Kaikōura tops Airbnb trending destinations list for 2019

After being hit hard by the 2016 earthquake, Kaikōura has made a "marvellous comeback" and topped Airbnb’s list of global trending destinations for 2019.

It is the first time a New Zealand destination has made the global list, which is compiled based on a combination of Airbnb searches, bookings and wish list growth data.

The popular tourist town saw a 295 percent year on year increase in Airbnb bookings, as well as a 210 percent year on year increase in searches on the popular accommodation booking site.

In a statement, Airbnb said after being heavily damaged by the 7.8 magnitude 2016 earthquake, Kaikōura was "staging a marvellous comeback with the strongest increase in both books and search on our list".

"With train and other transportation services coming back online, avid whale and seal watchers will find it easier and easier to experience the town’s notable sperm whale population and historic whaling past."

Glenn Ormsby, the general manager of Destination Kaikōura, said the news was very exciting after a "challenging two years".

"To emerge as the top trending visitor destination in 2019 is a wonderful accolade for the community," he said. "If you look at this year and compare it to the unknown we faced last year, this is light years ahead of last year".

"There would be some pretty exciting things, especially with marine mammals. The likes of whales, dolphins, seals, we have got it all here and people want to come see it."

The earthquake caused major damage to the town and the surrounding region, tearing homes and roads apart as well as destroying parts of State Highway 1, the main truck line between Christchurch and Picton.

Airbnb said there was a growing interesting in "more off-the-beaten-path regions, cities and towns” and “its trending destinations are places where the increased 'healthy', more sustainable and authentic tourism will benefit residents and travellers alike… offering the chance to help rebuild communities after natural disasters".

The list featured 19 destinations ranging from locations in China, to Brazil, to Spain.

The runner-up to Kaikōura was Xiamen in China, and Puebla in Mexico coming third.

The full list of global trending destinations for 2019 reads as follows:

1.     Kaikōura, New Zealand

2.     Xiamen, China

3.     Puebla, Mexico

4.     Normandy, France

5.     Great Smoky Mountains, US

6.     Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

7.     Accra, Ghana

8.     Mozambique

9.     Outer Hebrides, Scotland

10.   Wakayama Prefecture, Japan

11.   Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, US

12.   Santa Catarina State, Brazil

13.   Batumi, Georgia

14.   Winnipeg, Canada

15.   Pondicherry, India

16.   Uzbekistan

17.   Calabria, Italy

18.   Andalucia, Spain

19.   Taiwan