Author: Laura Begley Bloom, Senior Contributor at Forbes
There’s nothing like traveling to a new place, only to feel right at home. The sense of adventure and discovery combined with feeling welcomed by friendly people can take a vacation to new levels. In fact, a recent Booking.com survey showed that 76% of travelers say their motivation to travel is to boost their mood. So what are the friendliest places in the U.S.—and around the world?
Booking.com recently released its 2022 list of the Most Welcoming Places in the United States, along with the Most Welcoming Places on Earth, using data from its fifth annual Traveler Review Awards, which recognize exceptional hospitality. This year, Newport, Rhode Island earned top honors on the U.S. list—making it the friendliest and most welcoming place in America—while Matera, Italy topped the international list.
These awards are based on travelers’ reviews on Booking.com, along with the amount of awarded accommodations in each city, and recognize everything from excellence in staffing to cleanliness to safety—notable achievements during a challenging time frame.
“Despite the uncertainty of travel over the past couple of years, Booking.com has seen partners from all over the world demonstrate passion and dedication to create safe and welcoming travel experiences for guests,” says Ben Harrell, managing director, US at Booking.com.
In addition, Booking.com research showed that having epic travel experiences is a top priority for travelers. More than half (61%) of U.S. travelers are motivated to continue ticking off their travel-related bucket list. And after so much time indoors, the top accommodations for travelers include beach homes (31%), all-inclusive resorts (20%) and cabins in the woods (19%), in large part because of the dedicated, friendly and welcoming hosts.
All of this research inspired Booking.com to launch a new program—Smiley Stays—to highlight friendly, welcoming and mood-boosting properties around the U.S. The limited-edition Smiley Stays include a glamping retreat at Collective Retreats on New York City’s Governors Island, a Lumar Yacht Experience in Miami Beach and a beachfront holiday home in Malibu, California. They will each be available for two-night stays August 12 to 14 for $50, with bookings opening up on Wednesday, August 10 at 12 p.m. ET on a first-come, first-served basis.
So what makes the top spots on Booking.com’s Most Welcoming Places list so hospitable? Let’s take a closer look at the chart-topping destinations.
The winning place in America—Newport, Rhode Island—is set on Aquidneck Island, with a yacht-filled harbor, an oceanfront Cliff Walk trail, famed Gilded Age mansions and a rich maritime history. “Newport is consistently the most welcoming place in the U.S. (it ranked fourth for the 2020 awards),” says Harrell. “We see so many positive reviews for outstanding hospitality at hotels, bed & breakfasts and vacation rentals across this New England city.”
According to Harrell, a favorite place to stay in Newport is the Almondy Inn Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian property that’s just a two-minute walk from the beach and within walking distance from Newport’s restaurants, antique shops, art galleries, and famous mansions. It has a 9.8 average rating on Booking.com and guests say the property’s hosts, John and Laurence, provide a “homelike atmosphere” and are “so thoughtful, attentive, and kind” among other praise.
Meanwhile, the world’s friendliest place—Matera, a southern Italian city—is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements and is known for its cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Today, these iconic cave structures are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lend themselves beautifully into the various lodging the city offers its visitors. For a unique and atmospheric experience, the Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita provides cavernous, luxurious private suites in the heart of the Sassi, the UNESCO protected part of the city. You’ll be made to feel right at home amid the rich history and incredible architecture.
In 2022, Booking.com saw some repeat winners. In the U.S., Madison, Wisconsin and Cape May, New Jersey have each consistently made the Most Welcoming Places list for the last three years. For international destinations, this year’s list included two honorees that were also recognized in 2020: Taitung City in Taiwan and Monte Verde in Brazil. Read on for the list of the top 10 in the U.S. and the top 10 in the world.
Most Welcoming Places in the United States in 2022
- Newport, Rhode Island
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Homer, Alaska
- Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Cape May, New Jersey
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Yosemite West, California
- Volcano, Hawaii
- Waco, Texas
- Seward, Alaska
Most Welcoming Places in the World in 2022
- Matera, Italy
- Bled, Slovenia
- Taitung City, Taiwan
- Nafplio, Greece
- Toledo, Spain
- Monte Verde, Brazil
- Bruges, Belgium
- Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
- Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
- Hoi An, Vietnam