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NEW YORK (Reuters) - With air fares to Europe climbing, Americans seem to be interested in traveling in their own country this summer or could be heading to Asia and the Caribbean, new figures shows.
Online searches for U.S. destinations on the metasearch engine KAYAK have risen by as much as 22 percent, while searches for top European cities have slumped as airline prices to Europe have risen since last year.
Interest in Rome is down 65 percent since this time last year, while searches for London dropped 40 percent and economically troubled Athens and Paris have also slipped, according to KAYAK.
"Historically Europe is a really popular summer destination, however with the 2012 Olympics this year and the Queen's jubilee, prices are astronomically high for all of western Europe, not just London itself," said Kevin Turner, a spokesperson for KAYAK.
"It seems U.S. travelers are looking more internally at the United States for travel this year and staying within the country," he added.
The KAYAK findings are based on searches on its website in January. There were 100 million searches on the site that month, according to Turner.
Interest in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Hawaii, San Francisco and Cancun have gone up by double digits, along with destinations in the Dominican Republic, which are up 15 percent, and searches for Freeport in the Bahamas soared 57 percent.
"You always see Vegas, LA and New York in the top U.S. destinations but you don't see Hawaii a lot, but it is obviously an amazing place," said Turner.
He added that air fares to the Dominican Republic have dropped 16 percent, which could explain the increased interest there and the Bahamas' close proximity to the United States makes it an easy vacation destination.
While Americans seem less interested in Europe, many are inquisitive about Shanghai, which has seen a 28 percent increase in searches, while Beijing has gone up 16 percent and Taipei 15 percent.
"That one is harder to explain," said Turner. "China has been getting a ton of press recently for its massive growth and it can also be something fun for Americans to do ... to visit where the Olympics were four years ago."
Interest has also been high for Central America, particularly Placencia in Belize, which has seen an 83 percent rise in searches, and Costa Rica.
Turner said people usually search potential travel destination three to four months before setting off. He suggests travelers can get the best deals on flights by booking four to six weeks before their desired departure date.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney, Editing by Christine Kearney