Top 100 City Destinations Ranking – Published 2012

January 10th, 2012

Euromonitor International is pleased to release its latest Top City Destinations Ranking, covering 100 of the world’s leading and most dynamic cities in terms of international tourist arrivals. After recording a decline in 2009, international arrivals to countries regained growth in 2010, positively impacting results for the top 100 cities, which saw arrivals increase by 7%. Star performers in 2010 were emerging city destinations located in Asia Pacific, thanks to a strong economic environment and growing travel and tourism dynamism. Most European cities lagged behind as a result of the weak economic prospects in the Eurozone, which impacted intra-regional travel.

Top three destinations

In 2010, Hong Kong, Singapore and London were the most popular city destinations worldwide. Hong Kong topped the ranking with almost 20 million arrivals in 2010 and an outstanding 18% increase compared to 2009. The booming economy of Hong Kong coupled with its growing appeal as a travel and tourism destination is drawing more business and leisure travellers each year. In 2010, mainland China remained the largest source market for Hong Kong, accounting for approximately 60% of arrivals.

Singapore was the second most visited city, attracting 18 million tourists in 2010 – 16% more than in 2009. The Singapore Tourism Board launched a 3-pronged approach – Innovation, Integration and Productivity – in 2010 that focused on luxury travel as well as the further consolidation of MICE, travel accommodation and tourist attractions throughout the city. The opening of new tourist attractions like the Marina Sands Resort Sky Deck, new casinos operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corp and by Malaysian-owned Resorts World Sentosa, new shopping centres like the Orchard Central, the Universal Studios Singapore and the Helix Bridge helped bring international visitors to the city.

London closely followed Hong Kong and Singapore in third position, with 15 million arrivals in 2010. London is by far the most popular city in Europe, benefiting from a wide mix of entertainment options, including historical sites, art galleries and restaurants, which make it highly appealing for all kind of visitors. Nevertheless, the city is under pressure, having recorded sluggish 3% growth in 2010 in the face of increased competition from other destinations like Hong Kong and New York City.

