The USA’s top two gateway destinations—Los Angeles and New York City—fare well in the 2016 U.S. Tourism Quality Performance Index. Published annually by the Vancouver, Canada-based Resonance Consultancy, the Index measures tourism’s supply-side performance and competitiveness in 121 cities across the United States based on both absolute and indexed scales: the absolute scale measures the total number of “Quality 1” experiences; the indexed scale also evaluates performance in terms of how many quality1 experiences are delivered per visitor (i.e. the number of quality experiences per 100,000 visitors).
To formulate visitor estimates for each destination and create the indexed scoring, Resonance utilized a combination of data from the market research firm TNS Global’s 2015 visitor survey for domestic visitor counts and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) Air Travelers’ Survey for international counts to create estimates for total visitors to each destination. Resonance selected destinations for this report based on the availability of adequate data from these two sources. It also used measures and ratings from websites that employ user-generated and other content. We have distilled the Performance Index’s principal categories and (see below) the tables that show the overall ranking in tourism quality performance for more than 100 U.S. cities.
The rankings that follow are based on an analysis of the number of products or experiences rated as “very good” or “excellent’ in 17 different areas. Resonance grouped them into six core categories:
—Culture: To measure culture in a destination, Resonance analyzed the number of “very good” and “excellent” recommendations in the Tripadvisor categories of museums, and theatres & concerts. The Index also included arts and entertainment rankings from Yelp – a wide-ranging category that includes venues like arcades and casinos, along with festivals, professional sports teams, stadiums and arenas, and jazz and blues venues. “Number 1 ranked LA is, in the minds of many, in full cultural flower.” Top 15: 1. Los Angeles; 2. New York City; 3. San Francisco; 4. Chicago; 5. Orange County; 6. San Diego; No. 7 Seattle; 8. Las Vegas; 9. Houston; 10. Austin; 11. Philadelphia; 12. Minneapolis; 13. Portland, Ore.; 14. Oahu; 15. Washington, D.C.
—Entertainment: To measure entertainment in a destination, Resonance analyzed the number of “very good” and “excellent” recommendations on TripAdvisor in the categories of amusement parks; zoos & aquariums; casinos and gambling; and fun and games. Rankings for shopping and nightlife were drawn from Yelp. “The increasingly seamless combination of high and low culture make L.A. appealing to many.” Top 15: 1. Los Angeles; 2. New York City. 3. Orange Country; 4. San Francisco; 5. Chicago; 6. San Diego; 7. Portland, Ore.; 8. Las Vegas; 9. Austin; 10. Seattle; 11. Orlando; 12. Houston; 13. Oahu. 14. Tampa/St. Petersburg; 15. Philadelphia
—Sightseeing: To rank sightseeing and evaluate the natural and built environment of a city, Resonance analyzed the number of “very good” and “excellent” rankings in TripAdvisor’s Sights & Landmarks, Nature & Parks, and Sightseeing Tours. Top 15: 1. New York City; 2. Oahu; 3. San Diego; 4. Hawai’i (Big Island); 5. Maui; 6. Tampa/St. Petersburg; 7. San Francisco; 8. Miami; 9. Las Vegas; 10. Seattle; 11. Charleston; 12. Phoenix; 13. Boston; 14. Chicago; 15. Los Angeles
—Sports and Adventure: Destinations’ outdoor activities and adventures were evaluated through TripAdvisor’s outdoor activities, along with boat tours & water sports categories. TripAdvisor’s outdoor activities category is a grab bag – depending on the destination, it can include everything from fishing charters and tours to kayaking and canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, biking trails, golf courses, adrenaline and extreme tours, safaris, and scenic drives. Top 15: 1. Oahu; 2. Maui; 3. Tampa/St. Petersburg; 4. Hawai’i (Big Island); 5. San Diego; 6. Miami; 7. Fort Myers; 8. Fort Lauderdale; 9. Charleston; 10. Kaua’i; 11. Sarasota; 12. Phoenix; 13. Myrtle Beach; 14. Las Vegas; 15. West Palm Beach
—Culinary: To get a sense of the culinary experiences in a destination, we analyzed the number of very good and excellent reviews in TripAdvisor’s food & drink category, and Yelp’s restaurant reviews.
While Yelp’s restaurants category measures pure popularity, TripAdvisor’s food and drink reviews demonstrate how many different ways there are to explore the culinary landscape of place: in #4 Portland, for instance, there are breweries, brewery tours, distilleries, wine bars, wineries and cooking classes. All of which likely lead to enthusiastic reviews and highly “Instagrammable” moments. Top 15: 1. New York City; 2. Los Angeles; 3. Chicago; 4. Portland, Ore.; 5. Orange County; 6. San Diego; 7. Orlando; 8. San Francisco; 9. Houston; 10. Seattle; 11. Philadelphia; 12. Austin; 13. San Antonio; 14. Las Vegas; 15. Oahu
—Lodging: To evaluate accommodation in a destination, Resonance analyzed the number of “very good” and “excellent” reviews in TripAdvisor’s Hotels category. Some 50 million visitors stream into New York every year, and developers have been quick to build places for them to lay their heads. According to Bloomberg, the number of hotel rooms in the city has risen to more than 100,000, with 27,000 more planned or under construction–a 21 percent increase in the city’s room count in the past five years. The good news for visitors is that increased competition is reducing room rates. Top 15: 1. New York City; 2. Houston; 3. Phoenix; 4. Tampa; St. Petersburg; 5. San Diego; 6. Miami; 7. Orlando; 8. Orange County; 9. Fort Lauderdale; 10. Austin; 11. Las Vegas; 12. Seattle; 13. San Antonio; 14. Minneapolis; 15. Detroit
Overall Rankings: Overall rankings are awarded based on how many “very good” or “excellent” reviews are received by a destination regardless of its size or its number of visitors. While these rankings tend to favor larger cities–they have more experiences to review–it also provides a few surprises. Relatively small but social media-savvy Portland (#7) and Oahu (#12) punch far above their weight, a reflection of the large number of experiences that even a small destination can provide. In the tables that follow, the Tourism Quality Index attempts to rate destinations equally be placing them in relatively similar population categories.