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Portland takes top prize but Hawaii and California rock cool U.S. destination study

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I got news of a remarkable study the other day from Resonance Consultancy, which did a report on 121 U.S. cities and ranked them according to their “experiential quality.”
It strikes me as a bit of an inexact science, but the idea behind the study is a very good one that involved analyzing consumer comments on various websites to determine not just actual numbers of who goes where but the level of engagement and happiness people feel when they go to a destination.

In a press release they sent, Resonance officials said industry folks know about visitor county,, spending and hotel occupancy rates.
“But relatively little attention is paid to monitoring and managing the quality of the experiences within the destination itself and no standardized measures exist to benchmark the experiential quality of one destination to the next.
“To solve this problem, Resonance Consultancy has analyzed social media channels from increasingly influential websites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp. We’ve identified how many quality experiences cities offer from one product and experience category to the next as rated by locals and visitors themselves.”
The Resonance team analyzed responses on everything from food and shopping to arts & entertainment and came up with an analysis based on the number of experiences or products rated as “very good” or “excellent” in 17 different areas.
Like I said, it strikes me as inexact. But also exciting and fun and probably quite useful compared to simply looking at visitor numbers. Not to mention surprising.
So, you’re saying to yourself, why don’t you get to the point, Byers? Okay, here you go: the number one U.S. destination according to the Resonance report? Portland, Oregon, followed by the island of Kauai in Hawaii, Los Angeles, New York and Maui.

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is restful and wildly beautiful.

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is restful and wildly beautiful.


All told, Hawaii came away the clear winner, followed by California. Hawaii placed a remarkable four destinations in the TOP EIGHT: Kauai at number two, Maui at number five, then the Big Island of Hawaii in seventh spot and Oahu at number eight. That’s pretty friggin’ amazing. But I’ve been a fan for several decades now, as I mentioned. So probably not hugely surprising.
As for California (full disclosure; it’s where I was born and raised and spend the first 25 years of my life), they came away with an impressive five of the top 15 spots. Los Angeles was number three overall, while Anaheim/Orange County was 6th and Oakland (my home town) 10th. Sunny San Diego was 12th, while San Francisco was 15th. It’s great to see Oakland in the top 10 in the U.S. as the city has had its share of problems over the years. The food scene is fabulous, however, and there are a lot of great neighborhoods and streets to explore, including Rockridge, Piedmont Ave. and new bits around Shattuck Ave. and Telegraph.
And, yeah, I can’t help thinking that a few Oakland accolytes will be lording it over their brothers in San Francisco…
Ride the Angels Flight funicular in downtown Los Angeles for something different.

Ride the Angels Flight funicular in downtown Los Angeles for something different.

I haven’t been in years, but I’m told Portland has become a fantastic town for food, coffee and craft beer. A beautiful setting, too, with a nice riverfront and both the ocean and Cascade Mountains a short drive away.
By the way, the bottom three were Jackson, Mississippi, Biloxi, Mississippi and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The Resonance folks looked at small, medium and large destinations based on population. Here’s a look at the top 10 in each category:
LARGE
Los Angeles, New York, Anaheim/Orange County, Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
Well done, Texas: three in the top 10. Not as good as California’s five, but impressive.
MEDIUM
Portland, Oahu, Oakland, Tucson, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Jose, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville.
Not surprised to see Louisville as I hear good things. I’ve always enjoyed Minneapolis. Phoenix is definitely a city on the rise. But I’m surprised a bit – sorry guys – at Cincinnati. I’ve never stayed the night; only driven through.
SMALL
Kauai, Maui, Big Island of Hawaii, El Paso, Quad Cities Illinois-Iowa, Anchorage, Boise, Providence, Albuquerque and Reno/Sparks in Nevada.
Some definite surprises in my mind: Quad Cities for one, as well as Reno (on the way up, I guess).
Anyway, a hugely entertaining study and food for thought for folks south of the border I’d say….

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