Cracking the top destinations code for 2016

Around this time each year, the world’s top travel publications like to release lists of places you should visit in the new year.

I am always intrigued behind the methodology behind these selections and wonder if there is a formula for compiling them or if a random list of countries would be just as interesting.

To be fair, most editors admit that their lists are somewhat arbitrary and a reflection of their own tastes and what they think their readers will like although they do sprinkle in a few destinations that are celebrating significant anniversaries in the coming year.

I studied the various lists from Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Travel + Leisure, CNN, National Goegraphic Traveler, Forbes and the Daily Mirror to see if there was any overlap and whether I could compile a best-of-the-best list.

Some lists stuck to 10 items, others chose 16 since it was a list for 2016 while others had 25 or even 50 names, all predictably presented as slideshows to maximize page views and advertising impressions as you read them.

The most mentioned places were the following:

1. India
It would top my list of any country to visit as no other place provides such a dose of exoticism. Clearly, other editors thought the same.

2. Cuba
As most of the publications above are American, the new freedom to visit this Caribbean nation for American citizens means it made several lists.

3. Iran
A similar detente with Iran means citizens from the Great Satan are curious to discover this fascinating country.

4. Hokkaido, Japan
Japan’s bullet trains will reach this northern island for the first time, making it even more accessible to travellers.

5. Poland
Every list seemed to contain some sort of Eastern European destination as an example of off-the-beaten-path Europe, but Poland was the most popular choice.

6. Taiwan
Taiwan, and specifically Tapei, interested several travel editors, possibly as a cleaner antidote to mainland, China.

7. Abu Dhabi
Middle Eastern destinations weren’t a huge hit on the various year-end lists, but Abu Dhabi was cited as an alternative to the glitz of Dubai.

8. Mongolia
9. Bhutan
10. South Georgia Island

This trio of destinations were cited multiple times, I’m guessing as examples of faraway lands that few people ever get to, but would give you bragging rights if you managed to do it. St. Helena was an honourable mention as such a destination.

Now, how about a random list of countries? I visited to generate a top 10 list and this is what I got:

  1. Haiti
  2. Kazakhstan
  3. Greece
  4. Japan
  5. Scotland
  6. Trinidad and Tobago
  7. Kyrgyzstan
  8. Vanuatu
  9. Liechtenstein
  10. Ghana

That looks like a pretty interesting list of places. It wouldn’t be hard to get some pretty photos for each and write a caption reasoning why they are worth visiting next year.

So is there a formula for creating a top 10 list for hot, trending, emerging destinations for the coming year?

Of the many destinations mentioned in the lists, I looked at the geographical breakdown was the following:

Europe: 26%
Asia: 25%
North America: 22%
South America: 12%
Africa: 8%
Oceania: 7%

That tells me that the formula seems to be to take an even number of places from continents North Americans are likely to visit, add a few from more exotic locations, and you’re on your way.

When choosing countries, take ones that have been in the news for positive reasons, such as Iran and Cuba, because there will be an awareness factor. Also throw in a few places that are marking historic milestones such as Stratford-upon-Avon for the 400th of Shakespeare’s birth as well as places with infrastructure improvements like Hokkaido’s bullet train and you’re close to done.

The special sauce is to add obscure places people are unlikely to ever have been, such as South Georgia Island or St. Helena Island.


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