Earlier this month, the website Travelmag.com published an article claiming Nantucket is “the most expensive beach destination in the world.” The article has gone viral locally, but suspect methodology casts serious doubt on its bold assertions.
While the article claims to be ranking the most expensive beach destinations in the world, it only considers the average cost of the cheapest double room at a three-star or better hotel with at least 10 rooms during August. This is a completely different metric.
Lodging is not the only relevant cost when determining the most expensive beach destination in the world. Travelmag does not consider the cost of travel, food, transportation, or other amenities. It also only considers the most expensive lodging options, ignoring single rooms, hotels with two or fewer stars, unstarred hotels, or single-room vacation rentals through sites such as Airbnb.
It is unlikely that travellers concerned with the cost of their vacation would stay at one of the most expensive hotels available, making Travelmag’s decision to include five-star hotels with prices well over $1,000 a night suspect, especially because Travelmag relied on an average for their results.
Averages are very easily skewed by so-called “outliers” that fall far above or below most of the data points. For instance, if Nantucket hypothetically had 10 hotels, and nine cost $400 a night while the tenth cost $2000 a night, the average cost would be $560 a night—higher than 90% of the hotels. The real data is not as extreme but exhibits the same pattern. When the Current replicated Travelmag’s methodology, we found that over 71% of qualifying Nantucket hotels were cheaper than “average.” To rectify this, Travelmag should have used the median, which is not as easily skewed by outliers, as it weighs every data point equally.
Measuring the cost of a room during August further biases the data. While August is Nantucket’s busiest season, many beach destinations, including Florida and the Caribbean, are relatively quiet in August, with tourism peaking in the winter. Every single destination that made Travelmag’s list was in the Northern Hemisphere, where tourism peaks in the late summer, and aside from Santa Monica, which ranked tenth, none of the top 20 were closer to the Equator than 35 degrees North. Not one tropical beach destination managed to make the list.
Travelmag claims its data was taken from a “leading booking site” but does not say which one. When replicating Travelmag’s methodology, the Current found that no leading booking sites include the lowest price for all qualifying hotels.
There is no compelling evidence to suggest Travelmag’s flashy claim that Nantucket is the most expensive beach destination in the world is accurate. The methods they used do not even attempt to measure that metric and are poor at measuring what they do attempt to measure.
However, replicating Travelmag’s methodology, the Current found that the average cost of the cheapest double room at a three-star or better hotel with at least 10 rooms during August this year was $690, virtually indistinguishable from Travelmag’s figure of $694.
Other beach destinations, such as Monaco and Cannes, fell well below that figure. Martha’s Vineyard, which Travelmag did not include on their list, had an average cost of $684, good for second place and essentially identical to Nantucket. Standard statistical tests suggest that the difference between the two islands is likely attributable to chance, given the constant fluctuations in room pricing and qualifying hotels. The median price on Nantucket was $618, and the median price on Martha’s Vineyard was $653. Given the weaknesses of the methodology, little significance should be attributed to any of these figures.