Top Travel Destinations: What’s the Recipe?

What makes a top travel destination?

What are the ingredients for a top travel destination? A place that you not only loved first time round but want to go back to.

That’s what we were wondering yesterday at a business lunch to explore how to increase tourism to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia where I live.

The first speaker, Graham Turner, founder of massive global travel agency Flight Centre, said people travel here for the pristine environment and diverse wildlife.

Peter Yeo, previous director of  Saatchi & Saatchi Australia, creator or numerous memorable Australian tourism campaigns and President of PointZero5 said it was nature.

Politician Mal Brough believes outstanding service would bring more visitors here.

What do you think makes a top travel destination?

Is it:

Top travel destination accommodation

Top travel destination scenery

Top travel destination culture

Top travel destination people

Top travel destination experiences
Top travel destination affordability
Top travel destination - food
Top travel destination - wildlife

We”ll probably all rank them differently but what are the top three ingredients for a top travel destination?

  • Accommodation
  • Scenery and Environment
  • Culture
  • People
  • Experiences
  • Affordability
  • Food
  • Wildlife

I’ll pick my top three ingredients for a top travel destination but it’s impossible to put them in order:

  • People
  • Scenery and Environment
  • Experiences

What do you think makes a top travel destination? Choose from above or add you own ideas.

All photos taken by me on location in Panama – Panama City, Bocas del Toro and Portobello

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  1. Linda ~ Journey Jottings June 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Environment, wildlife and nature I think are the biggest draw-cards to pull people in –
    But of course if you don’t get fabulous service at your accommodation and restaurants the after taste will be severely marred even if what you have seen was spectacular :) –

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Hi Linda, with you on that one. And when we were in Malawi it had everything – except food. Three weeks of fish and rice alone was all we could take so the food is definitely important too:)

  2. Jameson Henkle June 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    It’s hard to choose from this list, being that all of them are important factors to choosing a travel destination. I believe the scenery and environment are the most important thing for me. An an active outdoorsman, I like to see whats new and different outside. The people would be the next. I like interacting with new people just as much as the environment. Thirdly, being a budget traveler, it is important how affordable a place can be. Trying to get the most out of a trip also means stretching your budget as far as possible.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Jameson, great to hear from you and love the profile pic:) I agree, if a place is cheaper it means you can stay longer which has to be a good thing!

  3. Elle B | Later Bloomer June 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    For me it’s definitely culture (I love museums), scenery and environment, and experiences. This is really hard, because I love food too!

  4. se7en June 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I have to say its the food!!! My husband and I did a lot of traveling before we had kids and we remember every place we have been through by the food!!! Really as you arrive travel worn in a place your first destination is usually a meal of one kind or another. And first impressions do really count – a good meal really does mean you will be more positive and open about the visit!!! Also safety is a pretty high priority… we want to be able to walk the streets and mingle in the crowds and feel comfortable enough to participate in a bit of market wrangling or travel on public transport in a city where you can’t read or speak the language. But I guess that is about the people!!! I think as a South African Traveller it is about: the food, the people and the experience. They are all so connected aren’t they!!!
    I have to say that I think the visitors to Cape Town are looking for Scenery and Environment; Experiences and Wildlife… the fact that the rest of the items on the list follow is a bonus!!!

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Se7en, great to read your input. I’d love to visit South Africa, and Cape Town sounds amazing. Never knew it had good food too!

  5. barbara June 29, 2011 at 2:28 am - Reply

    Gorgeous photos Annabel! I would say my top 3 are: scenery and environment, culture and people. Experiences are just part of the pkg., I think.
    Thanks for the eye candy! Ms. Candy.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Barbara, lol, glad you liked the eye candy:) Sometimes it’s fun to play with the pics as well as the words!

  6. Connie June 29, 2011 at 3:26 am - Reply

    Mine would probably be:
    (Wildlife is important too and I would probably say that Affordability is not really a concern, it is just a fact, and should maybe not even be on the list)
    Love you

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Connie, good thinking. I’d love to know what you look for in accommodation. Affordability is definitely key for me though, so many places I want to visit but haven’t because of the cost of getting there or staying there….

