Soft Dollar Spurs Travel to Latin America, Asia

Western Europe has long been the most popular getaway for U.S. tourists, but rising airfare and the weak dollar may have Americans traveling to more exotic destinations in 2008.

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires

"Asia, Central America and South America are all up over 30 percent over last year in terms of popularity, and that's at the same time that Western Europe and Canada are down in terms of popularity," says Travelocity senior editor Genevieve Shaw Brown.

According to Travelocity, holiday bookings to London are down nearly 20 percent, while bookings to Mexico City surged more than 40 percent from last year. In fact, Mexico's capital is now the fifth most popular destination among Americans this holiday season, says Brown. The U.S. Department of Commerce has noted similar trends in recent years.

According to Christina Tunnah of travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet, Mexico City offers much of Europe's appeal at twenty cents to the dollar.

"It's a fantastic, vibrant city. It's got a pulse to it that's electric, and recently Saveur Magazine did rate it as one of the top 100 places for gastronomic experience," Tunnah says.

If you want to venture further South, there's Buenos Aires. The Argentinean capital is often called the Paris of Latin America.

"You've got the architecture, the art scene, the food, the dancing, the night clubs, and of course the fantastic history," Tunnah says. "And, the dollar goes very, very far with that three-to-one exchange rate."

Around the globe in Asia, American travelers can also find excellent bargains compared with Western Europe.

"Asia is a really excellent destination because you can find the five-star hotels, you can find the beautiful beaches, the very high-end resorts and the wonderful restaurants," Brown says.

But if you're set on Europe, stay clear of the euro zone and look further east to Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

"I think it's important that Americans realize that the non-western European countries are just as sophisticated and modern as the Western European countries," Tunnah says.

Hot Travel Destinations for 2008

1) Mexico City
2) Buenos Aires
3) Sao Paulo
4) Shanghai
5) Beijing
6) Hanoi
7) Marrakesh
8) Dubrovnik
9) Istanbul
10) Montreal

Source: Lonely Planet Americas, Dec. 2007

Top 5 International Travel Spots For Americans This Holiday Season

1) Cancun
2) London
3) Los Cabos
4) Puerto Vallarta
5) Mexico City

Source: Travelocity, for period of Dec. 14, 2007 - Jan. 1, 2008