2018’s Biggest Holiday Destination Gainers and Losers and How to Capitalize on Them

Koddi | Metasearch and Facebook Ads for Travel BrandsWith the holiday season in full swing, we decided to look at our proprietary data, cross-reference it with some third-party data, and identify what useful trends we are seeing and how they will impact travel marketers this season.

While the Friday before the 4th of July is the busiest single travel day of the year — with more than 2.7 million people flying to various destinations for the holiday festivities — according to the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) the end-of-year holiday travel season is massive. The 18-day stretch from Thursday, December 20th through Sunday, January 6th is expected to see nearly 46 million travelers journeying to various destinations across the US, according to the trade group Airlines for America.

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We are seeing a similar trend in hotel bookings for New Year’s, which will surpass Thanksgiving and Christmas. For Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, we are seeing travelers book their hotel room stays as early as 5-6 months ahead of each holiday and significantly ramping 2-3 months prior to the holiday. Bookings then achieve their largest spike in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the holiday.

This year, we also see some interesting changes in travel destinations for the holidays. The biggest gainers and losers for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are listed below:


Thanksgiving Christmas New Year’s
New York, NY

Reno, NV

Maui, HI

Reno, NV

Orlando, FL

Honolulu, HI

Orlando, FL

Atlanta, GA

New York, NY



Thanksgiving Christmas New Year’s
Miami Beach, FL

Key West, FL

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.

Boston, MA

Atlanta, GA

Kihei, HI

Boston, MA

Washington D.C.

It’s not particularly hard to see why travelers want to spend some of their winter vacation time in warm and tropical destinations, such as Hawaii and Florida, while also avoiding locations that often require some time to recover from the hurricane season (e.g., Miami Beach and Key West in Florida).

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Takeaways for Travel Marketers

Every destination has slightly different characteristics for each holiday, but there are some overarching strategies that travel marketers can take to drive revenue. Hoteliers in the gainers’ destinations should look to increase ADRs for these holidays when there is a reliable surge in demand. On the other hand, the destinations in the losers category need additional marketing or demand-generation. These hoteliers should look to push efforts for times of year when demand is organically low. Additionally, travel marketers should plot out their campaign playbooks based on the booking window trends noted earlier:

4-6 months prior to the holiday Raise rates to drive more revenue Start marketing efforts early, since travelers plan in advance, and consider offering holiday promotions
2-3 months prior to the holiday Focus marketing on low-cost and efficient channels Push marketing efforts substantially as bookings for the holidays really accelerate
0-3 weeks prior to the holiday Travelers are still in-market, so make any last minute marketing adjustments to ensure full occupancy Make sure your marketing efforts are 100% since many hotel searches will be for the specific holiday

Travel Data Analysis

However, we were surprised to discover the increasing popularity of Reno, Nevada. We attribute this gain to its high likelihood of offering travelers a winter wonderland atmosphere with lots of fun indoor and outdoor winter activities, such as gambling, snowshoeing, and skiing. Reno is also the closest airport to Lake Tahoe, which boasts some of the best skiing in the US.

We cross-referenced our proprietary booking data with air travel trends and found a correlation between airports with the worst and best on-time holiday travel. For instance, Honolulu, Maui, New York La Guardia and Orlando rank in the top 10 best airports for on-time holiday travel, while Boston, Washington Dulles and Baltimore rank in the top 25 worst airports for on-time holiday travel, according to 10 years of data from the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (data averaged from 2008-2017).

Other Fun Holiday Travel Facts

  • Most of the holiday bookings happen on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
  • During the holidays, Reno and Stateline in Nevada surge in bookings, whereas bookings in Las Vegas decline.
  • South Lake Tahoe is a popular holiday destination, with the exception of Memorial Day.
  • Florida is most popular during Martin Luther King Jr. Day and least popular during Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
  • Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista, and Orlando are all popular for Christmas.
  • The least preferred big city to travel to during Thanksgiving is Denver, CO (also listed as one of the top five worst airports for on-time holiday travel).
  • San Francisco’s bookings are constant throughout the year, including holidays.
  • Atlanta is popular during Martin Luther King Jr. Day and New Year’s Day and not popular during other holidays.
  • Except for Labor Day, Chicago is not popular during holidays.

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