And the most popular destination is . . .

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, July 28, 2008

The US has been rated as the most popular destination in the world in a survey released this week by Lonely Planet.

There's talk that Australia has declined as a destination, and that it hasn't done enough since the Olympics to capitalise on its image. Industry experts talk about it being too complacent - and this year numbers have been down.

Here's the story:

THE United States has pipped Australia at the post as the most popular tourist destination, an international survey has found.

Since its debut in 2004, Australia has always come out on top of the Lonely Planet Travellers' Pulse Survey.

But this year, for the first time, the US collected 1509 of the 17,500 votes from 132 countries, followed by Australia with 1222.

The United Kingdom took out bronze (965 votes) while Italy (836 votes) and New Zealand (648 votes) rounded out the top five.

The Land of the Long White Cloud managed to step up four spots, the biggest bolter in the poll, last year only just scraping into the top 10 at ninth.

Better news for Australia came in the favourite country category, where it took out poll position for the fourth year in a row, sitting pretty with 1316 votes.

Italy came in a close second (1256 votes) followed by the US (1103 votes).

Of those who responded, 5003 had visited between four and ten destinations over their lifetime and 11,765 had taken a holiday in the last 12 months.

When it came to reasoning, a little more than 6500 headed out of town to "relax and unwind", 5415 wanted to "try something new or different" and 4836 wanted to "learn or explore more about other cultures".

Lonely Planet marketing analyst Adam Stanford said that the rise of the US can be linked to exchange rates.

"The United States is obviously becoming increasingly popular due to the exchange rate of the dollar," Stanford says.

"Making what was once an expensive country to travel a lot more accessible."

But he said Australia shouldn't fear, the tourists will be back.

"Australia is a classic destination for travellers.

"(It) has so much to offer, it's likely to remain popular with travellers for a long time to come," he says.

"Plus Australia will be back in the spotlight this year with Baz Lurhrmann's upcoming film, Australia, and a new promotional campaign from Tourism Australia."

Escorted travel specialists Insight Vacations agree that the US is a hot spot right now.

"Due to the strong Australian dollar, there has never been a better time to visit Canada and the United States," a spokeswoman for the company says.

"Many of Insight's tours are less expensive than last year, making your holiday even better value," she says.

Insight has just released its travel schedule for 2009 featuring over a dozen US and Canadian adventures to choose from.
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