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These Are the Most Popular Places to Travel in 2024, According to Mastercard

Americans are traveling overseas in record numbers this year, setting aside worries about inflation and “prioritizing meaningful experiences over material goods,” according to a new report from Mastercard. And people aren’t afraid to spend big for those experiences, according to the card issuer: “Nine out of the last 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry were in 2024.”

Mastercard compiled its report using anonymized spending data as well as third-party sources, which track things like visitor arrivals, length of stay, and even weather data.

“Today’s travelers are discerning, choosing destinations that offer both value and authenticity,” Michelle Meyer, chief economist and head of the Mastercard Economics Institute, which compiled the report, said. 

“They are savvy enough to stretch their funds and extend their stays, immersing themselves fully in the experiences and wonders of each locale,” she added in a statement provided to Travel + Leisure.

Some of the destinations that are trending right now are those where once-in-a-lifetime events are happening, whether it’s a Taylor Swift concert, an international soccer tournament, or a solar eclipse. At the top of Mastercard’s list for this summer is Munich, which is playing host to the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship. (That’s one reason the city landed on T+L’s own list of the 50 best places to travel in 2024.) Other global hotspots include Bali; Bangkok; and Nice, France — all three of which are surging in popularity thanks to remarkable beaches and pleasant weather.

Consumers are also looking for places that offer excellent value, whether through favorable currency exchange rates or the overall bang-for-your-buck of a compelling destination. Among the hottest trending spots on Mastercard’s list is Tokyo, where the yen is down significantly compared to the U.S. dollar, as well as fair-weather favorites including Aruba in the Caribbean and Cancun, Mexico, which are in the top 10.

When it comes to U.S. travelers specifically, other destinations rise to the top for this summer, including Athens; Barcelona; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The surge in bookings for the season contradicts some forecasts, which had predicted a rise in “coolcations,” or vacations to cold-weather spots, after record-breaking heat in recent years. According to the latest Mastercard data, high temps aren’t yet tamping down demand.

In fact, the latest information shows that travelers do indeed tend to spend more time in locations with warm weather: For example, in Italy, where the average temperature is 58 degrees, visitors tend to stay for 5.4 days on average. Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, where 76 degrees is the average, visitors often stay for more than a week or 7.4 days. (A couple of exceptions to that rule are ski destinations and places where it’s often hotter than 80 degrees.)

One other bright spot is the global cruise industry, which is, Mastercard says, “full steam ahead.” According to the issuer, spending on cruises is up 16 percent in 2024 compared to 2019, thanks in part to the value of a vacation at sea. “Given persistent price increases in the hotel industry, the price difference between cruises and hotels has widened, making trips by cruise a relatively more budget-friendly option in many cases,” according to Mastercard.

Indeed, the prices for travel are up significantly. In the U.S., the average airfare was up more than 20 percent in March 2024, compared to 2019; the average hotel room, for the same period, was up 15 percent. Still, the experts at Mastercard, say, consumers are excited to go on vacation. “Boundaries are made to be broken, and tourists have been doing just that by spending in the sector in record numbers around the world,” the company said in its latest trend report. “Whether it’s cruise ship bookings or top destinations offering great value and unforgettable experiences, the appetite for travel continues to grow.”

For more on the numbers, check out “Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries,” the full report from the Mastercard Economics Institute, at mastercardservices.com.

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