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Top 100 City Destinations Ranking

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January 27th, 2014
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UPDATE: View the most recent list here

Euromonitor International is pleased to release the Top City Destinations Ranking, covering 100 of the world’s leading cities in terms of international tourist arrivals. Continued economic growth helped these cities collectively experience a gain of 6.6% in 2012, outpacing the 4.2% growth of overall international arrivals. Within the top 10, six cities are located in Asia, demonstrating the importance of the region to international travel. Overall, 32 of the top 100 city destinations are in Asia Pacific, 12 more than in second-placed Western Europe.

The Rise of Chinese Tourists Impacts Top Cities

Hong Kong and Singapore maintained their first and second place spots in 2012. China was the fastest growing source market and helped them to retain their leading positions. Arrivals from China to Hong Kong grew by 11.1% in 2012 and accounted for a 63.5% share of all inbound visitors. Without taking Chinese arrivals into account, however, international arrivals to Hong Kong were flat. China is the third largest source market for Singapore although it accounts for only 9.6% of international arrivals. Instead, Singapore relies heavily on arrivals from Malaysia and Indonesia, which together account for slightly more than half of all arrivals.

Chinese tourists were also a boon to Thailand’s tourism industry, increasing by 62% in 2012 to become the largest source market for tourists. Chinese tourists visit Thailand for its temples, beaches and shopping. Additionally, the 2012 Chinese film “Lost in Thailand” inspired more tourists to flock to the country. As a result, Bangkok edged out London for third place in the rankings.

As a mature destination heavily dependent on mature source markets, such as the US and Europe, London’s 2.3% increase was a reasonable performance. Instead of being a boon for international tourism, the summer Olympics had a displacement effect, with 5% fewer international arrivals to the city in July 2012 compared to July 2011, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

While the Chinese Venture Abroad, Fewer Travellers Visit China

In absolute terms, Shanghai, Beijing and Zhuhai were among the worst performing cities in 2012. A slowing economy, a stronger yuan and pollution fears all dissuaded travellers from visiting Asian countries, as well as Canadians and Russians from visiting China. In particular, tourists from Japan, the fifth largest source market, experienced a decline due to the weak yen and the ongoing dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. However, Guilin registered strong growth thanks to the efforts of its government to promote the city as an international destination at travel trade fairs held in Thailand, Russia and Malaysia, as well as the city’s burgeoning reputation for sightseeing.

Cairo

A Rebound from the Arab Spring Begins

The Arab Spring caused visitor numbers to drop in cities throughout the Middle East in 2011 as civil unrest rocked the region and the ongoing violence in various countries continued to affect arrivals. However, a recovery was seen in 2012, with leading cities in Egypt such as Cairo and Sharm El Sheik seeing the return of visitors, although numbers failed to approach pre-revolution figures. Cairo, in particular, saw a rise of 7.7% in 2012 after a steep fall of 35% in 2011. The Tunisian cities of Djerba and Sousse welcomed 2.6 million and 1.9 million visitors in 2012, up 24.6% and 27%, respectively. After the relatively peaceful Jasmine Revolution in 2011, Tunisia has seen a renaissance in its tourism industry among mainly French visitors due to the countries’ historic ties. Djerba is a popular island for leisure tourists from France, Germany and Italy.

Future Growth will be Driven by Chinese and Russians Travellers

In 2012, the top five countries in terms of number of international departures were Germany, the US, the UK, China and Russia.  By 2017, China will lead with Germany in second place and Russia in third. Therefore, cities which appeal to Chinese and Russian travellers will experience stronger growth, especially those in neighbouring countries. China’s ban on shopping tours, effective from 1 October 2013, may cause a short-term dip to cities with a high share of such trips, such as Hong Kong and Seoul.

In particular, Thailand is well positioned to benefit from the strong growth of both Chinese and Russian travellers thanks to its proximity, shopping and attractions, although the current political unrest may undermine growth in the short term, more so for Bangkok than other destinations which can be reached directly. In the long term, nevertheless, Euromonitor International expects that Bangkok will cement its position as the third most visited city, while Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai will continue their ascent in the rankings.

Countries which relax or streamline visa processes, develop strong relationships with tour operators, implement targeted marketing and expand airlift will increase travellers from these countries, which will benefit their main city destinations. Many countries have embraced the move to better visa processes or exemptions to woo these visitors. For example, on 1 January 2014, South Korea allowed Russians to travel to the country for 60 days without a visa.

It is these actions that mature city destinations need to pursue. Paris has done well courting emerging market travellers, with 320,000 Russians and 204,000 Chinese visitors in 2012, up 7.5% and 16.1%, respectively, according to Parisinfo.com. For Russians, Italy, Germany and Spain are increasingly on their radar so it is imperative that cities there embrace these tourists.

Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations Ranking

City Country Ranking  Arrivals 2012 (‘000) 2011/2012 % Growth
Hong Kong Hong Kong

1

  23,770.2

6.5

Singapore Singapore

2

  21,345.7

7.7

Bangkok Thailand

3

  15,822.6

14.6

London UK

4

  15,461.0

2.3

Macau Macau

5

  13,360.8

3.4

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

6

  13,339.5

6.7

Shenzhen China

7

  12,100.4

9.6

New York City USA

8

  11,618.0

8.9

Antalya Turkey

9

  10,296.6

-1.6

Paris France

10

  9,780.8

3.3

Istanbul Turkey

11

  8,820.1

16.5

Rome Italy

12

  8,670.7

13.9

Dubai UAE

13

  8,023.0

0.5

Guangzhou China

14

  7,879.6

1.2

Phuket Thailand

15

  7,217.0

14.7

Mecca Saudi Arabia

16

  6,852.9

6.9

Pattaya Thailand

17

  6,564.3

8.4

Taipei Taiwan

18

  6,561.2

24.8

Prague Czech Republic

19

  6,547.7

5.1

Shanghai China

20

  6,539.7

-2.2

Las Vegas USA

21

  6,298.0

5.9

Miami USA

22

  5,987.0

4.5

Barcelona Spain

23

  5,459.1

0.5

Moscow Russia

24

  5,036.2

13.6

Beijing China

25

  5,035.4

-3.2

Los Angeles USA

26

  5,017.0

1.2

Budapest Hungary

27

  4,821.6

12

Vienna Austria

28

  4,328.7

8

Amsterdam Netherlands

29

  4,289.2

2.1

Sofia Bulgaria

30

  4,126.3

-0.4

Madrid Spain

31

  4,111.3

-6

Orlando USA

32

  4,067.0

7.4

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

33

  3,923.1

6.5

Lima Peru

34

  3,792.5

29.1

Berlin Germany

35

  3,789.2

5.2

Tokyo Japan

36

  3,754.2

47.1

Warsaw Poland

37

  3,660.3

14.3

Chennai India

38

  3,535.2

11.4

Cairo Egypt

39

  3,500.0

7.7

Nairobi Kenya

40

  3,438.4

8.5

Hangzhou China

41

  3,381.7

10.4

Milan Italy

42

  3,323.7

-0.3

San Francisco USA

43

  3,210.0

3.7

Buenos Aires Argentina

44

  3,166.5

3.3

Venice Italy

45

  3,164.9

0.9

Mexico City Mexico

46

  3,127.3

9.8

Dublin Ireland

47

  3,098.6

-2.1

Seoul South Korea

48

  2,999.9

5

Muğla Turkey

49

  2,981.4

-2.9

Mumbai India

50

  2,977.0

26.7

Denpasar Indonesia

51

  2,956.0

6

Delhi India

52

  2,884.0

6.7

Toronto Canada

53

  2,819.0

3

Zhuhai China

54

  2,736.5

-14.7

St. Petersburg Russia

55

  2,714.6

4.2

Burgas Bulgaria

56

  2,690.0

22.9

Sydney Australia

57

  2,678.0

2

Djerba Tunisia

58

  2,638.4

24.6

Munich Germany

59

  2,622.8

2.7

Johannesburg South Africa

60

  2,620.2

12

Cancún Mexico

61

  2,612.5

4.8

Edirne Turkey

62

  2,536.3

-0.2

Suzhou China

63

  2,530.1

8.8

Bucharest Romania

64

  2,437.0

3.7

Punta Cana Dominican Republic

65

  2,398.5

7

Agra India

66

  2,353.7

12.9

Jaipur India

67

  2,344.4

13.7

Brussels Belgium

68

  2,294.1

-0.5

Nice France

69

  2,242.9

5.1

Chiang Mai Thailand

70

  2,218.7

20

Sharm el Sheikh Egypt

71

  2,200.0

9.7

Lisbon Portugal

72

  2,191.8

1.6

East Province Saudi Arabia

73

  2,156.2

8

Marrakech Morocco

74

  2,101.0

2.4

Jakarta Indonesia

75

  2,098.1

5

Manama Bahrain

76

  2,035.5

9.4

Hanoi Vietnam

77

  2,007.9

10

Honolulu USA

78

  2,004.0

5

Manila Philippines

79

  2,000.4

15.6

Guilin China

80

  1,970.6

19.9

Auckland New Zealand

81

  1,965.4

-6.4

Siem Reap Cambodia

82

  1,932.1

19.9

Sousse Tunisia

83

  1,929.9

27

Amman Jordan

84

  1,917.3

-0.1

Vancouver Canada

85

  1,912.9

1

Abu Dhabi UAE

86

  1,876.0

8.8

Kiev Ukraine

87

  1,874.0

18.6

Doha Qatar

88

  1,867.7

2.4

Florence Italy

89

  1,834.0

0.9

Rio de Janeiro Brazil

90

  1,796.7

6

Melbourne Australia

91

  1,780.0

6.1

Washington DC USA

92

  1,741.0

6.3

Riyadh Saudi Arabia

93

  1,738.9

8

Christchurch New Zealand

94

  1,732.5

-0.1

Frankfurt Germany

95

  1,731.2

2.9

Baku Azerbaijan

96

  1,709.1

7.5

São Paulo Brazil

97

  1,690.0

2.4

Harare Zimbabwe

98

  1,686.5

7.1

Kolkata India

99

  1,637.4

14.4

Nanjing China

100

  1,634.7

8.5

 

