Can You Believe This Was The World’s Best Destination Two Years Ago?

Can you believe the best destination in the world in 2020 was Rwanda?

Yes, that’s right. A beautiful country that nobody got to visit due to Covid-19. It’s interesting, because I wrote this story below back in 2020, two months before the pandemic struck, while we were all in lockdown, and while travel magazines were still writing “best of” guides.

I did some digging and the fact it was a top place to visit for three top publications in 2020 didn’t do much for Rwanda tourism because of Covid-19. Even more interesting, none of these outlets have even tried to bring Rwanda back on the map now that travel is resuming again.


If you look at top outlets now, whether Matador or Lonely Planet, Rwanda doesn’t even make the list. Such a shame that Rwanda missed out on the spotlight due to Covid. Rwanda got robbed, and I hope that people can still visit it since top editors deemed it among the best destination in the world right before the pandemic.

In any case, I’m republishing my story I wrote back in January 2020, two months before the pandemic took a toll, and had a big impact on tourism to the best destination in the world.

If you’re traveling, might as well do it in style. I caved and got new sunglasses. It’s so freaking nice to buy sunglasses post Covid-19! Bloomingdale’s definitely has the best selection, and you can check them out here.

This is the No 1 destination in the world according to three top travel magazines

Rather than make my own list on the best places to travel in 2020, I wanted to do something different. I decided to highlight the one destination that overlapped in three notable travel magazines’ “Best places to travel in 2020” lists to make it the No. 1 Destination for 2020. This was my simple methodology, which supports the destination’s legitimacy since it appears again and again and again.

The No. 1 destination for 2020 is Rwanda.

The publications I used are Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s. 

Why Rwanda is the top destination this year

Travel + Leisure points out new safari lodges are worth checking out, like One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, and Conde Nast Traveler applauded the country’s focus on the future with the development of national park Gishwati Mukura opening this year (a big deal that, interestingly, Travel + Leisure didn’t cover). Fodor’s touched upon both new lodges and new developments, but further added Rwanda’s work to replenish the wildlife population in the Akagera National Park, and mentioned why capital city Kigali is emerging in itself.

I agree, Rwanda is a great, trending option for 2020 if you’re looking for new attractions, a unique and exotic safari, abundant wildlife, and new resorts and lodges. There’s so much happening in 2020 for a country that receives few tourists (1.2 million every year, according to The Telegraph), so I can only imagine a fresh new energy and enthusiasm with the locals. Being on a “best place to visit for 2020” list is warranted.

Other outlets I considered did not list Rwanda

I should note, interestingly, The New York Times did not release its annual 52 Places To Go this year, which may be a good thing, since many travel professionals, like Skift, do not believe it’s legit and genuine. The New York Times is doing something different this year; it’s sending a journalist with no travel background to cover 2019’s best places to go. That’s like having a tech writer cover the restaurant scene, but OK!

(*Update: The New York Times did release their 52 Places To Go today, January 9, though it did not include Rwanda).

While I only used Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s to determine the No 1 destination this year, I considered other outlets for variety, like Afar and The Points Guy, but there was not one single destination overlap for all five, and neither of the latter included Rwanda on their lists (Dubai, however, made Travel + Leisure, Afar and Conde Nast Traveler, all of which gave very good reasons to go). The reason I chose the first three outlets is because they’ve been in the industry longer than Afar and The Points Guy. 


The fact that not one destination made all five lists shows that every outlet is subjective. 

This brings up a good point. You already know how I feel about Reader’s Choice Awards, and why you should never trust them when deciding on a vacation. It’s a voting system, so people vote on what they consider “the best” even if they’ve never stayed there. How is this possible? Hotels put money toward marketing to get them to vote. The biggest outrage this year was when SLS Beverly Hills was voted the No 1 hotel in America by Conde Nast Traveler readers.

Now, I’ve stayed at SLS Beverly Hills twice, and I can tell you it is great, but it’s not the best hotel in America, nor is it anywhere near the top 100. Further proof: it didn’t even make Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List (which sets the bar), or any other top magazine’s best hotel’s list for that matter. 

What makes a destination deserve a “best destinations to go now” list

As for Best Places to Visit in 2020 lists, here are my general thoughts.

What qualifies a destination to go on one of these lists is that there’s notable news, developments, buzz and substantial attention surrounding it for the year, which should compel you to visit. For the most part, you can trust travel outlets since editors or an expert panel chooses the destinations, but you should be mindful of *why* they selected them. 

If you’re like me, you’ll find many destinations on these lists are often completely random, and 2020 is no exception — but there’s a reason why some of these random destinations make the list, which usually includes politics, sometimes advertising, and of course, lack of research.

Take, for instance, Mopko, South Korea, which was selected by one of the most well known travel publications as one of the best places to travel for 2020. 

Not once does the author offer a compelling reason to visit for 2020. There’s no new buzzing attraction, no new hotels, no developments in tourism infrastructure, no big events, no new flights (or easier access via transportation) and essentially nothing that makes it different from years past. These are the reasons why a destination should be on the list, otherwise, it’s simply a destination that exists and should be in a different section, perhaps a city guide. You have to ask yourself “why visit now,” and travel outlets need to answer this.

About 80 to 100,000 U.S visitors traveled to South Korea every month in 2019, meaning about one million Americans visited Seoul last year, a small fraction of South Korea’s 15 million annual visitors. It would be depressing to recommend a U.S. reader to travel all the way to small town Mopko where there’s nothing new to explore. A better option is Jeju Island, where notable restaurants continue to open and two new luxury hotels (including Four Seasons) will open this year.

Maldives should have made 2020 lists since 10 new hotels opened, a new airport is opening and there is fierce competition, so it will be cheaper for you.

I’m not telling you not to consider Mopko, South Korea, I’m simply pointing out the fact there’s not a lot happening there in 2020. Fortunately, Rwanda hits all the right notes for this upcoming year.

One outlet that really did a great job with their hottest travel destinations of 2020 list is The Points Guy. They’ve definitely messed up in the past (their list of best airports was not great, even with its methodology) but nailed it with the 2020 list that covered what’s new and exciting in the destinations they chose, including trends, buzzing events, new hotels and flight updates to that destination, like new direct routes, which reflect demand and an increased interest in travelers. 

What destination do you think is getting a lot of buzz for 2020? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

One thought on “Can You Believe This Was The World’s Best Destination Two Years Ago?

  1. Such a post. My husband and I run a diving center in Cyprus. We want to offer something more than diving to our existing customers. Anyone have any ideas? It can’t be coffee.

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