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Top 100 City Destinations Ranking

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January 28th, 2016

Euromonitor International is pleased to release its annual Top City Destinations Ranking, covering 100 of the world’s leading cities in terms of international tourist arrivals. Arrivals continued to grow in global urban centres in 2014, illustrating the continued economic importance of tourism to the world’s cities.

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Chinese travellers look close to home

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Asia remained the dominant region for city tourism, with over one third of the top 100 cities being located in Asia in 2014. The growing number of outbound Chinese travellers hugely influenced the rankings, with Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei benefiting greatly from these visitors. Improved flight connections from China and relaxed or no visa restrictions for Chinese visitors are assisting in the march up the rankings of these Asian destinations. A key aspect for city destinations is understanding the specific needs of Chinese travellers, who are gradually becoming more adventurous and moving slowly towards more individual travel rather than relying on traditional tour groups.

However, China is not only an important outbound market. China has seven cities in the top 100 ranking, which is the same amount as the US. All cities registered healthy growth, with the exception of Beijing, which has been hampered by increasing reports of air quality. The high number of cities, however, illustrates how China is not only the largest outbound market, but is also gaining global dominance as a destination for business and leisure tourism.

Indian cities experienced strong growth in arrivals in 2014, with the combined efforts of a longstanding promotion campaign (Incredible India) and a weak rupee aiding visits to the country as a whole. Delhi and Mumbai are the most popular destinations, with each seeing over 4.5 million visitors in 2014. Additionally, the introduction of a new visa-on-arrival process for 46 countries, including the US, Germany and Australia, has helped encourage visitors to India.

Vietnam saw three of its cities in the top 100 for the first time: Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Halong. The Vietnamese Government has been extremely proactive in promoting the country through international media outlets such as CNN and BBC, with successful results. Combined with increased flight connectivity, city arrivals have performed strongly.

Europe in turbulent waters

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European cities remain classic, must-see destinations the world over, with both London and Paris in the top 10, in second and fifth positions respectively. London moved up, with a 4% rise in inbound arrivals, as Bangkok dropped down due to political unrest in Thailand and a decline in Russian arrivals. However, levels of growth in European cities are nowhere near the increases seen in other Asian city destinations, and within the top 100 itself, less than one third of the cities are now in Europe. Many older cities, such as Venice, Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam, are suffering from excessive tourism, with overcrowding at the top sites and attractions. Some are promoting tourism outside mainstream areas, either inside or outside the boundaries of the core city, in an attempt to distribute visitors and their wealth more evenly.

In 2015, European city tourism numbers are expected to be impacted by the migrant crisis, but the extent to which this will happen is difficult to determine as of yet, with many governments denying that tourist numbers will have been affected. However, with rail stations in cities such as Budapest blocked for a time in the summer of 2015, and border checks re-established in a number of Schengen countries, it is extremely likely that there will be a decline in arrivals to some European cities once the full year data for 2015 is made available.

Rio and Cancun rise above others in the Americas

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Miami was the most dynamic destination in the US in 2014, seeing a 15.7% increase in visitors to reach 7.2 million. Latin Americans made up over half of international visitors to the city, but much of the increase was seen from travellers stopping over in the city on the way to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro benefitted most from the World Cup, with an increase of 46.6% in inbound arrivals, moving the city up 12 places in the ranking to 80. With the Olympics coming to Rio in summer 2016, the city is again expected to see record growth, although host cities of mega events often experience negative sentiments from residents alongside visitor displacement, with tourists avoiding the destination for the duration of the event, as was seen during the London Olympics in 2012.

Cancun in Mexico registered an incredible rise of 42.1%, in 2014 welcoming over four million visitors. With this number, it beat the Mexican capital, Mexico City, in terms of arrivals for the first time. 2014 was a record year for Mexican tourism, with strong growth in arrivals from the US and Canada due to holidaymakers seeking to escape poor weather at home, good exchange rates, and effective promotions by Mexican tourism organisations.

