The pandemic may still be raging world-wide, but travelers still have their travel favorites, and are becoming more eager to return to them.
Condé Nast Traveler’s 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards results were unveiled this week: the readers’ picks of the best hotels, resorts, cities, countries, islands and more in the world.
The winners are voted on by more than 800,000 readers ranking their travel experiences around the globe. This year’s results — voted on as people just started returning to travel post-pandemic — uncover trends directly from travelers, highlighting the places they missed most and can’t wait to return to next.
Japan, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Morocco, Mexico and Iceland were among the winners in more than one category. I’ve included the winners of a few of the top lists below — Best Cities, Best Countries, Best Hotels in the World and more, in the order of choice, first being most popular. (And I add my quick take.)
Following that is new consumer data about travelers’ thoughts, feelings, and behavior changes around travel, as we emerge post-pandemic.
The best U.S. cities to travel to:
Best Large Cities in the U.S.— Chicago; New York; New Orleans; Boston; San Francisco; Washington; D.C.; San Diego; Portland, OR; Honolulu; Nashville. (Noticeably missing: Miami and Los Angeles)
Best Small Cities in the U.S. —Aspen, CO; Charleston, SC; Alexandria, VA; Santa Fe, NM; Greenville, SC; Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA; Key West, FL; Savannah, GA; Jackson Hole, WY; Newport, RI. (Half are in the south.)
The best international cities to travel to:
Best Large Cities in the World — Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Singapore, Singapore; Istanbul, Turkey; Mérida, Mexico; Marrakech, Morocco; Oporto, Portugal; Bangkok, Thailand; Seoul, South Korea. (Japan takes the top three; Porto beat out Lisbon. And no Paris!)
Best Small Cities in the World — San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; San Sebastián, Spain; Salzburg, Austria; Siena, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Bruges, Belgium; Cambridge, United Kingdom; Reykjavik, Iceland Galway, Ireland; Kralendijk, Bonaire. (SMA wins again. And look at number 10!)
The best countries to travel to:
Best Countries — Portugal, New Zealand, Japan, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Croatia, Turkey. (Portugal is hot!)
The best airlines:
Best Domestic Airlines — Hawaiian Airlines; Alaska Airlines; Delta Air Lines; JetBlue Airways; Tradewind Aviation (Tradewind?)
The best car rentals:
Best Car Rentals Companies — Silvercar by Audi; National Car Rental; SIXT; Enterprise-Rent-a-Car; Alamo (The most well-know companies are not here.)
The best hotels in the world:
Best Hotels in the World (Top 10) — La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco; Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, Shanghai, China; Raffles Istanbul, Turkey; Relais Borgo Santo Pietro, Palazzetto, Italy; Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz, Switzerland; Hotel SP34, Copenhagen, Denmark; Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland; The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL, USA; Waldorf Astoria Beijing, China; W Doha, Qatar. (Although I have visited many of these, I have only stayed at one — Badrutt’s — and it is a fascinating place. There are, of course, hundreds of other hotels in the world that are also exceptional. Interesting that the ultra-luxurious “seven-star” Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where I did stay, is not on this list.)
YEAR IN TRAVEL SURVEY
This year, Conde Nast Traveler also debuted a one-time-only travel habits survey as part of the Readers’ Choice Awards where they asked readers for their thoughts, feelings, and behavioral changes regarding traveling now.
The Year in Travel survey findings are included below:
- 8 in 10 respondents took at least one leisure trip since March 2020 (82%)
- 1 in 4 took an international leisure trip during the pandemic (23%)
- More than half of respondents (52%) considered working remotely/abroad since COVID began
- 9 in 10 (91%) mentioned their travel habits shifted because of COVID-19 (with the majority now wanting to take more trips than before)
- 44% of respondents mentioned they’d prefer to visit a new or favorite destination instead of reuniting with friends/family
- When asked what type of trip respondents were likely to take now vs. pre-pandemic, 3 in 4 (76%) opted for a city vacation
- 9 in 10 reader trips (89%) were directly impacted by COVID-19 last year
- 2 in 5 respondents (40%) took at least two leisure trips since March 2020 (5% took more than seven)