American Express Travel Reveals Emerging Trends and Top Ten Destinations for 2018

Travel Trends Signal Interests in Cultural Discovery, Camaraderie, Premium Amenities, Wellness and More

NEW YORK--()--According to a new survey conducted for American Express Travel, travelers in the United States are focused on pursuing their personal passions through the lens of travel.

“For 2018, we see U.S. travelers expanding personal and global boundaries when they travel. We noted an increased interest in cultural discovery, personal connections, inspiring destinations, and premium, rejuvenating travel experiences,” says Tom Stein, VP of American Express Travel.


American Express Travel’s international bookings for travel in the first quarter of 2018 are up 44 percent, and the survey corroborates this interest in international destinations. 25 percent of those surveyed cite learning about history, art and culture across the globe as their most important travel goal for 2018.

  • 72 percent say that they enjoy learning about different cultures
  • 15 percent have traveled in the last year to experience new languages, customs and 20 percent (a 5 percent increase) plan to do the same in 2018


  • Over half (57 percent) of those surveyed have set ‘exploring a new destination that they’ve never seen before’ as their most important travel goal for 2018
  • Nearly half (43 percent) cite finding a local culinary spot in a hip neighborhood as the most exciting dining experience while traveling
  • 52 percent enjoy getting lost and spontaneously discovering hidden restaurants, shops and bakeries to create their own memories
  • 49 percent prefer trips with adventure and excitement


56 percent of those surveyed are willing to pay more to get better service and 53 percent like to be pampered while traveling. Additionally, luxury travelers are increasingly booking premium seating with 68 percent of those surveyed planning to fly first or business class in 2018. More than half (56 percent) view a refreshed, luxurious premium airplane as the most desired perk when traveling by air.

  • 51 percent view an airline seat upgrade as the most desired surprise and delight when booking air travel
  • 24 percent plan to use an airport lounge in the next year
  • 41 percent view room upgrades as the most desired surprise and delight when booking a hotel


While solo travel still has its place, more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed prefer a social travel experience including likeminded travelers. Who you are traveling with (25 percent) is more important than where you are going (17 percent), according to the survey findings.

  • 57 percent of those surveyed seek to interact with locals when traveling
  • 57 percent want to stay with a local while traveling
  • 21 percent say that the most desired surprise and delight while on vacation is a unique activity planned by a local expert


Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed view travel as ‘energizing,’ with nearly as many (48 percent) planning to travel over the next year to escape, recharge and reconnect with themselves.

  • 22 percent say that the most important travel goal for 2018 is to disconnect from technology, work and everyday life
  • 50 percent view on-site spa services, restaurants, nightclubs and pool as the most desired hotel feature
  • 61 percent say they feel like ‘there’s never enough time to do what they want to do’


Based on American Express Travel proprietary booking data, the top ten travel destinations for the upcoming year include:

  • Bali
  • Costa Rica: San Jose and Liberia regions
  • Dubai
  • London
  • Portugal: Lisbon and Porto regions
  • Rome
  • Tel Aviv
  • “Utah-lorado”: Park City, Salt Lake City, Aspen, Denver, and Vail
  • Vietnam: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City regions
  • Zurich

Survey Methodology

Conducted by RTi Research, 2018 Tourism Outlook: The Exploration of Today’s Modern Traveler is a public opinion survey conducted from June 9-23, 2017. The survey’s findings are based on responses from a sampling of 2,000 U.S. consumers who have traveled in the past twelve months. The sampling is balanced to U.S. census on key demographics and all respondents have traveled by air or staying in at least one hotel in the past twelve months. The study also includes a millennial booster sample of ages 18-34 with a HH income of $150k+ who has traveled over the past 12 months.

Top Ten Destinations Methodology

Top ten destinations selected based on proprietary American Express Travel 2017/2018 booking data.

About American Express Travel

American Express Travel is a global full-service travel and lifestyle services provider. For over 100 years, American Express has helped passionate travelers customize and enhance their trip experience through world-class service, exclusive programs and premium benefits. Customers have many options for accessing these services and can travel with confidence, whether booking online at or speaking with travel and lifestyle experts directly.

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and

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American Express
Charlotte Fuller, 212-640-6841


American Express
Charlotte Fuller, 212-640-6841