  7. Bradley June 29, 2011 at 3:40 am - Reply

    Experiences (especially when I get outside of my comfort zone)
    People (meeting new and interesting people is always fun!)
    Affordability (one of the best vacations I went on, my hotel cost less than boarding my dog for the week!)
    Scenery (I can see boring where I live!)

    Those are my top 4. I think the others play a factor too. Plus it depends on the type of vacation I am choosing. Sometimes, I like more adventure, and other times I just want to relax.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Bradley, I love getting out of my comfort zone too. I think it’s the very best thing about travel:)

  8. Rita Vail June 29, 2011 at 5:00 am - Reply

    I go where there are like-minded people and not too many rich people (they draw in the crime). I like regular folks, and artistics – skaters and freaks. I like fresh, organic food. I like accommodations that are clean, in nature, and affordable. I like historic preservation sites. I like safe pubs, sidewalk cafes, street vendors, open air markets, local handicrafts. And yet I also look for a fast, affordable internet connection.

    If you have nice, moderate, sunny weather, that is a huge selling point.

    Places I like, though it has been a while since being there, because I have settled down now – Hawaii, Key West, Florida; Padre Island,Texas; the Oregon coast, the Buffalo River near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Tulum, Mexico. Years ago I loved Scotland, Cyprus, Munich, Beirut, Greece.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Rita, so glad you put the places you like to visit too. I was reading what you like and thinking where can you find all that and now I know:)

  9. Anita | Sequins and Sand June 29, 2011 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Fabulous question Annabel.
    For me I think what will always hook me in first is Scenery & Environment..what I see before me. This doesn’t have to be ‘green scene’, built environment is important too…think Greek Isl and think Noosa (before and after significant development). People and Culture. I find those hard to split…culture is the soul of it’s people. Get those ingredients working for me then the Experiences happen. Thanks for a great post. A:)

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Anita, thanks for the great comment:) Architecture is important. There’s nothing worse than having to stay in a “hotel” that looks like a Russian prison!

  10. Sally Foley-Lewis June 29, 2011 at 9:06 am - Reply

    For me, *experience* comes from all the other aspects of the place such as those you have listed.
    Culture which is influenced by geography, nature, people, food, etc.
    Service is key when it comes to remembering a place you’ve been, we can always remember the best and worst places and usually those memories are tied to some aspect of service.

    This is a great post that could form the basis of research or a consultative process that can thoroughly inform the tourism and other local business operators on the sunshine coast.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Sally, thank you, I think it makes interesting reading too, especially thanks to the comments from everyone!

  11. Gutsy Living June 29, 2011 at 10:06 am - Reply

    For me it’s
    1. Scenery and environment
    2. Experiences
    3. Wildlife

    People have a huge impact in two ways:
    1). As a tourist and how friendly they are at hotels etc.
    2). Do I think locals are friendly if I want to live there.

    Are you in Panama? My husband and I want to check it out to possibly live part-time there in the future. What did you think? Is Boca del Toros beautiful? Are the expats and the locals friendly?

    • Annabel Candy July 5, 2011 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Hi Sonia, not in Panama now but we did spend a few months there and a month living on Bocas del Toro:) Yes, the locals are friendly. In the end we prefered Costa Rica though as there’s more wildlife!

  12. Tess The Bold Life June 29, 2011 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Experiences, Beauty and Affordability. Who wouldn’t want to go to Australia? It’s the long plane ride that holds me back. Oprah made your entire country look awesome with her trip and audience members.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Tess, the whole place is awesome. Just a shame it’s so far from the rest of the world but also the ideal excuse for staying a long time:)

  13. Seana Smith June 30, 2011 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    I must say that I agree with you when it comes to real travel. And I would have totally different criteria for a simple holiday, probably scenery & environment, accom and food. There’s such a difference between going away just to relax and going away for an adventure. And I know which I prefer!

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Seana, I know what you mean… I don’t think I’ve ever had a real holiday – the lure of adventure always pulls me away from it!

