When our team sat down to plan our annual awards feature, we were at a loss. Each fall, our editors comb through a year’s worth of ratings, reviews, and data to identify the best-of-the-best in travel around the world. But we found ourselves asking, what should that look like in 2020? How could we possibly judge a business or an attraction based on three months of business as usual...and another seven months of anything but?
We decided we couldn’t, but we discovered something even better along the way. The businesses we love overwhelmingly met the moment: Restaurants fed newly-unemployed members of their communities; hotels housed frontline medical workers; museums became polling places—and even a beloved Coney Island amusement park found a way to help. (You’ll just have to read on to find out how!)
It turns out, small businesses and industry giants alike were showing us all, in real-time, what it means to build community and support our country during a crisis. Their pivots were meaningful, surprising, and often clever, all with the end goals of staying afloat, protecting their people, and making a difference during a year that’s been challenging for so many reasons.
Our package honors those that have made such an impact—and notably, we’re sticking close to home. Whereas our previous years' award winners have spanned the globe far and wide, we recognize that 2020 has kept most of our readers close to home—something that can almost seem foreign for travel-lovers. This year, we’ve decided to honor American establishments that genuinely make America great. You might find that many of our winners are in your own backyard. Take the time to discover them alongside us—and root for them today, tomorrow, and into the future.
- Molly Fergus, VP & General Manager, and Laura Ratliff, Editorial Director
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While we know what travel looks like now, we don't know what the future holds. But we've decided we're in good hands. These 14 forward-thinkers—ranging from airlines to tourism boards to philanthropic groups and beyond—have all thought about the big picture of travel, health, safety, and fun.
Scott’s Cheap Flights Keeps Wanderlust Alive in a Locked Down World
What Big Tourism Destinations Can Learn from Singapore's Tourism Board
Outdoor Afro Gives Black Participants a "Safe Space" in Nature
World Central Kitchen Keeps Restaurants Afloat and Feeds the Hungry
Why the Belize Tourism Board's Response to COVID-19 Is One to Emulate
Delta Air Lines Has Set the Bar for Health and Safety While Flying
The Success of the NBA's Restart Shows What Works in a Pandemic
The Aloha Spirit: Being a Mindful Visitor to Hawaii During COVID-19
JetBlue Paves the Way to Sustainable Aviation with Carbon Neutrality
Hotels Demonstrate the True Meaning of Hospitality During Tough Times
Project Roomkey Gave California's Most Vulnerable a Safe Haven
Inside the Independent Restaurant Coalition's Fight for Equality and Sustainability
Amtrak Provides an Attractive Form of Travel During a Pandemic
Airbnb Brought Safety and Creativity to Vacations During the Pandemic
You don't need to hear it from us: 2020 was a particularly trying year for small businesses. While it's estimated that more than 110,000 small businesses have permanently closed due to the pandemic, those that have toughed it out have become anchors of positivity in their communities. These winners—perhaps your neighborhood burger joint or bakery—have all met the moment in their own remarkable way...
It seems like our world changed in the blink of an eye. While we all grappled with new challenges—toilet paper shortages, anyone?—these quick responders stepped up, serving meals, providing (and even making!) PPE for front-line medical workers, and opening their doors to those who needed it the most. Among these 15 winners, you'll find businesses big and small who put their communities first....
Seeing is believing, right? That's a tough ask when you're a museum in a city on lockdown. These 22 winners, primarily traditional, hands-on attractions, creatively pivoted to virtual programming or other tactics to keep visitors entertained and engaged even during the darkest days of the pandemic. Meanwhile, others have found unique ways to cater to our new normal....
Check Out Our 2019 Winners
Check Out Our 2018 Winners