Where in the World do Americans Wish to Vacation?

World of travel: Americans see Italy as their #1 overseas vacation destination.Have you ever wondered where Americans would wish to vacation overseas if they had the opportunity and the financial wherewithal? It’s a topic that that Harris Interactive surveys every year.

The results are now in for the 2011 survey, which queried nearly 2,200 adults online in July … and for a second year in a row, Italy comes in first place in popularity.

Countries in Europe and Oceania remain the most popular vacation countries for Americans, a finding Harris has observed in annual surveys ever since 2008. This year, the Top 10 countries chosen by respondents for vacation destination are as follows:

#1: Italy
#2: Great Britain
#3: Australia
#4: Ireland
#5: France
#6: Greece
#7: Spain
#8: Germany
#9: Japan
#10: Canada

Since 2008, the biggest shift in popularity has been in Spain (up three notches) and in Japan (down two spots). What’s causing this? One too many natural disasters in Japan? … The increased popularity of the Costa del Sol?

While Italy is the top pick in 2011 for both men and women, there are some differences when looking at the next-ranked countries:

 For men, the #2 choice is Australia, followed by Great Britain.

 For women, the #2 choice is Great Britain, and Ireland is #3.

 Baby boomers as well as respondents over the age of 65 choose Great Britain over Italy as the top vacation destination.

In viewing the 2011 results, I was somewhat surprised by the lack of any Caribbean countries on the list.

If Harris continues to conduct this survey annually, it will be interesting to see how the results change over time. I’d predict that Brazil and Argentina may start making the Top Ten list before too long. (Speaking for myself, those two would be my picks a lot sooner than some of the other countries listed above.)

More survey stats and a history of results can be found here.

4 thoughts on “Where in the World do Americans Wish to Vacation?

  1. Those results are interesting. I was just talking to my mom about visiting me here in Africa. She mentioned that going on safari was on her “bucket list” and I would have thought it was on the list for lots of other Americans as well (along with seeing the Pyramids). When it comes to Africa, though, most Americans would probably struggle to name a specific country where they could go on safari and there are several). I imagine Caribbean countries suffer from a lack of individual identity.

    I should say that I haven’t seen how the poll was conducted, but could it actually be more telling of Americans’ ability to name or identify a foreign country?

  2. I suspect “Eat, Pray, Love” may have given Italy a bounce, just as a Royal Wedding may have given the UK a bounce. Of course, a more-or-less mutual language has always made the UK, Australia, and Ireland more attractive to many Americans than, say, Luxembourg (which is a fabulous place). But the impact of films and television programs cannot be discounted. The head of the tourist bureau in Salzburg, Austria, once said her city was not even on a tourist map until “The Sound of Music” opened in American cinemas back in the ’60s. Then Ka-Boom!

    That Spain is coming on doesn’t surprise me. For years, Americans conflated Spain with Latin America. But the country is thoroughly European. Madrid and Barcelona both have blossomed since the Franco days—though I gather recent economic problems have dampened some of the effervescence. Still, when you throw in the beaches and cuisine, Spain is a wonderful destination. The word must be spreading.

    France is an enigma. Many Americans loathe the French—everything about them—and yet “l’Hexagone” shows up at number five. Too, as of a few years ago, French was number ONE (beating Spanish by a wide margin) in the American intermediate-to-advanced language-learning market. Go figure.

  3. I have a different theory for these survey results.

    According to Harris, respondents were asked an open-ended question: to name the one country they would choose as their vacation destination if cost were no object. But most Americans are woefully ignorant of geography and can’t be expected to know every one of the world’s country names. More likely, each respondent chose from the short list of country names which they already knew. Also, to avoid any embarrassment, they probably shied away from choices that are the least bit confusing.

    That’s probably why they did not choose Thailand, where I live. It’s one of the world’s premier tourist destinations but my American friends often ask me, “How are things going in Taiwan?”

    My theory may further explain why Africa (along with the Middle East) is Americans’ least-favorite region. How to choose between Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau or Papua New Guinea? (Whoops, Papua New Guinea is on the Asian side of the globe … but then again not too many Asian countries made the Harris list, either.)

    It would also explain the absence of any Caribbean countries. Dominica, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla … it’s all so hopelessly confusing! (Except for Cuba and Haiti, maybe.)

    My theory does fall over in one respect. Australia has consistently ranked among the top three countries since 1997 … or was that Austria?

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