Readers’ Choice Awards 2021 offer surprises and post-pandemic travel data


The pandemic may still be raging around the world, but travelers still have their travel favorites and are increasingly eager to return.

The results of the 2021 Condé Nast Traveler Readers ‘Choice Awards were unveiled this week: Readers’ Picks from the best hotels, resorts, cities, countries, islands and more around the world.

Winners are chosen by more than 800,000 readers ranking their travel experiences around the world. This year’s results – voted on as people just start returning to travel after the pandemic – reveal trends directly with travelers, highlighting the places they missed the most and can’t wait to return.

Japan, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Morocco, Mexico and Iceland were among the winners in more than one category. I’ve included the winners from some of the best lists below – the best cities, top countries, top hotels in the world and more, in any order they choose, with the first being the most popular. (And I add my quick take.)

Next is new consumer data on travelers’ thoughts, feelings and behavior changes regarding travel, as we emerge from the pandemic.

The best American cities go to :

Best Major Cities in the United States— Chicago; New York; New Orleans; Boston; San-Francisco; Washington; CC ; San Diego; Portland, OR; Honolulu; Nashville. (Notably missing: Miami and Los Angeles)

Best Small Towns in the United States -Aspen, CO; Charleston, South Carolina; Alexandria, Virginia; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Greenville, South Carolina; Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; Key West, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Newport, RI. (Half are in the south.)

The best international cities go to :

Best major cities in the world – Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Singapore, Singapore; Istanbul, Turkey; Mérida, Mexico; Marrakech, Morocco ; Porto, Portugal; Bangkok, Thailand; Seoul, South Korea. (Japan takes the top 3, Porto beats Lisbon. And not Paris!)

Best small towns in the world – San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; San Sebastian, Spain; Salzburg, Austria; Siena, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Bruges, Belgium; Cambridge, UK; Reykjavik, Iceland Galway, Ireland; Kralendijk, Bonaire. (SMA wins again. And look at number 10!)

The best countries go to :

Best countries – Portugal, New Zealand, Japan, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Croatia, Turkey. (Portugal is hot!)


The best Airlines companies:

Best domestic airlines – Hawaiian Airlines; Alaska Airlines; Delta Airlines; JetBlue Airways; Tradewind Aviation (Trade wind?)

The best car rental:

Best car rental companies – Silvercar by Audi; National car rental; SIXT; Enterprise-Rent-a-Car; Alamo (The most well-known companies are not here.)

The best hotels in the world:

Best hotels in the world (Top 10) – La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco ; Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, Shanghai, China; Istanbul raffles, Turkey; Relais Borgo Santo Pietro, Palazzetto, Italy; Badrutt Palace, St. Moritz, Switzerland; Hotel SP34, Copenhagen, Denmark; Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland; The Gwen, a Luxury Collection hotel, Michigan Avenue Chicago, Illinois, United States; Waldorf Astoria Beijing, China; W Doha, Qatar. (Although I have visited many, I have only stayed in one – the one in Badrutt – and it is a fascinating place. There are of course hundreds of other hotels around the world which are also exceptional. Interestingly, the ultra-luxurious “seven star” Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where I stayed, is not on this list.)


This year, Conde Nast Traveler also launched a unique travel habits survey as part of Readers’ Choice Awards, where they asked readers for their thoughts, feelings and behavior changes regarding current travel.

The results of the Year in Travel survey are included below:

  • 8 in 10 respondents have taken at least one pleasure trip since March 2020 (82%)
  • 1 in 4 took an international pleasure trip during the pandemic (23%)
  • More than half of those surveyed (52%) have considered working remotely / abroad since the onset of COVID
  • 9 in 10 (91%) said their travel habits had changed due to COVID-19 (majority now wanting to take more trips than before)
  • 44% of respondents said they would rather visit a new or favorite destination rather than get together with friends / family
  • When asked what type of trip respondents were likely to take now compared to before the pandemic, 3 in 4 (76%) opted for a city vacation
  • 9 in 10 reader trips (89%) were directly impacted by COVID-19 last year
  • 2 in 5 respondents (40%) have taken at least two pleasure trips since March 2020 (5% have taken more than seven)

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