Kurt Weinsheimer
Kurt Weinsheimer

Rio de Janeiro will host South America's first Olympics Aug. 5 through 21. Though the Games are just under two months away, they're already deeply enmeshed with controversy: from corruption to reported low ticket sales to the spreading Zika threat. Despite all of these concerns, Brazil is preparing to welcome travelers and athletes from all over the world.

We at Sojern wanted to take the temperature on Olympic interest, to look beyond the controversy and see how travel to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad is shaping up. The data was pulled the first week of April.

U.S. takes silver in travel intent

First, we took the global temperature, examining which countries show the largest change in travel intent to Rio during the Olympics as compared with the month before. The U.S. has a notable 577% increase in travel intent.

The number is particularly impressive when compared with other nations: The U.K. has an increase of 287%, Colombia 432% and Israel 334%.

The only country to beat the U.S. in travel intent for the Olympics is Japan, which is showing a 716% increase.

In general, Asia-Pacific has a high increase of travel intent, perhaps due to Beijing's recent role as Olympic host in 2008 and the upcoming host duties of Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018; Tokyo in 2020; and Beijing in 2022.

Cities searching for Rio

We then looked at specific cities in order to see which origin markets are heading to Rio; New York, Miami and Los Angeles took the top three spots.

These cities, besides having large populations in general, also have large populations of residents with a Latin American background. It's possible that some of the travel might not be exclusively for the Olympics; perhaps travelers are looking to visit friends and family while also taking in a few events. It's also possible that because this is South America's first Olympics, more people with South American roots are eager to travel and support the event.

In addition to top searching cities, we also looked at top indexing cities. These are cities that saw the largest jump in intent for Rio during the Olympic dates compared with a month prior. Orlando, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Denver make up the top five indexing cities.

Peaks in dates, duration and party size

The top day of departure for Rio is Aug. 4; the opening ceremony is on Aug. 5, so it appears that fans are looking to make it to Rio just in time.

Friday, Aug. 12 and Monday, Aug. 15 are the other two top departure days. Perhaps travelers are looking for events that occur in the second half of the Games, such as freestyle wrestling (Aug. 17 to 21) or are hoping to catch the finals of basketball or beach volleyball.

As for duration, there's a fairly even spread across longer trips: almost one-fourth are travelers looking for eight- to 11-day trips, while 28% are looking for trips of 12 or more days. The Olympics span 17 days, and it seems, given people's penchant for longer trips, that many American travelers are looking to see as many events as possible.

So far, most searches are for individuals, with couples only accounting for 18% and parties of three or more making up 7%. These statistics are most likely due to people searching for a single ticket first in order to price out the cost of the trip for their group.

We expect these numbers to change as people move from the early research phase to actual bookings. With roughly 3.8 million tickets going for under $30, it certainly could be a family-friendly trip if you can get a good deal on flights and hotels.

The last Summer Olympics, held in London in 2012, saw approximately 66,000 U.S. travelers. With reports of 200,000 Americans headed to Rio for this Olympics, it certainly seems that despite all the talk of Olympic troubles, the U.S. is ready to head south and cheer on its athletes to bring home the gold.

If you're interested in more insights, check out Sojern's Q1 2016 Global Travel Insights Report.

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