Kurt Weinsheimer
Kurt Weinsheimer

As the year wraps up, travel ramps up, particularly in North America, where travelers celebrate several winter holidays. Some seek the warmth of family and friends, while others are inspired by ski destinations or the warmth of a sunny beach before winter sets in. Either way, airports, railroads and highways are packed with holiday travelers during December.

We at Sojern wanted to look forward to December travel in order to see how it's shaping up this year. Our latest Global Travel Insights Report offers a deep dive into global Q4 travel planning, and here we highlight North America's travel-intent patterns for the upcoming holiday season.

Top December destinations

Early planners are already looking for warm getaways this winter.

With the exceptions of New York and London, the top 10 searched destinations for 2016 consist of locations with warm weather. The list also shows a strong preference for beach getaways: six of the top 10 destinations are known for their beaches.

Comparing the top searched destinations from 2016 to those of 2015 reveals an interesting shift that we've noted in a previous Data Points, specifically a drop in popularity for the Caribbean. Here, Cancun drops two locations, and San Juan falls one.

The good news for Caribbean travel marketers is that they still have time to inspire travelers to their destinations and climb back up in the rankings.

Top destinations by category

Looking at the top 10 destinations searched for December provides a taste of what's to come for travel.

But looking at them by category offers an insight into what kind of trips people are planning and where they are looking to spend their December.

Focusing on beach locations, we get a better understanding of how Caribbean destinations are faring. Four of the top 10 beach destinations are in the Caribbean, and Cancun is in the No. 2 spot. So while it fell a bit in the overall destinations ranking, it is still strong in the beach category. The decline could be due more to a shift in the type of vacation that's desired rather than the location itself.

Ski locations dominate the outdoor/recreation category, featuring destinations such as Aspen and Vail, Colo.; Bozeman, Mont.; Denver; Salt Lake City; and Calgary, Alberta. Reykjavik, Iceland, and Anchorage promise views of the northern lights in the winter and round out the list of recreation destinations. In a recent partnership with Google, we saw Reykjavik continue to hold strong as a rising destination throughout 2016 as well.

How to dominate December travel

Learning the top destinations searched, especially by destination type, reveals just how important it is that you know and find your audience. If you only understand or analyze the top destinations in terms of volume, you don't get the full picture. Specifically, if your destination, property or offering is considered to be a special-interest product, it's important to know with whom you compete.

For example, none of the ski destinations come up in the top overall destinations searched for December. But if you focus in on that audience, you see that ski destinations such as Vail are already attracting a lot of searches. Knowing your audience, then finding and reaching them is of the utmost importance for any travel marketer. The more you know, the better you can target and the more effective your marketing spending will prove to be.

Download our latest report at www.sojern.com/travel-insights/2016-q3? if you are interested in more Q4 travel-planning patterns and takeaways for travel marketers.


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