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News Article

Asia leads the world in city destinations

Bangkok the leading “destination city” as Asia leads city tourism growth

For the second year in a row, Bangkok is ready to be the world's top city tourism destination. The Thai capital is predicted to host nearly 20.2 million international tourists in 2017, according to Mastercard's annual list of most-traveled to cities. Released last week to coincide with World Tourism Day, the 2017 Global Destination Cities Index looks at visitor volume and spend in the largest 132 cities in the world. Asia now has more of the top cities than any other continent, with the top 10 most visited cities including 6 in Asia, not counting Istanbul which is the only city split between two continents (Asia and Europe). The only non-Asian cities in the top 10 are London (in second place by international visitor numbers, but third behind New York in terms of international overnight visitor spending), Paris and New York.

"Tourism within cities – like Bangkok, London, Dubai, Tokyo – is vital to economic growth. Visitors are spending money on lodging, food, shopping, and more, helping these cities grow as destinations and modern metropolises," said Carlos Menendez, President, Enterprise Partnerships, Mastercard. "This year, Singapore pushed New York out of the number five spot of top destination cities, with 13.11 million international visitors in 2016. With a growing number of visitors, Singapore has been taking steps to create seamless experiences, for example, by developing an entirely cashless transit system by 2020."

Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a forecast for growth in 2017, insight on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world. The Index includes tables for international overnight visitors, spending by these visitors, and visitor growth over 2009-2016, and also examines purpose of travel and local spend.

Since 2009, more than half of the top destination cities reported an increase in spend by overnight visitors consistent with or greater than GDP growth. Globally, international overnight visitor arrivals across all 132 destinations have grown by 55.2 percent since 2009, significantly outpacing real GDP growth during the same period. The fastest growing destinations continue to demonstrate the importance of watching Asia/Pacific and the Middle East for future destination leaders. The fastest growth in 2009-2016 is found in Osaka, followed by Chengdu, Colombo and then Abu Dhabi.

Across the Top 20 destination cities, the majority of travel is conducted for leisure purposes, except in Shanghai where nearly half (48.4 percent) of visitors are travelling on business. Conversely, Kuala Lumpur has the greatest percentage of visitors, 92.2 percent, there on vacation.

“We are seeing more people than ever visiting cities for business or leisure. At the same time, we know that people expect their experiences when traveling to be both seamless and personal,” said Carlos Menendez, president of enterprise partnerships at Mastercard. “The call to action is clear. Cities that apply technology to simplify services and connect people with their passion points can become true destination cities and realize the benefits of increased visitors and greater spending.”

Dubai, third in terms of international visitor numbers, is the clear leader in terms of international overnight visitor spending, with a 2016 figure of $28.5 billion compared with the next highest of $17 billion in New York.

"Infrastructure, accommodation, air connectivity, access and policy enablers continue to be the facilitating levers that ensure Dubai remains price competitive and hugely attractive for a broad range of global travelers," said his Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, the Director General of Dubai Tourism. "By consistently outpacing the global forecast for visitors, we remain extremely confident about the future outlook for Dubai, especially considering the global headwinds we have faced in last year, as we remain in the top four most visited cities in the world.”

A small selection of database records on city tourism is listed below.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 02 October 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism