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.
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
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.
|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.
All countries/cities Excludes day trippers and domestic visitors
Singapore Includes Malaysian citizens arriving by land
Saudi Arabia Official data is for provinces only
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.