View the updated version of this list, released January 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. The continuing increase in arrivals to these cities illustrates their economic strength, as well as the sustained importance of urban centres to global tourism, both business and leisure. In fact, these cities combined grew by 5.4% in 2013 –higher than the 4.8% growth experienced by overall international arrivals.
Interested in global travel trends? Download The WTM Global Trends Report now!
Asian cities account for a third of the most visited cities
Over a third of all destinations are located in the Asian Pacific region, illustrating strong regional travel trends within Asia, as well as the growing connections throughout the region. Within the top 10, six of the leading cities are from Asia, with the top three remaining unchanged from last year – Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. These three Asian mega-cities serve as some of the top destinations for Chinese travellers as well as being air network hubs. Bangkok showed the strongest growth among the top 10 cities, up 10.4% from 2012 to reach 17.4 million arrivals, despite political unrest breaking out at the end of the year. Chinese visitors are key to Thailand’s booming arrivals, with close links between the countries as well as efficient and short transport connections.
A new Asian arrival on the list is the South Korean city of Jeju with 1.77 million visitors, growing 46.3% in 2013. Chinese visitors replaced Japanese arrivals as the most important source market for South Korea in 2013. About 70% of international visitors to Jeju Island are Chinese, aided by the no-visa policy as well as improved cruise facilities, direct flights from the Chinese mainland, and a plethora of duty-free shopping opportunities.
While outbound Chinese tourism is hugely influential in many of the cities listed, inbound tourism remains sluggish. China does remain the leading country for the number of cities featured in the top 100, with a total of eight cities. However, with the exceptions of Suzhou and Guilin, all these cities experienced a decline in arrivals for 2013. Beijing in particular continues to be affected by the slowdown in the Chinese economy as well as pollution.
India’s leading cities, Delhi and Mumbai, though, experienced growth of 27% and 22%, respectively, in 2013, with both of them receiving around 3.6 million visitors. The depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar made it much cheaper to travel to India in comparison to previous years, aiding inbound tourism.
GCC countries are the shining stars of the Middle East
The GCC counties are well represented by four countries, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all having cities in the top 100. The latter is home to Dubai, the region’s star city for arrivals with a total of 10.5 million visitors, up 7% on the previous year. The United Arab Emirates government has worked hard in recent years promoting the country as a safe family tourism destination, which has benefitted Dubai, and also neighbouring emirates Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, which also feature in the top 100. These cities have also picked up a lot of arrivals who previously would have opted for destinations such as Egypt before its recent instability.
Saudi Arabia features three cities in the top 100: Mecca, East Province and Riyadh. 2013 was a strong year for inbound tourists visiting Mecca for religious pilgrimage, with arrivals reaching 7.5 million due to massive expansions at the holy mosques as well as a growing number of hotels. This is in spite of concerns about the MERS virus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Doha, in Qatar, was the Middle Eastern city showing the best growth in 2013, reaching 3.8 million arrivals, up by 21.2%. Business tourism is the mainstay of arrivals, due to Qatar’s substantial oil and gas industry, but leisure tourism is growing slowly with the country focusing largely on cultural and sporting attractions to entice visitors.
Europe courting Russian and Chinese visitors
London and Paris remain Western Europe’s leading cities for arrivals with 16.8 million and 15.2 million, respectively, in 2013. Turkey features strongly in the list, with Antalya, Istanbul and Artvin all showing good growth for the year. Russian arrivals were key to this growth, with Antalya hosting 75% of all visitors from Russia to Turkey. Visas are not required for Russians staying less than 60 days in Turkey, and Antalya provides beach locations such as Kemer, Alanya, Belek, Kas, and Side, which are popular with Russian tourists.
Zurich in Switzerland has one of the highest growth rates for arrivals in Europe, at 23.6%, and it welcomed 2.26 million arrivals in 2013. Increasing numbers of tourists from China and Russia are visiting the city, aided by the fact that Switzerland is within the Schengen visa zone, and offers excellent transportation links and air connections.
A reshuffling of future source markets
The long-heralded rise of the Chinese outbound traveller is set to continue with China overtaking Germany as the number one source of outbound international travel in 2017. Nearby Asian cities, especially those located in countries with relaxed or no visa requirements, will benefit immensely. However, Chinese travellers are becoming more adventurous – travelling farther afield and exploring on their own as opposed to in a tour group. It is important for cities to understand the changing Chinese travellers’ desires and build a strong marketing message to court them.
The outlook for Russian travellers was equally bright just a year ago, but the deteriorating economic situation and the rapid decline of the rouble now call into question how strong a source market Russia will be, especially for city destinations in important sun destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Thailand.
However, city destinations may want to turn their eyes to the US market, which was the second largest source market in 2013. The US has been a relatively mature market, with outbound travel peaking in 2007, followed by yearly declines until a recovery began in 2012. But a better economic environment, a stronger dollar and lower gas prices will likely boost outbound travel from the US. According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, outbound travel from the US was up by 9.6% year-to-date in October 2014 – a significant increase for a mature market. The benefit, though, may mostly accrue in cities in neighbouring countries in Central America (including Mexico) and the Caribbean, but Western European cities will likely benefit too thanks to strong cultural positioning and historical ties.
Uncertainty is the only certainty
The shift towards a more connected world is both a positive and a negative for international travel. The opportunities to attract visitors from new source markets are vast, but can quickly turn into challenges, whether it is due to geopolitical unrest, economic decline or natural disasters. It is important for city destinations to be prepared to quickly respond to the constantly evolving global landscape to have their tourism industries thrive.
|Country||Ranking||Arrivals 2013 ('000)||2013/2012 % Growth|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||1||25,587.3||7.6|
|New York City||USA||7||11,850.4||2.0|
|Dubai||United Arab Emirates||12||10,458.3||6.9|
|Ho Chi Minh City||Vietnam||39||4,197.7||7.0|
|Punta Cana||Dominican Republic||66||2,591.0||7.5|
|East Province||Saudi Arabia||76||2,338.4||8.5|
|Andorra la Vella||Andorra||78||2,287.5||2.2|
|Sharm el Sheikh||Egypt||85||2,046.0||-7.0|
|Abu Dhabi||United Arab Emirates||88||1,951.4||19.4|
|Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||92||1,917.9||10.0|
|Sharjah||United Arab Emirates||97||1,801.1||6.5|
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 153 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||
|Airport Arrivals||Agra, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Moscow, Mumbai, Punta Cana, 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||Abu Dhabi, Andorra la Vella, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Chiang Mai, Denpasar, Dubai, Dublin, East Province, Florence, Guangzhou, Guilin, Hangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, Jeju, Krabi, Krakow, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Macau, Madrid, Manila, Mecca, Miami, Munich, New York City, Nice, Orlando, Pattaya, Phuket, Rio De Janeiro, Riyadh, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Sharjah, Shenzhen, Singapore, Suzhou, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Zhuhai|
|Other method||Artvin, Antalya, Bucharest, Burgas, Edirne, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kiev, Marne-La-Vallée, Nairobi, Sofia, St Petersburg, Warsaw|
Revisions to the data for Paris
Under Euromonitor International definitions, we track all international arrivals to a city, including those who stay in non-hotel lodging and in non-paid accommodation. We had previously underestimated how many overnight visitors stayed outside of hotels, so we have adjusted the data accordingly. This has resulted in a data revision for Paris. The city is now ranked fifth, as opposed to 10th in last year’s edition.
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 are 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, 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.