Shoppers walk past a fish vendor at a market in the old quarter of Xiamen, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News)

What’s Trending on Airbnb for 2019? Not Major Cities

(Bloomberg) -- It’s that time of year again, when those struck with wanderlust begin planning adventures for the upcoming year. Airbnb is here to help by releasing its top 19 trending destinations for 2019. Topping the list is Kaikoura, New Zealand, followed by Xiamen, China, and Puebla, Mexico.

The home-sharing company ranked the destinations according to internal data showing year-on-year increases in bookings, searches, and additions to user “wish lists” made for 2019 as of October 2018, vs. those actions made for 2018 as of October 2017.

“Many destinations, like Kaikoura, Puebla, and the Great Smoky Mountains, are coming back in a big way following recent hardship, from earthquakes to wildfires,” says Ali Killam, consumer trends spokesperson for Airbnb. Those disasters, Airbnb speculates, may in fact be driving tourists to such destinations.  

What’s Trending on Airbnb for 2019? Not Major Cities

The coastal town of Kaikoura, the leading locale in New Zealand, was heavily damaged by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016, but has since seen a 295 percent increase in bookings and a 210 percent increase in searches. With transportation services now back online, visitors can view seals and other marine life in the waters surrounding the historic whaling town.  

What’s Trending on Airbnb for 2019? Not Major Cities

Second on the Airbnb list is Xiamen, a port city in China that faces Taiwan, with a 283 percent bump in bookings. Xiamen is great for seafood lovers, according to Airbnb, and allows easy access to surrounding islands, including the Unesco World Heritage-listed Kulangsu, which is pedestrian-only and vehicle-free. Opened as a commercial port in 1843, Kulangsu became an important window for Sino-foreign exchanges, the history of which can still be seen in a mixture of architectural styles including Traditional Southern Fujian, Veranda Colonial, and Western Classical Revival.

Airbnb continues to see travelers sidestepping major destinations in favor of smaller or lesser-known places, according to Killam. “So much about an experience changes when you venture even just a little ways out of the major tourism hubs.”

What’s Trending on Airbnb for 2019? Not Major Cities

The Puebla region of Mexico is a two-hour drive southeast from Mexico City and ranks third with a 240 percent year-over-year increase in searches and a 206 percent increase in wish list inclusion. Like Kaikura, the region is rebuilding following a 2017 earthquake and has recently undertaken structural improvements to many of its physical attractions while welcoming a slate of new hotel openings. Puebla City, the region’s capital and Mexico’s fourth-largest city, is Spanish-built and contains more than 350 churches.

What’s Trending on Airbnb for 2019? Not Major Cities

Next up is Normandy, France, site of the D-Day landings and only a two-hour train journey from Paris. Bookings are up 229 percent. Closer to home, the Great Smoky Mountains comes in at No. 5 on the list, thanks to a 191 percent increase in bookings, followed by Buenos Aires Province, Argentina (a 188 percent increase in bookings), Accra, Ghana (a 163 percent increase in bookings), and Mozambique (a 156 percent increase).

Local experiences are also a driving factor for travelers, according to Airbnb, which has also released its accompanying list of top trending host-led experiences for the coming year. Meditation (up 367 percent) and hiking (up 655 percent) are increasingly popular activities for travelers.

Airbnb’s Top-Trending Destinations for 2019:

  1. Kaikoura, New Zealand
  2. Xiamen, China
  3. Puebla, Mexico
  4. Normandy, France
  5. Great Smoky Mountains, U.S.
  6. Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
  7. Accra, Ghana
  8. Mozambique
  9. Outer Hebrides, Scotland
  10. Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
  11. Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Valley, U.S.
  12. Santa Catarina State, Brazil
  13. Batumi, Georgia
  14. Winnipeg, Canada
  15. Pondicherry, India
  16. Uzbekistan
  17. Calabria, Italy
  18. Andalucia, Spain
  19. Taiwan

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.