  14. Galen Pearl July 1, 2011 at 8:56 am - Reply

    I’ve been fortunate to travel to many places and to live overseas as well. For me, at this stage in my life, I would rank as my top three–accommodation, scenery and enviroment, and experiences. By accommodation, I don’t mean necessarily 5 star. I mean something that is comfortable and interesting. A room with a view. This is an interesting survey. So far the comments show very different preferences.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Hi Galen, I need to work out what comes on top – if anything! I love a room with a view, the kind of place you could never afford to buy or practically live in for ever.

  15. Penelope J. July 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Great photos. You pose some interesting questions. I’ll be curious to know the results of the quiz because from the comments, everyone has a different take. Mine is first scenery and environment seem to be the main attractions and incentives for most travelers who want breathtaking views, beaches, jungles, mountains, etc. Next is culture as history plays a big part in drawing tourists to places with museums, castles, forts, cathedrals, art, theater, etc. and culture can also include people and cultural customs, food, and so on. Third would be affordability. Most travelers are on a budget and many, like you when you were younger, don’t care as much about where you sleep or eat as long as you can travel. And I believe all the above can encompass experiences.

    BTW, I knew a Peter Yeo when I was younger, English, in advertising. He’d be in his late 6Os now. Would that be the same person?

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Penelope, now I see all these replies maybe I should have done a min questionnaire:) Yes, sounds like the Peter Yeo you knew. He lives near me on the Sunshine Coast and had a terrible accident a few years ago which means he’s in a wheel chair now. I was inspired by his positive spirit and upbeat ideas.

  16. Extreme John July 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    First off, I like the photos you’ve taken that depicts an aspect of the travel. For me, what I look forward on every travel destination are – the scenery and environment, people, and experience.

  17. JoAnna July 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    A place that leaves me with a warm, comfortable feeling is one that I want to return to. If I find myself thinking, “I’d really like to take (fill in the name of a person) here some day,” then I know it’s a place to revisit.

    • Annabel Candy July 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Hi JoAnna, that’s a great yard stick – would you want to go back and who would you take?! Thank you:)

  18. Michela @Rocky Australia Travel July 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    I think environment+scenery, nature, wildlife, experiences are the 3+ factors that make a top travel destination, especially in Australia. As next culture and people, and a yes an overall good feeling about the place. :)

  19. Juan Carlos July 15, 2011 at 1:56 am - Reply

    Right now for me,

    • Scenery and Environment. I don’t need to see everything at once, and if I find couple of places where I can sit down and be, I’ll be happy
    • Then for me People and Experiences are together. I am social person, and I know I will meet a few people and the experience will be awesome.
    • Finally, at this very moment, affordability is very important to me. I don’t have much money so I need to do my research and find the good deals.

    I am enjoying the reading of your blog. People and Experiences right here at home, or the office. Thanks.

  20. @wftristan July 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Hi there, as promised you are featured in this weeks “worldfirst Weekly Wander”

    Please leave some feedback on the blog by leaving a comment.

    Congratulations on being featured


  21. Kelly B July 28, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

    I’ve just returned from a 2 week road trip with my family. I realised how important “experiences” are to me. This road trip was all about experiences. We did the snow, the bushwalking, the beach, the mountain, the city, the country. We also ate Italian, Chinese and Thai with the kids. Our best family holiday yet. So, here are my top 3:

    •Scenery and Environment
    •Affordability (being a family of 6 this is important for family holidays)

  22. Thelma Morin August 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    If you guys are looking for great travel, then Cape Town South Africa is the answer. Cheap and like a jewel from heaven

  23. Wally August 27, 2011 at 3:54 am - Reply

    Amazing pics!!

  24. aastha seth October 28, 2011 at 12:10 am - Reply

    According to me , its the affordability and environmental beauty that are majorly responsible for deciding a tourist destination . The place chosen and the overhead expenses such as transportation and cost of accommodation are mainly looked and carefully examined before choosing a tourist destination . Secondly , environmental beauty is also looked upon before choosing a destination . A healthy and beautiful nature brings color to the whole trip!!!

