Google is such a part of our lives these days that it’s no longer “you are what you eat,” it’s “you are what you search.” When it comes to travel, Google’s data is a great way to get a sense of which places people are interested in visiting and exploring. The company revealed that this year the top five most Googled cities, in order, are Reykjavik, Havana, Toronto, Mexico City, and Tokyo. But how do cities manage to rise to the top of the Internet search world? It’s a combination of access, affordability, and in some cases, historic changes that make a once closed-off destination the hottest ticket in town.
In the 1960s, Icelandair came up with a clever idea to get people to visit their country—offer a free stopover program where people changing planes between North America and Europe could stay a couple of days inReykjavik for no additional cost. Now, Iceland is one of the most popular destinations for travelers, both in peak summer (when the capital has arts festivals and ideal strolling weather) and in the off season, when it’s perfect for adventure travel and Northern Lights-spotting. According to Google’s data, women in their 20s and 30s were the most likely to look for Iceland trips, perhaps because it’s so safe for solo travelers.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Cuba is a huge topic for travelers. This year, President Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, signaling a major thaw in diplomatic relations. Tourism soon followed, as the first pleasure cruise and first commercial flights both left Florida for Cuba and the first U.S.-owned hotel in 60 years opened its doors in Havana. Google reports that the people most interested in going to Havana are men in their 30s and 40s who are based in Florida and love movies. Buena Vista Social Club , anyone?
Icelandair’s free stopover idea was such a good one that many destinations are trying their own version, including Toronto, which launched a program via national carrier Air Canada in 2016. Toronto’s ease to visit from the eastern U.S. (the biggest group of Google searchers are from Michigan) and the favorable American-to-Canadian-dollar exchange rate also make it appealing for visitors. It doesn’t hurt that Canada’s biggest city is also having a major food moment. Unsurprisingly, many people searching for Toronto flights are also hockey fans, as the city is home to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Although Mexico’s beaches, from Sayulita to Tulum, have always been big draws for travelers, it’s now the country’s capital that’s drawing travelers because of its history, architecture, and food. For an introduction, if you’re traveling between the U.S. and South America, consider planning a layover in Mexico City to whet your appetite.
Cool, technologically advanced, food-obsessed Tokyo is a regular favorite among travelers, but Japan isn’t content to rest on its laurels. The country has set an ambitious goal of doubling their tourism by the year 2020 by improving and updating infrastructure and constantly redefining its national culture by nailing Italian-style tailoring or beating the Scots at their own whisky game. Google’s data shows that the people most interested in going to Japan are men ages 24-35 who love technology.
Still haven’t decided where you want to go next year? Thanks to Google Destinations, you can just ask the internet for ideas. You do still have to pack your own suitcase, though.