Asian Cities Become Smarter in Advance of Even More Visitors

Asia is embracing the concept of smart cities, using technology and data to balance continued arrivals growth with sustainable expansion, according to Euromonitor International research presented in the WTM London (World Travel Market London) this year.

Hong Kong is the world’s most visited city in the world, and in 2017, the city is expected to welcome 25.7 million visitors, a slight drop on 2016 but still the global number one. Hong Kong is predicted to retain its position in the medium term, with more than 31 million arrivals expected in 2020 and some 44 million in 2025.

Authorities in the city were one of the earliest to think of city development in smart terms when it launched the world’s first contactless public transport payment scheme twenty years ago. The Octopus Card has developed over the years and today allows pre-payment which can be used on Hong Kong’ public transport network and some 20,000 outlets including shops, bars, restaurants and vending machines. In 2016 more than 14 million transactions took place on an average day.

Contactless payment for public transport is now commonplace, but across Asia there is a drive towards cashless cities. A truly “smarter” society and economy will be based around digital payment facilities. Cities are set to benefit as governments and the private sector both identify and satisfy the inhabitants and visitors’ demands for a cashless experience. Some cities in China are now almost cashless thanks to widespread adoption of digital wallet products from WeChat Pay and AliPay.

Elsewhere, PayTM, India’s leading mobile payment app, has paved the way for banked and unbanked citizens to buy a range of products and services without cash. It has identified travel and leisure – hotels, movie tickets, restaurants and rail tickets – as target segments. The wallet is opening up ecommerce to inhabitants in India’s second and third tier cities and in rural areas.

Singapore is a city which the World Economic Forum ranked top for “technological readiness” in 2016. It is also one of the world’s most visited cities, coming fourth in Top 100 City Destination Ranking WTM London 2017 Edition with 16.6 million international visits in 2016. However, its growth trajectory over the next few years is sharper than most – Euromonitor predicts the city will welcome 21 million in 2020 and 30 million in 2025 when it will take third position on the list.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore recognised the need for the city to become smart early on, and has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2007 on issues such as mobility, health and the environment. The tie-up is now part of the government’s Smart Nation programme, launched in 2014 “to create a conducive environment so people and companies can take full advantage of the digital revolution to co-create innovative solutions that will enhance the lives of our citizens.”

Euromonitor International presented the Top 100 City Destinations Ranking Report at the WTM London event November 2017.