Havana in Cuba is a city to watch over the coming years. The city is poised to be a Latin American success story in 2015 and 2016, as visitor numbers are predicted to rise as the improved political relationship with the US has encouraged tourism, and international flight connections have expanded and are expected to continue increasing over the coming years.

Security and safety a growing concern

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Concerns about the safety and security of visitors is a growing global issue and will most likely be highlighted in full-year 2015 arrivals data, when the impacts of terrorist attacks in Bangkok, Paris, Istanbul, Sousse and Sharm el Sheikh are felt. Already, figures for Paris have shown a decline during the last two months of 2015, but the French capital city is likely to remain high in the rankings as visitors return in 2016. However, destinations in Tunisia and Egypt are likely to suffer more as tourists remain uneasy about visiting, with Sharm el Sheikh seeing a continued flight ban from countries like the UK and Russia. Major UK tour operator Thomas Cook has announced the extension of its flight ban until at least March 2016.

Despite these developments, it is clear that the appetite for travel is growing on a global scale. The increasingly positive performance of many economies in North America and Europe, and improving ties with countries like Cuba and Iran (which will benefit Havana and Tehran particularly), is expected to ensure that continued growth of city arrivals will be registered in the coming years.

TOP 10 CITY DESTINATIONS RANKING

Rank Region City Country 2013 2014 % Increase 2013/2014
1 Asia Pacific Hong Kong Hong Kong, China 25,661.1 27,770.0 8.2
2 Western Europe London United Kingdom 16,784.0 17,383.9 3.6
3 Asia Pacific Singapore Singapore 17,146.7 17,086.2 -0.4
4 Asia Pacific Bangkok Thailand 17,467.8 16,245.0 -7.0
5 Western Europe Paris France 15,271.9 14,981.7 -1.9
6 Asia Pacific Macau Macau 13,935.3 14,966.5 7.4
7 Middle East and Africa Dubai United Arab Emirates 12,180.0 13,200.0 8.4
8 Asia Pacific Shenzhen China 12,148.9 13,120.8 8.0
9 North America New York City USA 11,850.4 12,230.0 3.2
10 Western Europe Istanbul Turkey 10,486.3 11,871.2 13.2

Source: Euromonitor International

To view the 100 cities destinations ranking and for further insights, please download Euromonitor free report HERE

 

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Annual research programme

Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations Ranking (2014 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.

City arrivals data were sourced directly from national statistics offices, airport arrivals, hotel/accommodation stays or other methods for all 57 core countries and 93 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, with the emphasis on cities, rather than popular holiday resorts.

  

Data Research Method

City

Airport Arrivals Agra, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkatta, Moscow, Mumbai, Punta Cana, Taichung, Taipei
Airport Arrivals and Hotel/Accommodation Buenos Aires, Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh
Hotel/Accommodation Amsterdam, Berlin, Cancún, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Marrakech, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Prague, Rome, Vienna, Zurich
National Statistics Office Amman, Andorra la Vella, Athens, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Chiang Mai, Denpasar, Dubai, Dublin, Florence, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Hanoi, Halong, Heraklion, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, Jeju, Jerusalem, Johor Bahru, Krakow, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Macau, Madrid, Manila, Mecca, Melbourne, Miami, Munich, New York City, Nice, Orlando, Pattaya, Phuket, Rhodes, Rio De Janeiro, Riyadh, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Siem Reap, Singapore, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Zhuhai
Other method Artvin, Antalya, Edirne, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Marne-La-Vallée, Mugla, Nairobi, Pulau Pinang, Sofia, 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, but excludes same-day visitors which were previously counted.

Saudi Arabia                            Official data are for provinces only

Dubai                                         In previous years, Dubai used to only track international overnight visitors staying in paid accommodation; this year Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Euromonitor have improved this data to include overnight visitors who stay with friends and family. The data has been revised in accordance (March 2016).

 

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, people in 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.

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

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).

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