tourism Organization reported that as of September 2019 Japan posted the second highest growth in international tourism receipts, after Australia.
Yes, the 2020 Summer Olympics are a half a year away. Yes, Japan has turned the basic requirement of eating into high art (which explains why its capital city, Tokyo, has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world). And yes, you can drive go-carts through the streets of Tokyo dressed like Batman. And, any nation that has turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into an annual Christmas tradition is in good stead with the American populace.
But Japan has a softer side; it’s home to dramatic temples, natural onsens, world-class skiing, seasonal seas of cherry blossoms and a people known for their politeness.
3) Bora Bora
Sunset from the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora.
ShutterRunner.com (Matty Wolin) | Moment | Getty Images
Bora Bora is the comeback kid of 2019. Starting in the 2000s, tourist arrivals to this French Polynesia jewel started to wane. In 2009, Club Med Bora Bora shuttered its doors.
But the past few years have been kind. Interest is on the rise. People are now searching for flights and resorts, though Google Trends shows recent surges relate to rapper Lil Durk’s “Bora Bora” video and unretouched photos of Demi Lovato in a bikini.
Home to a crystalline lagoon and sugary sands, Bora Bora is a good spot to swim with sharks (the pleasant kind), rays and even whales. Diving is big business in this tropical paradise, which sits atop an extinct volcano.
Americans search for “all-inclusive” resorts as well as specific hotels, such as the Four Seasons and St. Regis properties. Luxury rooms top $1,000 per night, while more modest, grass thatched-and-drift-wood accommodations have daily rates of $300 or less. A third option is to cruise around on the Paul Gauguin, an all-inclusive deluxe vessel, named after the artist who spent the last years of his life in French Polynesia.
4) Las Vegas
A portion of the Las Vegas strip.
Dennis Hohl / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Vegas — and those who don’t.
But make no mistake — both groups go.
It’s the spot for blackjack, showgirls, pre-wedding mayhem, musical residencies, epic club scenes and even more epic elderly slot playing. The city’s history has been immortalized in Scorsese mobster films and now classic comedies. It’s glitz, glam and gutter life rolled into one discount weekend package.
Google Trends cores into exactly what people want to know about Sin City. People search for hotels, flights, shows and — Craigslist? The site is surprisingly popular in Las Vegas; proceed with caution.
Giving credit where credit is due, this desert city successfully attracts everyone from young families and celebrities to MICE travelers and the highest of high rollers. The sinners come as do the saints. Even the grasshoppers — a top trending Vegas-related search term at the moment.
Mexico is the most popular international destination for Americans.
MM i m a g e s / 500px | 500px | Getty Images
Mexico may be the fifth most popular place to search for trips, but it will almost certainly be the No. 1 spot where Americans actually end up.
Mexico is the most popular international destination for Americans — by a landslide — and has been for many years. That’s why it’s no surprise that the most searched travel question in the U.S. in 2015 was: what to pack for Cancun?
And not only are Americans vacationing in Mexico, they are quietly moving across the border. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City estimates around 1.5 million Americans live in Mexico, more than seven times the number since 1990.
The rest of the list
Costa Rica is popular for ecotourism.
Johner Images | Johner Images Royalty-Free | Getty Images
The second half of the top 10 list shows a domestic bent — Alaska, New Orleans, California and New York, in that order – with one exception, Costa Rica in the 10th spot.
Though Americans have a reputation for stateside travel, Google’s “Year in Search 2019” data shows that Americans are setting their sights on international shores. And with the number of Americans with passports now at 42% — up from just 4% in 1990 – more people are poised to turn their search dreams into reality.