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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. The global economic crisis that started at the end of 2008 and worsened in 2009 caused an unprecedented drop in international arrivals worldwide, leaving no region unscathed. Total arrivals to the top 100 cities fell by 3.5% as a result.
|‘000 arrivals||Rank||2009 Arrivals||% growth 2008/2009|
|New York City||6||8,479.0||-10.7|
|Rio De Janeiro||38||2,698.1||0.3|
|Sharm el Sheikh||58||2,024.5||-18.0|
|Ho Chi Minh||62||1,896.7||-3.8|
|Palma de Mallorca||100||1,124.7||-4.2|
Source: Euromonitor International
Note: growth based on restated 2008 data
North America was the hardest hit region with a drop of 11.3% in international visitors because of the financial crisis and the strengthening of the dollar during 2009. Most cities, including New York City, Las Vegas and Orlando, experienced double digit declines. The Middle East enjoyed the best performance with only a 0.6% drop in visitors. 50% of the cities in the Middle East experienced growth with Mecca leading the way with 400,000 more visitors in 2009. As the Hajj season was hampered by fears of H1N1, many refrained from flying to Saudi Arabia, and instead made their pilgrimages either before or after the Hajj season, but despite the fears, the religious market was resilient and international arrivals increased.
London attracted a total of 14 million tourists in 2009, topping Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations, despite a 5% decline compared to the previous year. The shortfall of visitors from main source markets like the US and other Western European countries explains the weak results.
Bangkok was the second most visited city with almost 10 million arrivals in 2009. Highly dependent on inbound tourism from the US, UK and Japan, Bangkok registered a 2% decline in 2009. It is worth noting, however, that a number of measures implemented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), such as the lowering of airport landing fees for a limited period and the adoption of visa exemption schemes for transit passengers, encouraged visits during the downturn. Additionally, TAT started to target alternative source markets within Asia, the Middle East and China to compensate for a drop in long haul visitors.
Singapore was the third most visited city in 2009 as a number of events taking place in the second half of the year, such as the Hari Raya holidays and Japan’s five-day Silver Week vacation, helped boost inbound flows. Furthermore, the industry introduced tempting travel packages and aggressively marketed the Singapore Grand Prix Season.
New York City fell from the fourth to the sixth most visited city with 8.4 million arrivals, down 11% from 2008. As the epicentre of the financial crisis, New York City suffered as business travel was curtailed and leisure travellers stayed away from expensive destinations.
The fastest growing city over 2008-2009 was Bucharest. Bucharest, which recorded the largest growth in international arrivals at 24%, benefited from being a key financial and economic destination in Romania. The city hosts all the country’s international events and is home to many subsidiaries of multinational companies. According to local sources, the city was the only to record an increase in international arrivals in 2009, with one out of two arrivals in Romania going to Bucharest. Bucharest is also benefiting from diaspora tourism following EU accession and growth in low cost carriers.
With real GDP growth of 4.5% in 2009, Indonesia was one of the few countries to grow in the global downturn and this benefited key cities in the country. Although arrivals nationally barely grew 1% in 2009, Denpasar and Jakarta were the second and third fastest growing cities in the ranking at 20% and 16% respectively. This growth was thanks to AirAsia’s expansion in connecting Malaysia and Indonesia, which increased the number of Malaysian tourists.
Denpasar, as the capital city of the island of Bali, benefited from the unquestioned popularity of the island with leisure tourists. Aside from holidays, Bali also grew in popularity as a destination for business travel, notably meetings and incentives. The local culture and hospitality of the Balinese, followed by the landscape, were key factors attracting tourists to the island.
Jakarta saw a strong increase in visitors thanks to the robust business environment of the country and serves as a key entry point to other destinations on the island of Java. The city hosts several key man made tourists’ attractions such as the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah and the Taman Impian Jaya Ancol – Indonesia’s largest and most popular recreational park.
Sharm el Sheikh, Honolulu and Tokyo registered the highest drops in international arrivals in 2009, mainly due to the global economic crisis. For Sharm el Sheikh, the 18% decline was predominantly due to the impact the crisis had on key source markets like the UK and France. The increased competition from Hurghada also hurt the city. Hurghada is being upgraded with new hotels and resorts, luring visitors away from Sharm el Sheikh. The terrorist attacks in Cairo in 2009 also contributed for the cautiousness of travellers going to Egypt.
Honolulu saw an 18% decline in tourist arrivals due to the economic crisis, which caused travellers to avoid long haul, luxury destinations. It was further complicated by the H1N1 outbreak, which caused visitors to cancel trips to Hawaii.
The 17% decline registered by Tokyo resulted from weakened global trade and the appreciation of the yen. Nevertheless, despite the negative results, Tokyo remained the most popular destination amongst international visitors in Japan with a figure four times larger than the second most popular, Osaka.
North America was unquestionably the biggest loser in 2009, with all of its main city destinations registering a decline in international arrivals. The strengthening of the dollar deterred international tourists as well as the shift in consumer preferences to stay closer to home.
Latin American cities also registered strong declines. Lima saw the strongest decline at 13.1% followed closely by Mexico City at 13%. Lima hosted the APEC meeting in 2008, but not in 2009, which caused the significant decline in visitors.
As for Mexico City, it was impacted by the H1N1 outbreak, the negative media exposure related to drug trade violence and the global economic crisis, deterring tourists mainly in the first half of 2009.
Cities located in Asia Pacific showed the strongest growth thanks to the positive performance of several cities including Denpasar, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Chiang Mai and Beijing. An increasing middle class and regional airlift expansion are fuelling inbound flows to Asia Pacific.
Following one of the worst years on record for international travel and tourism, Euromonitor International foresees a stabilisation in arrivals for 2010 and 2011, but not a complete recovery to pre-crisis levels until at least 2012.
It is likely that big events in 2010 like the South Africa FIFA World Cup held in cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, and the Shanghai Expo will boost international arrivals to those cities. However, since these events are unique, the cities could experience a significant drop off in international visitation, putting pressure on the travel and tourism industry to realign its capacity to meet normal levels of demand.
Euromonitor International expects cities in emerging markets to continue to steal share of global arrivals, especially in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa. This shift will be accelerated by the expansion of low cost carriers and rising middle classes that are travelling in ever greater numbers, especially intra-regionally. Those cities serving as main airport hubs are expected to benefit from this regional movement, namely São Paulo, Johannesburg, and Kuala Lumpur.
Annual research programme
Euromonitor International’s Top City Destinations Ranking (2010 edition) was built from the results of the global travel research programme conducted in 55 core countries by in-country analysts, which follows Euromonitor International’s methodology and definitions for travel and tourism.
In line with the change in methodology applied in 2009, city arrivals data was sourced directly from national tourist offices and national statistics offices for the 55 major markets under review. For the additional 150 market insight countries researched by Euromonitor International at national level, the global travel research team identified a further 10 countries whose cities merited further investigation.
Main secondary sources include governmental, inter-governmental and other official sources; national and international specialist trade press and trade associations; industry study groups and other semi-official sources; 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. We are satisfied that the results of the in-country research, coupled with the top-down global perspective, ensures 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.
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, 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.
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 residents of the country of temporary residence. 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.
All countries Exclude day trippers and domestic visitors
Hong Kong Excludes tourists from Mainland China
Macau Excludes tourists from Mainland China and Hong Kong
Singapore Excludes all Malaysian citizens arriving by land
Beijing Excludes visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
Saudi Arabia Official data is for provinces only