Top City Destinations Ranking 2010

City Ranking Arrivals
‘000 2010
      % volume growth
Hong Kong 1 19,973 18.0
Singapore 2 18,297 16.0
London* 3 14,706 3.5
Macau 4 13,098 25.9
Bangkok 5 10,984 10.0
Antalya 6 10,641 20.0
Kuala Lumpur 7 10,351 10.0
New York City 8 8,961 4.2
Paris 9 8,176 5.5
Istanbul 10 8,124 7.7
Dubai 11 7,752 -0.4
Mecca 12 6,122 -12.4
Miami 13 6,003 5.6
Rome 14 5,620 1.4
Shanghai 15 5,397 22.9
Barcelona 16 5,160 15.6
Las Vegas 17 5,130 0.8
Cairo 18 4,998 3.5
Beijing 19 4,901 18.8
Los Angeles 20 4,550 1.1
Pattaya 21 4,430 4.0
Amsterdam 22 4,021 9.0
Tokyo 23 3,817 28.0
Prague 24 3,758 2.5
Moscow 25 3,740 1.4
Phuket 26 3,612 7.5
Dublin 27 3,587 -15.0
Punta Cana 28 3,521 3.1
Vienna 29 3,520 4.7
Madrid 30 3,402 1.1
Kiev 31 3,343 -5.4
Orlando 32 3,277 0.4
Taipei 33 3,224 11.4
Mugla 34 3,211 9.0
San Francisco 35 2,929 6.3
Edirne 36 2,912 9.7
Toronto 37 2,879 6.2
Berlin 38 2,872 2.6
Seoul 39 2,809 14.2
Chennai 40 2,785 18.0
Guangzhou 41 2,687 16.2
Sydney 42 2,610 0.3
Budapest 43 2,606 -3.9
Denpasar 44 2,600 6.1
Sharm el Sheikh 45 2,558 10.0
Buenos Aires 46 2,509 13.6
St Petersburg 47 2,500 7.8
Warsaw 48 2,450 5.6
Damascus 49 2,436 7.2
Ho Chi Minh 50 2,435 28.4
Cancún 51 2,434 3.8
Delhi 52 2,350 20.0
Brussels 53 2,235 -1.6
Mumbai 54 2,195 10.0
Bucharest 55 2,136 5.4
Aleppo 56 2,116 7.2
Munich 57 2,053 -1.3
Marrakech 58 2,028 6.1
Mexico City 59 2,028 3.8
Jakarta 60 2,000 6.4
Vancouver 61 1,951 0.0
Auckland 62 1,950 3.6
Rio de Janeiro 63 1,929 7.0
Lima 64 1,925 5.1
Milan 65 1,910 0.8
Seattle 66 1,893 -0.3
Lisbon 67 1,881 4.7
East Province 68 1,877 -11.2
São Paulo 69 1,825 4.5
Agra 70 1,813 18.5
Jaipur 71 1,777 18.5
Johannesburg 72 1,771 6.0
Chiang Mai 73 1,769 5.0
Shenzhen 74 1,749 19.5
Christchurch 75 1,744 1.3
Hangzhou 76 1,744 10.9
Athens 77 1,733 -7.0
Venice 78 1,695 1.7
Florence 79 1,690 0.3
Honolulu 80 1,666 5.1
Abu Dhabi 81 1,624 12.8
Halong 82 1,581 28.0
Washington DC 83 1,569 22.4
Burgas 84 1,535 -1.8
Riyadh 85 1,512 -12.1
Varna 86 1,501 -0.2
Cape Town 87 1,486 4.9
Melbourne 88 1,466 3.8
Hurghada 89 1,459 10.0
Edinburgh 90 1,404 6.0
Minsk 91 1,398 9.0
Suzhou 92 1,379 18.8
Zurich 93 1,378 23.1
Sharjah 94 1,335 3.4
Kolkatta 95 1,313 12.0
Algiers 96 1,312 5.8
Chicago 97 1,300 9.8
Krabi 98 1,291 5.5
Queenstown 99 1,265 3.5
Manila 100 1,250 25.6

Source: Euromonitor International

*London travel information updated 2.27.11 to reflect final figures from 2010. Previous data was an estimate. 

Vietnamese cities record robust growth

Vietnamese cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Halong, recorded the strongest growth in arrivals, at around 28%, in 2010. Rising disposable incomes and improving living standards in Asia Pacific were key contributing factors, as travelling became more affordable. It is also worth noting that improved government policies in Vietnam helped attract more inbound tourists in 2010.

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. It is the centre of the country’s economy, contributing one-third of Vietnam’s GDP. The city is famous for its remnants from the French War and US War, such as Independent Palace, Notre Dame Saigon (Immaculate Conception Cathedral Basilica), War Remnants Museum, and many modern skyscrapers. It also houses the busiest airport in Vietnam, and acts as the transfer point for many tourists who want to visit other places in the country.

Halong is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The bay features thousands of limestone hills and mountains in various sizes and shapes. The limestone in this bay is said to have gone through 500,000 years of formation. With beautiful landscapes, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.

Upcoming sporting events to foster future visits in Kiev, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro

Upcoming large sporting events like the Euro 2012 football championship, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games are expected to be the main drivers of inbound tourism development in host cities such as Kiev, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the near future.

In preparation for these events, all cities are aggressively investing in infrastructure development, which is set to positively impact the future of travel and tourism. In Kiev, for example, government authorities are paying special attention to the modernisation of airports as these will serve as points of arrival for most Western Europeans. All major events are key to boosting travel and tourism before, during and after the events through increased awareness of the host cities, mainly as leisure tourism destinations.

Tokyo rebounds

Tokyo rebounded strongly in 2010, after recording a 17% decline in arrivals in the previous year. The removal of the ban on visas for individual Chinese travellers back in July 2009, coupled with the completion of expansion projects at Narita International Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport during 2010, were key in fostering inbound flows during 2010. Ongoing support for the Visit Japan Campaign (VJC) was also key in attracting more tourists to the city in 2010 from India, Russia and Malaysia. However, the tsunami disaster in March 2011 will lead to declining arrivals in the near term.