  25. Eddie Porucius November 7, 2011 at 6:21 am - Reply

    2.Scenery and environment
    I would say that’s my ingredients when I choose my travel destinations. I spend as little as posible on accommodation and put the money to Experience pot. When budget is limited I like to come back from abroad with great memories and photos, probably biten by mosquitos too;) local street food can be very affordable too – posh restaurants are not for me!


  26. Doug January 7, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I think the vacationer must be made to feel special.. have a non crowded itinerary and everything else will find its level of enjoyment
    Doug Edwards

  27. Clair s February 25, 2012 at 11:24 am - Reply

    I think you have to differentiate between what ‘purpose’ the destination is serving, my travel is currently linked to family holidays which has changed my priorities compared to the days when it was me & the backpack

  28. Ruth March 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Mine would be
    1. experience
    2. food
    3. culture.
    I love trying new things and when I travel, I make sure im doing/eating something thats not similr to what I can eat back home. That sums up as good travel for me

  29. Linda October 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Good morning, Annabel.

    This is a difficult one to determine, but here goes with my ‘2 p worth’ (as we say in the UK). It has to be:

    P laces
    P eople

    All other things on the list come about because of these 2 things. The place has the scenery and the wildlife. The people provide the food, culture, experiences and so on.

    Ok – just my sneaky way of saying I can’t choose – they’re all important!

    Kind regards,

  30. Gracie Matthews April 25, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Hi Anabel, I am in the process of delivering my first presentation for my masters in design. I have been costumier by trade for many many years, and have in the process amassed a somewhat large collection of costume, textiles and sewing memorabilia all relating to costume history, home makers, textiles and the entertainment industry. I love travelling and want to share my costume experience with students and like minded people by allowing exclusive access to my collection with visitors at my home in rural NZ. I ‘googled’ the question”what makes a good tourist attraction?’ and your blog came up. this is the question I am now facing to prove that my business plan of “exploiting” this unique collection and venue as a viable innovative design project. answering your question, my top 3 would be food, culture and people. the scenery and environment are also important, though this is too dependent on the weather at the time of the visit.The experience is what you make of the tourist attraction. sure the eifel tower is an amazing tourist attraction, but this was not my most memorable experience of was having coffee around the corner from our hotel in a quiet street with the locals. i would love to talk more with you about my project from your professional perspective as part of my thesis.look forward to hearing from you.

    • Annabel Candy April 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Gracie,

      That sounds like a great idea. I wonder if there is an art and craft trail or something like that in your area which you could piggy back onto? Otherwise there may be other people like artists with galleries that open at the weekend that you could co-promote and of course let local schools and unis know about your space :)

      Ah, Paris! I agree with you – travel is about those little moments when you feel like a local :)

      • Gracie Matthews April 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

        I will look into the art n craft trail, and I will be analyzing the student options as well. as much as i would like to also promote the fab views and lifestyle acreage angle, part of the plan is to eventually move the collection into a village atmosphere. I am currently collaborating with a local photographer and will be opening up a new studio space(will be completed by early 2014) separate to the house for exhibitions and art/craft workshops. this studio also has fab views of course!

  31. Matthew Duong August 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply


    It is too difficult to choose but I will add culture to the list. People and culture go together, and we’d be happy to visit a country of friendly people and rich culture.

    Matthew Duong.

  32. Natasha von Geldern November 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    I love your definition! And I’m with you voting for People,
    Scenery and Environment, and Experiences, with Culture coming a close fourth.

  33. DARIO GARZON JR. August 1, 2014 at 7:57 am - Reply

    I’ll go for :
    Culture, Scenery and Enviroment, Experiences and People.
    Considering that Affordability is a Fact !!…

  34. Jared Ritter October 7, 2015 at 6:51 am - Reply

    My wife is from Norway and I an American, so travel has been about affordability (kids) and culture. Food and the uniqueness all play in to our travel, we met on a narrow boat in England so EXPERIENCE is my top. Love your lists…:)

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