“Our data is showing a 26% increase in international travel this summer, and while iconic destinations such as Paris and Rome remain favorites our travelers’ curiosity is prompting discovery of off-the-beaten path global destinations,” says Claire Bennett, EVP and GM of American Express Travel. “From the Maldives—which is showing an outstanding 117% increase in summer bookings—to Costa Smeralda, Marrakech, and Zabreb, travelers are increasingly drawn to this idea of luxury escapism and seeking ways to disconnect—not from technology or creature comforts—but from the everyday chaos.”
Locations around the world are surging in popularity and bookings among travelers who want a more exotic trip this summer, she said.
“When we meet new people, taste new food, experience new cultures and customs, differences may certainly be apparent—but then something amazing happens. We begin to notice the things we have in common,” says Bennett.
Here are the hottest destinations of summmer 2017.
Composed of 20 or so circular atolls—which, themselves, are made up of hundreds to a thousand little coral islands—the islands of the Maldives are seeing a 117% spike in summer visitors, according to American Express Travel. We see the appeal: With secluded beaches, private lagoons, and bountiful reefs, this destination is a welcome respite from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
2. Bilbao, Spain
A port city in the northernmost part of Spain, Bilbao’s largest attraction is the illustrious Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Gehry in the late ’90s, the modern and contemporary art museum effectively launched Bilbao as a prominent cultural destination in Europe—travel is up by 114%.
3. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Tourism is up by 97% in Vietnam’s largest city, which offers a unique blend of new-age commercialism and traditional customs. You can wander among dizzying crowds, underneath mammoth skyscrapers, and through incense-clouded temples and pagodas.
4. Costa Smeralda, Sardinia
This hunk of coastal perfection on the island of Sardinia is seeing a 90% drive in travel this summer. Known for catering to yacht-dwelling millionaires, this marvel is nothing short of otherworldly, with its striking villas and pristine beaches.
5. Zabreb, Croatia
A city bursting with playful architecture, sunny shops, and candy-colored museums, Zabreb is enjoying an 89% increase in visitors. Croatia’s capital is a fantastic cultural stop for any traveler seeking a hot spot for food, music, and the arts.
6. Marrakech, Morocco
A brilliant city characterized by souks, or marketplaces, overflowing with jewel-hued spices, crafts, and a kaleidoscopic array of textiles, jewelry, and lanterns, Marrakech is experiencing a 77% rise in visitors, according to American Express Travel.
7. Ixtapa, Mexico
Transformed from a coconut plantation and mangrove estuary to a tourist resort in the 1970s, Ixtapa is a popular fishing and diving spot, thanks to its glass-like waters and granite rocks. It’ll see a 69% boost in travel this year, per the AmEx report.
8. Mumbai, India
Mumbai is home to India’s most vibrant film and fashion scene, in addition to housing the largest tropical forest in an urban landscape. It’s a great walking city with grand historical landmarks, hidden bazaars, and temples. The sprawling metropolis is set to experience a 69% rise in tourism, per AmEx.
9. Glasgow, Scotland
Scotland’s port city is famed for its Victorian architecture and captivating theater scene—it’s home to the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, and National Theatre of Scotland. Glasgow is also acclaimed for its wealth of museums. The city is set to see a 69% increase in summer travel, according to the AmEx report.
Popular among Christian, Jewish, and Muslim pilgrims alike, Israel is a Mediterranean destination booming with captivated tourists. Stunning shrines, esteemed beaches, and sacred mosques are a big draw, reeling in 56% more tourists this summer than last year.