Five Asian cities - Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong – make it into the Global Destination Cities Index top ten.
Asian cities continue their domination of the annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index, making up half of the top ten. Bangkok has retained its position at number two with 18.24 million international overnight visitors and is catching up with top-ranked city, London. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong round off the top ten, taking seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth place respectively.
Driven by insights into travel patterns, the Global Destinations Cities Index provides a ranking of the 132 most visited cities from around the world. More than just a travel tracker, the Index provides an understanding of how people move around the world and the importance of the world’s cities as homes, destinations and engines of growth.
London and Bangkok have topped the Index throughout its five year history. The rivalry is set to continue as Bangkok’s visitor numbers continue to recover following civil unrest in 2014. Forecasted international overnight visitors to the top ten cities:
1. London – 18.82 million
2. Bangkok – 18.24 million
3. Paris – 16.06 million
4. Dubai – 14.26 million
5. Istanbul – 12.56 million
6. New York – 12.27 million
7. Singapore – 11.88 million
8. Kuala Lumpur – 11.12 million
9. Seoul – 10.35 million
10. Hong Kong – 8.66 million
In addition, seven of the top ten fastest growing cities by visitor number over the last six years are in Asia. Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, leads the pack, followed by Chengdu, the provincial capital of China’s Sichuan province. Forecasted top ten fastest growing cities:
1. Colombo – 21.1%
2. Chengdu – 20.7%
3. Abu Dhabi – 20.4%
4. Osaka – 19.8%
5. Riyadh – 18.0%
6. Xi An – 16.2%
7. Taipei – 14.9%
8. Tokyo – 14.6%
9. Lima – 13.9%
10. Ho Chi Minh City – 12.9%
For the five East Asian cities, their strong growth in visitor numbers has been a result of the massive increase in internal and outbound travel from China. Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, tourism is growing fast after the ending of its long running civil war.
Matthew Driver, President, Southeast Asia for MasterCard, commented, “Tourism is becoming an increasingly important source of income and employment for many Asian countries. This reflects the growing appeal of Asia as it continues to develop, led by the fast emerging ASEAN economies, China and India. As countries compete for tourist receipts, and seek to improve the visitor experience, it will be key for governments and tourist authorities to continue to invest in smarter city infrastructure while preserving and protecting the heritage - from monuments to cultural events - that makes their cities unique. In this way, Asia will be able to maintain and build dynamic, exciting, global cities, which will fast become brands in their own right, pulling people to the region.”
Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Chief Economist and Chair of the Academic Advisory Council at the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, said, “Against a background of generally weak global economic growth and anemic pace of exports, a vibrant tourism sector is providing a powerful boost to income and job creation in Asia Pacific. As shown by MasterCard’s latest Global Destination Cities Index, Asian cities dominate among the leading destinations in the world in attracting international visitors arriving by air. Even more astonishing is that seven out of the world’s top ten fastest growing destination cities are in Asia Pacific, which is a strong leading indicator of their continuing outstanding performance in the years to come.”
Growth of the East: The resilience of Asian Destination Cities
The majority of visitors to cities in Asia originate from within Asia Pacific. This may help to explain the continued growth of visitor numbers over the last five years as European and North American markets experienced economic slowdown. The top five feeder cities to Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 2015 are all in Asia Pacific. However, this shows the lack of diversity in the origin of visitors to many destinations in Asia, which presents risks to long term resilience to any global economic shocks. The challenge going forward for many of these otherwise very successful destination cities is to diversify their sources of visitors while maintaining their robust rates of growth. Nevertheless, globally, international overnight visitor numbers and their cross-border spending have consistently grown faster than world real GDP since 2009.
Intellectual Insights: Understanding What Drives Global Cities
In 2015, it is expected that nearly 383 million overnight trips will be made by international overnight visitors between the Index’s 132 cities. In combination with urbanization – the UN has estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 – this represents a massive demand for goods and services. By forecasting the number of international travelers, the Global Destination Cities Index helps to highlight the infrastructure needed to meet the expectations of both locals and visitors.
Infrastructure Innovation and Consumer Experiences
Major cities like London and Chicago are building open, interoperable transit systems facilitated by MasterCard contactless and mobile payments. The streamlined operations help support reinvestments in other infrastructure. A recent report by MasterCard and the Future Foundation found that people in India and China’s biggest cities felt local government could be doing more to make improvements to their city, including transport services, using new technology.
MasterCard has also developed consumer marketing programs to support the significant role cities play as centers of human interaction. In fact, six of the top 10 Global Destination Cities are also Priceless Cities, a one-of-a-kind global platform that curates unique experiences, privileged event and attraction access, and special merchant offers.
Destination Cities: Spotting the Trends
Across the globe, a few key trends stand out, including:
• Europe – Istanbul receives the most diverse visitors, with 50 percent of its inbound overnight visitors coming from 33 different cities.
• Latin America – Lima is both the top destination and the fastest growing city in the region, featuring almost 50 percent more international overnight visitors than second-ranked Mexico City.
• Middle East and Africa – Dubai continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the global top ten while Abu Dhabi is the third fastest growing destination city overall between 2009 and 2015.
• North America – Houston is the fastest growing in North America since 2009 and is the only destination city in North America with double-digit growth.