FOMO Creates Sky-High Demand for North American Experiences
These themes crashed into our lives in winter 2020. Their staying power was strong—but slowly, they’re being diluted by new themes. Wonder, adventure, and exploration are creeping back in.
This summer and beyond, as vaccines rolled out widely, North America saw the highest of high seasons.
“Across the continent, pent-up travel demand materialized into something extraordinary—50 North American destinations saw their experiences bookings double versus pre-pandemic 2019,” commented Laurel Greatrix, Viator spokesperson. “With so much of the world off the table as demand for travel hit fever pitch, the US and Caribbean picked up the slack—especially the beaches, parks, and mountains.”
Ten of those 50 destinations saw more than 500% growth each, while two exceeded 1,000% growth versus 2019.*
Tulum and Cabo San Lucas break the 1,000% mark
Across North America, it was Tulum (+1,665%), Cabo San Lucas (+1,046%), St Thomas (+699%), Denali National Park (+698%), and Oahu (+654%) that saw the highest growth in experiences bookings. In Tulum, the most-booked experience was a half-day tour of Riviera Maya that combines off-roading, ziplining, rappelling, and snorkeling in a cenote. A beach and desert ATV tour was Cabo San Lucas’ most booked, and an illuminated kayak tour after dark led the way for St Thomas.
The trends were driven, in part, by two things: restrictions limiting travel outside of North America, and a shift in how travelers chose to spend their vacation.
Most booked destinations in North America
A greater appreciation for the great outdoors
Versus 2019, travelers are prioritizing the great outdoors. The experiences categories that saw amongst the highest growth versus pre-pandemic were watersports (+311%), outdoor activities (+153%), and boat trips (+122%)—and travelers headed for destinations where these were most widely available.
Operators felt the positive impact as demand surged this summer after Chicago restrictions changed in mid-June:
“More bookings mean more tours, and more tours mean more opportunities for Shoreline greeters, docents, deckhands, captains , and engineers to earn a paycheck,” said Nick Johnson, Director of Sales for Shoreline Sightseeing in Chicago. “The new energy that comes with the return of travelers has certainly contributed to a company-wide boost in morale.”
Nearly 100 US destinations saw demand double—and Denali National Park took the lead
While Caribbean destinations saw the most significant growth, multiple US destinations saw demand for experiences grow by hundreds of percentage points. Nowhere saw higher demand growth than Alaska’s Denali National Park (+698%), where the most popular experiences this summer were a flightseeing tour of Denali, an ATV wilderness adventure tour, and a zipline adventure at the only zipline course in the region.
Oahu (+654%), Niagara Falls NY (+565%), Maui (+550%), and San Juan (+545%) rounded out the top five, while the US’ most booked experiences this summer included a Chicago architecture river cruise, Las Vegas helicopter night flight, and a Boston whale-watching cruise.
Most booked experiences in North America
There’s more where that came from
Whether two or 2,000 miles away, travelers craved experience and adventure during lockdown. That unfolded into unprecedented demand in the places where restrictions eased the earliest: the US and the Caribbean.
That demand isn’t dissipating—but it is spreading, across both seasons and regions. In normal years, travel typically declines as summer turns to fall. In 2022, our data shows the opposite. As vaccination rates rise, so are bookings.
Wanderlust is prevailing—and it’s spreading far beyond North America and North Americans.
*All growth figures, for both categories and destinations, are based on gross booking value for experiences booked on Viator, comparing summer 2019 against summer 2021.
**Most booked products were calculated by units sold in summer 2021.