While the term “bucket list” only emerged in 2007 when the movie of the same name was released, the act of creating a list of things you want to do and experience in your lifetime is not new.

This list can include a range of activities, such as falling in love, meeting a famous person, volunteering, or can include a list of books to read, movies to watch, or foods to try. The list is almost endless.

According to research by AARP, 83% of bucket lists include travel-related items, half of which are international and most of which identify a specific country, city, town, location, or event.

These travel bucket lists aren’t just created for fun – almost 70% are fairly optimistic that the trip will take place, with many intending to do so in the next 2-5 years, most likely with a significant other.

After conducting a survey of travellers across the globe (including Europe, North America, and Australasia), we identified the top countries, cities, attractions, and events on people’s bucket lists – and the results surprised us. Respondents were allowed to offer multiple answers for each category since many people don’t have only one destination on their bucket list.

Key findings:

  • Australia is the world’s must-see country, followed closely by the USA.
  • Sydney is the most popular city, followed closely by Phuket.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is overwhelmingly the most popular site.
  • Carnival in Brazil is overwhelmingly the most popular event to attend.

Australia – The bucket list destination of choice

Australia features on 26% of the bucket lists of those surveyed, followed by the USA (24%), Canada (20%), Thailand (15%), Japan (14%), Greece (13%), Italy (11%), Brazil (10%), Vietnam (9%), and China (8%).

Interestingly, Australia appeared most often on the bucket lists of those surveyed, with Sydney proving to be the most commonly-added city. The Great Barrier Reef outshone all other famous sites around the world.

Tourism in Australia is a large contributor to its economy with 3% of the country’s revenue coming from it, according to Tourism Australia. In fact, tourism is one of the top growth industries driving the future prosperity of the country, and Australia ranks first globally for visitor spend per trip and 9th globally for tourism receipts.

Over 9.1 million international visitors entered the country in the last year (up 7% from the year before), and this is the third year in a row that tourism has outpaced the growth of the national economy.

Phuket – Still a firm favourite for travellers

Sydney (22%) appeared most frequently on the bucket lists of those surveyed, followed by Phuket (20%), New York City (18%), San Francisco (17%), Honolulu (16%), Vancouver (15%), Rio de Janeiro (14%), Melbourne (13%), Tokyo (12%), and Amsterdam (11%).

The fact that Phuket in Thailand is a popular bucket list destination for 2019 will come as a surprise to no one. Over 9-million travellers flock to the island’s sun-soaked shores every year, creating a 15:85 ratio of Thai locals to foreign tourists, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket Office.

While Sydney in Australia appeared most frequently on travellers bucket lists for 2019, Phuket beat out other top destinations, such as New York City, Honolulu, and Rio de Janeiro, despite the fact that its becoming an increasingly expensive destination.

Phuket is among the world’s finest coastal destinations, with over 30 stretches of white, sandy beaches along a bright, warm ocean, including Patong Beach, Kata, Karon and Kamala. Travellers can enjoy a speedboat trip to the famous Phi Phi Islands, or enjoy a relaxing cruise around the Phang Nga Bay.

The Great Barrier Reef – 2019’s top tourist attraction by far

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has been added to 26% of the bucket lists of those surveyed, followed by the Great Wall of China (17%), Galapagos Islands in Ecuador (16%), the Sydney Opera House (17%), the Great Lakes in Canada and the USA (14%), Mount Fuji in Japan (13%), the Taj Mahal in India (13%), The Forbidden City in China (12%), Times Square in New York City (11%), and The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania (10%).

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the clear favourite for 2019, featuring on 52% of the bucket lists of those surveyed and beating out other top attractions, such as The Great Wall of China, by almost 10%.

Over 2-million travellers visit the Great Barrier Reef every year, driven in part by the fascination and beauty of this natural wonder, but also in part by the fact that it is rapidly shrinking on account of climate change.

At 2,300km (1,429 mi) in length, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem on earth, but it is suffering from severe coral bleaching, and according to some estimates it could ultimately lose up to 50% of all total coral.

Preserving the reef is more than just an environmental or moral issue, though – it is equally a financial one. The Great Barrier Reef contributes approximately $5.4 billion dollars annually to the Australian economy, with local industries – including tourism – employing nearly 70,000 people.

Carnaval in Brazil – The world's bucket list event

Carnaval in Brazil (18%) is the event that has been added most frequently to the bucket lists of those surveyed. This is followed by the Dragon Boat Festival in China (17%), the Chinese New Year in Singapore (16%), the Winter Light Festival in Japan (15%), the Lantern Festival in Taiwan (14%), New Year's Eve at Copacabana beach in Brazil (13%), the Balloons over Waikato in New Zealand (12%), New Year’s Eve in Times Square in the USA (11%), Mardi Gras in New Orleans (11%), and Australia Day in Australia (10%).

Without a doubt, Carnival is the biggest national festivity in Brazil and one of the biggest in the world – and it’s caught the attention of travellers. In fact, it appeared most frequently on the bucket lists of travellers surveyed, beating the Chinese New Year in Singapore, the Lantern Festival in Taiwan, New Years in Times Square, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

For five days each year, the entire country unites in one big street party, where everyone is invited. But Carnival is not only a big part of the country’s culture, it is also an important event for the Brazilian economy. Since 2015, the revenue of the tourism and services sector during Carnival has exceeded six billion Brazilian reals (some 1.6 billion U.S. dollars). Moreover, the event creates around 20,000 temporary jobs across the country every year.


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