Antalya welcomes new tourists

As growth in arrivals from main source countries like France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria slowed significantly in 2010, Antalya saw a new wave of tourists from the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Eastern European countries, including Iran, Japan and Russia, flock to the city. This resulted in a strong 20% rise in arrivals in 2010, to almost 11 million tourists, up from nine million in 2009.

With very long coastal areas and a great deal of natural beauty, Antalya works as a magnet for tourists from colder countries like Russia. In the past few years, golf tourism has also turned into an important growth driver for tourists travelling to the city. In Turkey, most golf facilities are in the vicinity of tourist resorts, around the coastal regions which have the necessary facilities like accommodation, restaurants and entertainment. The Ministry of Tourism plans to establish another 11 golf courses in these tourist areas as well as in Istanbul.

Steady growth ahead

Euromonitor International foresees an even stronger growth for arrivals in 2011. Uncertainty in the global economy, especially in the US and Europe, which are major tourism source markets, is likely to cause slower, but still positive, growth. The hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games in London is likely to alleviate some of the pressure felt by the UK city as a tourist destination as it benefits from increased media exposure and stronger arrivals in the short term.

Euromonitor International expects cities in emerging markets to continue to steal share of global arrivals, especially in Asia Pacific. This shift will be accelerated by the expansion of low-cost carriers, open skies agreements and rising middle classes that are travelling in ever greater numbers, especially intra-regionally. This is likely to give rise to international city break packages from travel retailers.

Given the uncertain economic outlook for developed markets, there is still the challenge of a possible shift in consumer behaviour. With less disposable income, travellers may be prone to taking fewer and shorter trips to save money. Also, cost-conscious consumers will use the internet to run price comparisons and seek the cheapest forms of transport, which may hinder the industry’s ability to raise prices. Even among high-income travellers, value for money will remain important in the future. While people may be willing to spend more on travel, they will make sure it is money well spent.


Annual research programme

Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations Ranking (2011 edition) was built from the results of the global travel research programme conducted in 58 core countries by in-country analysts, which follows Euromonitor International’s methodology and definitions for travel and tourism.

City arrivals data was sourced directly from national statistics offices, airport arrivals, hotel/accommodation stays or other methods for all 58 core countries and 150 market insight countries under review.

Main secondary sources included governmental, inter-governmental and other official sources; national and international specialist trade press and trade associations; industry study groups and other semi-official sources; and reports published by major operators, travel retailers, online databases and the financial, business and mainstream press. Trade interviews were conducted with national tourist offices, trade associations and travel operators to fill gaps in secondary research.

Country data was then cross-checked on a regional basis by the regional research teams based in London, Vilnius, Chicago and Singapore. Examples of regional sources reviewed included TourMis and European Cities Marketing for Europe. Further top-down checks were conducted by the in-house global research team. Where irregularities were found between editions, supplementary research was conducted to confirm or amend those findings. Euromonitor International is satisfied that the results of the in-country research, coupled with the top-down global perspective, ensure that the Top City Destinations Ranking is robust with a high level of data validation.

It is important to note that the Top City Destinations Ranking is not an exhaustive list and that its purpose is to highlight leading cities gleaned from the findings of Euromonitor International’s annual research programme.

Research Methodology by City

ScreenHunter_06 Jan. 04 11.50

Source: Euromonitor International


International arrivals by city includes visitors from abroad that arrive at the city under review as their first point of entry, and also includes those visitors to the city that arrived in the country via a different point of entry, and then go on to visit the city in question during their trip.

Arrivals refers to international tourists, for example, any person visiting another country for at least 24 hours, for a period not exceeding 12 months, and staying in collective or private accommodation. Each arrival is counted separately and includes people travelling more than once a year and people visiting several countries during one holiday. Domestic visitors are excluded.