Source: Euromonitor International
Note: Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions of China

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Annual Research Programme

Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations Ranking (2013 edition) was built from the results of the global travel research programme conducted in 57 core countries by in-country analysts, which follows Euromonitor International’s methodology and definitions for travel and tourism. The geographical coverage of the research was expanded in 2013. The following cities were added to the list as a result: Djerba (Tunisia), Manama (Bahrain), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sousse (Tunisia), Amman (Jordan), Doha (Qatar) and Harare (Zimbabwe).

City arrivals data was sourced directly from national statistics offices, airport arrivals, hotel/accommodation stays or other methods.

The 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 include 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, with the emphasis on cities rather than popular holiday resorts.

Research Method

Data Research Method City
Airport Arrivals Agra, Amman, Amsterdam, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Mumbai, Punta Cana, Taipei
Airport Arrivals and Hotel/Accommodation Buenos Aires, Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh
Hotel/Accommodation Berlin, Cancún, Florence, Lima, Marrakech, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Prague, Rome, Venice, Vienna
National Statistics Office Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Chiang Mai, Denpasar, Dubai, Dublin, Edinburgh, East Province, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Macau, Madrid, Manila, Mecca, Miami, Munich, Nanjing, New York City, Nice, Orlando, Pattaya, Phuket, Rio De Janeiro, Riyadh, San Francisco, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Siem Reap, Singapore, Suzhou, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington DC, Zhuhai
Other methods Antalya, Auckland, Baku, Bucharest, Burgas, Christchurch, Doha, Edirne, Istanbul, Harare, Djerba, Johannesburg, Kiev, Manama, Muğla, Nairobi, Sofia, Sousse, St Petersburg, Warsaw

Chinese arrival inclusions

Overnight visitors from mainland China are 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.

Footnotes

Country/City                                      Notes

All countries/cities                                 Excludes day trippers and domestic visitors

Singapore                                            Includes Malaysian citizens arriving by land

Saudi Arabia                                        Official data is for provinces only

 

Definitions

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

Arrivals refers to international tourists, ie 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. This encompasses all purposes of visit, such as business, leisure and visiting friends and relatives.

Euromonitor International’s arrivals 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 temporary residents. Military personnel and transportation crew are excluded, along with displaced people because of war or natural disasters.

The ranking focuses on capital city hubs and tends to exclude beach and ski resorts that may enjoy high volumes of international visitors.

Useful reference

http://www.euromonitor.com/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).

  • Sean

    What about Chicago?

  • Florin

    Can you please specify the exact source of information in this top for Bucharest? I can see Bucharest having source “other methods”. Thanks!

  • Michelle Grant

    For Bucharest, we use the official statistics on foreign arrivals staying in accommodation, which we then gross up to account for people staying with friends and family or other types of accommodation.
    Chicago only received 1.2 million visitors according to official statistics so it did not make the list.

  • TQA

    Following up on Bucharest, what does “gross up to account for people staying with friends and family or other types of accommodation” mean?

  • andre Arseneault

    What about Montreal, Quebec , Canada

  • Michelle Grant

    For Bucharest, we assume that roughly 28% of international arrivals stay in accommodation (this percentage is based on the total number of arrivals to accommodation divided by the total number of arrivals to the country), so we take the figure of people staying in the accommodation and divide it by .285 to get an estimate for the total number of visitors to Bucharest.

  • Michelle Grant

    Montreal and Quebec receive around 1 million visitors a year so they don’t make the list (the cut off was 1.6 million).

  • Gorby

    How is Kiev 1,874.000 visitors sourced? I could only see 123,703 foreign tourists in the Kiev Official Stats herehttp://www.gorstat.kiev.ua/p.php3?c=538&lang=1

  • Michelle Grant

    For Kiev, we use data from Local State Border Guard Service(http://dpsu.gov.ua/en/). This institution usually includes only arrivals by train, air and sea, so we assume a 1/3 more people enter in by car. Our estimate was very close to MasterCard and Kiev authorities(http://kievcity.gov.ua/) findings which showed 1,660,000 foreigners visiting Kiev in 2013 (http://newsradio.com.ua/rus/2013_05_28/Kolichestvo-turistov-v-Ukraine-postojanno-rastet-jekspert/). Please feel free to contact me directly.

  • Pepe ARENAS

    What about Palma de Mallorca or Ibiza(Spain)? Both belongs to the Balearic Islands. As per our Information Palma must be close to Phucket.

  • Guillaume Lavoie

    What explains the major difference between your results and those of the Mastercard Index ?http://newsroom.mastercard.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Mastercard_GDCI_2014_Letter_Final_70814.pdf