Top 15 Vacation Destinations: Australia Back at #1

July 13, 2009

Australia ranks as the top international vacation destination for Americans if cost is not a factor in the equation, according to recent results of an annual Harris Poll, which also found that nearly all Americans (96%) would be willing to vacation outside the US if their budget permitted it.

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This year’s survey results mark a return to #1 for the land down under, a ranking? it has held every year since 1997 except last year, when it was overtaken by Italy. After reigning as #1 for 2008, Italy has now dropped back to #2 in the rankings, the poll found.

Additional highlights from the rankings:

  • Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales) has remained at #3, unchanged from 2008 results.
  • France has stayed at #4 and Ireland has stayed a #5, positions they held last year.
  • Germany has dropped two spots, to #6.
  • Japan has retained its spot at #7.
  • Greece has moved up two spots, to #8.
  • New Zealand has climbed two spots, to #9.
  • Spain remains in the #10 spot.

Countries that round out the top-15 destinations are Canada (#11), Switzerland (#12), Mexico (#13), Brazil (#14) – which returned to the list after dropping off last year, and Jamaica (#15).

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The Bahamas is the only country to have dropped off the top-15 list in 2009 after ranking at #14 in 2008.

Demographic Differences

The top vacation destinations vary by age and gender, Harris said. While #1 Australia and #2 Italy generally vie for the top spot in all groups, Italy is the favorite for women, Echo Boomers (ages 18-32), Gen Xers (ages 33-44) and Baby Boomers (aged 45 – 63) while Australia is tops for Matures (ages 64+) and men.

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For their #3 choice behind Italy and Australia, Echo Boomers choose France over Great Britain – which is the third-most-desired destination by all other age groups.

Favorites by Region

In terms of the overall regions Americans would choose for vacations:

  • Half of respondents (50%) would choose a European country for a foreign vacation if cost was not a consideration. This is up slightly from 2008’s 48%.
  • One-quarter (24%) would choose a country in Asia or the Pacific, the same as last year.
  • 15% say they would go to a country in the Caribbean or the Americans, unchanged from last year.

Only a very small number of Americans (4%) report that they would not travel anywhere outside the United States if cost was not a consideration.

Desire vs. Reality – Cost Matters

Though the Harris Poll specifically asked respondents to rate the desirability of international destinations without the encumbrance of cost as a factor, most travel surveys – including a recent study by Mintel – show that the recession and continuing economic uncertainty are causing many travelers to take shorter trips, vacation closer to home and bunk with relatives and friends rather than in hotels.

On a brighter note, a recent Expedia Travel Trendwatch report found some travelers are planning to extend their vacations this summer to take advantage of increasing deals and more favorable exchange rates in Europe, and a study by Witeck-Combs PR and Harris Interactive revealed that the gay travel outlook appears to be more recession-proof than that for the general US population.

About the poll: This Harris Poll was conducted online among 2,177 US adults, June 8 – 15, 2009 by Harris Interactive.

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