Euromonitor International’s arrival figures exclude same-day visitors, transit and cruise passengers as this can distort arrival figures at important border crossings and cruise destinations respectively. It also excludes those in paid employment abroad. Students that stay in a country for a period of more than 12 months are excluded and are considered as temporary residents. Military personnel and transportation crew are excluded, along with displaced people because of war or natural disasters.

In this edition of the Top City Destinations Ranking, changes were made to Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing and Singapore in line with Euromonitor International’s project definitions and industry consensus regarding arrivals data. Overnight visitors from mainland China are now included in the Hong Kong arrivals data. Overnight visitors from mainland China and Hong Kong are included in the Macau arrivals data. Overnight visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are included in the Beijing arrivals data. Singapore includes an estimate for land arrivals from Malaysia, which explains why figures are higher than totals published by national statistics offices.

Country/City Notes

  • All countries/cities exclude day trippers and domestic visitors
  • Singapore includes Malaysian citizens arriving by land
  • Saudi Arabia official data is for provinces only

Note from Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel and Tourism Research, Euromonitor International:

The leader board for the Top City Destinations Ranking (2011 edition) has changed since the 2010 edition, with Hong Kong and Singapore now higher in the ranking than London which was previously ranked as the number one city world-wide.

The main reason for the change at the top was due to Euromonitor International updating its definition of international city arrivals in keeping with the definitions used during its annual research programme. These definitions are based on industry consensus and take into account the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and Tourism Satellite Account’s view regarding what constitutes an international arrival and an arrival by country of origin.

This definitional alignment subsequently led to changes being made to Hong Kong and Singapore, amongst others. In keeping with industry definitions, overnight visitors from mainland China are now included in the Hong Kong arrivals data and Singapore arrivals include an estimate for land arrivals from Malaysia.

Every year the travel and tourism research team at Euromonitor International strive to improve on the previous edition, with the aim of providing greater transparency. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Useful reference

Passport: Travel and Tourism 

Have a question or a thought to add? Leave us a comment below.

Caroline Bremner

Caroline Bremner manages the global research programme for the travel industry at Euromonitor International, which she joined in July 1996. Caroline has a degree in French (MA (Hons), University of Edinburgh) and Postgraduate Diploma in European Marketing and Languages (PG Dip, Napier University, Edinburgh).

  • J

    Well, I don`t know how do you measure those numbers, but New York just celebrated reaching the number of 50 million tourists for 2011.

  • Jamie Maynard

    The methodology is written out at the end of the article. If you’d like a more concise breakdown or have specific questions, we’d be happy to provide further explanation.

  • Robert Lundemo Aas

    I do not see how Mugla, Edirne or Aleppo could get on such a list. This is clearly a bluff. Take Mugla, a small town with only a handful of family ran hotels and not one single big or chain hotel is supposed to have more visitors than Berlin or San Francisco?
    The lack of quality control that made it possible for these 3 to make it to the list makes such a list highly unreliable.

  • Jamie Maynard

    Hello Robert,
    For Mugla, the source is Mugla Governorship. Data manipulations were needed in this case and original data were reduced by 1.5 million for 2010 to exclude day trips. The city Mugla has many districts and all of them are more like an individual brand in the tourism sector of Turkey. The districts are Bodrum, Dalaman, Datca, Fethiye, Kavaklidere, Koycegiz, Marmaris, Milas, Ortaca, Ula and Yatagan. Mugla is an inexpensive and good option for European people for summer holidays hence its popularity.
    The source for the city arrivals data for Edirne is Edirne Municipality, which estimates international arrivals to the city. In Edirne’s case, there are a substantial number of relatives coming back to visit as well as visitors from Greece and Bulgaria to do business as the city is near the border.
    Syria is a difficult information environment with little known about the international arrivals to the different cities. To estimate the international arrivals to its cities, we took into consideration the large number of attractions in Aleppo including the Old City (the Souks which are very popular for shopping among Arabs), the Great Mosque, the Saint Simon Citadelle among others. We also took into consideration the amount of hotels in the city compared to other cities in the country. More importantly, Aleppo is also the largest city in Syria in terms of population size. Based on this, we assumed it would be a popular tourism destination as well as receive a lot of visitors returning to visit friends and family. There are a very large number of Syrians residing abroad and holding foreign nationalities which makes this group important for tourism in Syria in general and in Aleppo–the most populated city in the country. As a result, we estimate that Aleppo accounts for about 40% of total arrivals to the country.
    The figures for Berlin and San Francisco also come from industry sources. Figures for Berlin are based on international arrival figures in various accommodation facilities provided by the federal statistical office; as this does not cover international arrivals that stay with relatives and friends an assumption has been made (5%) to cover the missing arrivals which has been added on top of the figure from the statistical office. The figures for San Francisco come from the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

