A small island with a population of around 50,000 in Japan’s southwestern Okinawa Prefecture – which has been compared to Hawaii in the past – has been named the top trending travel spot for this year by the users of TripAdvisor.
Ishigaki has seen a significant rise in visitor numbers in recent years for its sandy beaches, mangrove forests and world-class diving spots. The travel website’s top accolade for ‘destinations on the rise’ went to the Japanese island in its pick of the world’s top trending destinations for 2018 for its annual Travellers’ Choice awards.
The winners were decided using an algorithm that measures the year-on-year increase in positive TripAdvisor ratings for restaurants, hotels and attractions, plus the number of destination bookings compared to previous years.
The Okinawa Prefecture – where locals even wear a vivid floral “kariyushi” shirt similar to the aloha in Hawaii – is set to surpass the US state in terms of visitor numbers. The island group welcomed a record 8.77 million people in 2016, a 10.5 per cent year-on-year increase, compared to the 8.93 million tourists in Hawaii (a 2.9 per cent rise).
Rebecca Hallett, Japan expert at guidebook publisher Rough Guides, told Telegraph Travel: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ishigaki is a trending travel spot. Japanese travellers have been heading there for fine-sand beaches and fancy-fish spotting for years.
“The loss of the ferry link a few years back means you have to fly, which puts a lot of international travellers off. It’s worth it, though, for the slow-paced tropical paradise you find. If getting away from it all here isn’t hardcore enough for you (it’s over 400 kilometres south of the main Okinawan island, itself over 1,500 kilometres from Tokyo), you can take a ferry to one of the Yaeyama Islands’ even more remote and mysterious islands, like wild Iriomote or tiny, distant Yonaguni.”
Other notable entries on the list include two African destinations. Nairobi, which came in third place, is lauded by TripAdvisor as an “energetic, modern city that serves as a fascinating introduction to both wildlife and nightlife”. Casablanca comes in 10th, noted for its thriving culture scene and its Art Deco villas that have been reborn as galleries and museums.