Travelers planning their summer getaways got hot tips on Tuesday — 50 of them, to be exact, when TripAdvisor announced the winners of its sixth annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. Vacation planners’ go-to locales make up the top-25 Traveler’s Choice Destination Lists for the United States and the world.
Winning destinations make the lists based on reviews and opinions from travelers who use the review and booking site.
"The Travelers’ Choice Destinations were determined based on the millions of reviews and opinions gathered over a 12-month period (Feb. 2013-Feb. 2014)," Julie Cassetina, TripAdvisor’s senior public relations specialist, told Yahoo Travel.
"Separately, we were able to identify the months for each destination that received the highest traffic. For example, Istanbul saw the highest traffic in May of 2013."
Nearly 500 destinations worldwide grabbed coveted spots on the lists. “We saw new additions on both the US and World Destination Lists that people are excited about, whether it’s due to iconic sites and landmarks or outstanding restaurants, beaches and hotels,” Cassetina said.
TripAdvisor noted newcomers and spot jumpers. Perhaps the most notable was Istanbul, Turkey, which took top spot among world destinations, up from its former No. 11 position. One reason Cassetina gives for the surge: affordability. “Like many of the international destinations, particularly in Asia, Istanbul offers a great value with one U.S. dollar equaling two Turkish lira.”
Another trend TripAdvisor saw among the Top 25 in the world was an increase in Asian destinations. “Six of the top spots are from Asia, with four climbing at least 10 spaces over the past year,” Cassetina said. “These Asian cities are great for sightseeing, cuisine, weather and value.”
In the group was Beijing, up 17 spots to No. 4; Hanoi, a newbie on the list, grabbing No. 8; Siem Reap, up 14 spots to No. 9; and Shanghai, climbing 12 rungs to No. 10.
Other Asian winners were Bangkok (No. 20) and Chiang Mai (No. 24). “We’re especially pleased to see not one, but two Thai destinations recognized by TripAdvisor as part of the 2014 Travelers’ Choice Top 25 Destinations in the World,” Tourism Authority of Thailand – New York director Srimala Waraphaskul told Yahoo Travel. “Thais are known for being both friendly and hospitable, and this recognition is particularly gratifying because the voters are those who have intimately and positively experienced our destination with their loved ones and friends.”
Several U.S. destinations ranked high on the world list: New York City (No. 12, down 10 slots), Chicago (No. 18, down 4 spaces), and San Francisco (No. 25, down 18). The same three cities held top spots in the Traveler’s Choice Awards list for the U.S., with New York City maintaining first place, Chicago up a spot to No. 2 and San Francisco down a rung to No. 3.
“These honors reinforce the theme we’ve been developing: ‘Never the same. Always San Francisco.’ Every visit there’s something new to be discovered from neighborhoods and exhibitions to restaurants,” Laurie Armstrong, San Francisco Travel Association director of media relations for U.S. and Canada, told Yahoo Travel. “What’s always found is the same emotional experience, wonderful views, refreshing climate and great people.”
Last month, the travel association announced that the city’s 2013 visitors total was 16.9 million, a 2.3 percent increase from 2012.
“The record-breaking amount of visitor spending and increased number of jobs that support the tourism industry are clear indications that San Francisco remains an international destination city,” San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said at the time.
Lee added that the city will benefit from tourism-friendly projects (including expanding its Moscone Center convention complex) that he believes are “essential to the future of San Francisco’s most important industry, tourism.”
Other California cities also made the list, with Los Angeles up two places to No. 6, newcomer San Diego hitting the list at an impressive No. 7 and Palm Springs climbing up six points to No. 17.
Hillary Angel, public relations manager for Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, says desert city appeals to a wide range of visitors, from the wallet-conscious to luxury seekers and from LGBT travelers to families. “We’ve seen a huge jump in Palm Springs’ Transient Occupancy Tax, up 12 percent from last year, and are set to exceed $20 million in 2013-14,” Angel said — a marked increase from five years ago.
Ten of the Top 25 U.S. destinations are in the South. Texas came in boldly with three cities on the list: Houston, up 13 spots to No. 12; San Antonio, up one spot to No. 16; and Austin, making its first appearance on the list at No. 18. New Orleans was up five spots to No. 5, and Charleston, S.C., was up two points to No. 13. Newcomers Atlanta and Nashville came in at No. 20 and No. 24, respectively.
In the video below: more about Istanbul, this year's top destination