  • Marjan Trajkovski

    Paris is number one, but there is a little trick in city border from 1860. Statistically, Paris has population of 2 milion and 8 milion visitors, but in reality has population of 13 milion (largest city in the Europe) and 20 milion visitors.

  • mj

    Surprising that Paris is so far below London. Did you only use the City of Paris area or the wider urban conurbation? If using city boundaries only this could lead to very misleading results depending on how different cities delineate themselves administratively.

  • Jamie Maynard

    Euromonitor International sourced the Paris arrivals data from Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau ( Parisinfo publishes detailed data on the performance of hotels in the city, including the number of international tourist arrivals staying in Paris hotels. Upon review of various sources available, the Travel Research team considered this to be the best source for the purposes of the Top City Destination article. According to the source, Paris is considered to include the greater city area.
    Please see the following link for more details:
    International hotel arrivals data are provided on page 18 of

  • aj

    Can you explain why the figure for London 14,581 does not match the UK ONS data 14,706?
    Do you make some kind of adjustment for consistency purposes?
    Also, what is the 2009 figure for London upon which the 2010 percentage volume increase is calculated upon?

  • aj

    Why do the data for London in your list above not match official data from the UK office for national statistics when this is listed as the source used for London?
    Have adjustments been made and not mentioned?
    Please explain (I tried to post this previously but the comment has not appeared)

  • Jamie Maynard

    We do use the ONS as the source for our London arrivals, but we do not match because our 2010 data is estimated based on partial year figures. The timing of our research and the article means that the 2009 figures are final but 2010 is estimated. We are working to update the article to include the most recent figures. Please check back this week to see the updated information.

  • Odd Arne Haavorstad

    Do you have a website with further information about
    the most visited cities – those after the first hundred ?

  • Jamie Maynard

    This particular article is written once a year for our blog, and the list is in its entirety as you see it. If you’d like additional travel and tourism research, visit our travel and tourism page here:

  • Sara Moura

    Can you explain how is calculated the volume growth figures.

  • Jamie Maynard

    Volume growth is the comparative increase or decrease in number of arrivals over a period of time. Here we’re measuring percentage growth from 2009 to 2010. To calculate percentage growth, subtract the number of arrivals in 2009 from the number of arrivals in 2010, divide by the number of arrivals in 2009 and multiply that number by 100.

  • Sara Moura

    Thank you for the explanation. I was ask based on growth of the Hong Kong, 2010: 19,973; 2009: 7.011. The % volume growth 2009/2010 is 184,9 not 18,0. Can you explain that.

  • Jamie Maynard

    The 18% is calculated from the following actuals for international arrivals to Hong Kong:
    Arrivals 2009 – 16,926
    Arrivals 2010 – 19, 973
    % volume growth 2009/2010: 18%
    The previous edition presented Hong Kong arrivals as 7,290.4 thousand. As detailed in the methodology section of the latest edition of the Top City Destinations, we revised the Hong Kong data to be in line with international definitions of tourism flows, whereby Hong Kong, China is considered a destination in its own rights from Mainland China. The new data of 19 million therefore includes overnight visitors from mainland China.
    Hope that helps to clarify.

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