Travel and Tourism

Taking a trip? These are the world’s most visited cities

A ferris wheel and nearby office towers are lit up with decorations to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year of the Goat at the financial Central district, in Hong Kong February 9 , 2015. The Chinese Lunar New Year on February 19 will welcome the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram). REUTERS/Bobby Yip  (CHINA - Tags: CITYSCAPE SOCIETY BUSINESS) - RTR4OUGN

Hong Kong reigns supreme Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Andrea Willige
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Which is the world’s most popular city to visit?

According to Euromonitor’s latest global rankings, Hong Kong reigns supreme. Even with a slight drop in the number of international visitors it attracts, the Asian city is hard to beat. In 2015, Hong Kong recorded just under 27m arrivals. This is about a third more than second-in-line Bangkok, which achieved a growth of 10% in international visitors, and London in the UK, which was the third most popular city, with international traveller numbers growing by 7%.

City destination ranking (based on international arrivals)
Image: Euromonitor

Asian cities reign supreme

Five of the ten most popular cities are in Asia: after Hong Kong and Bangkok, Singapore is in fourth place, Macau in sixth and Malaysia in tenth.

The report highlights that Chinese cities are struggling to maintain their attraction for international visitors, with not only Hong Kong but Beijing and Shenzen also recording falling visitor numbers. Seoul in South Korea had to face up to the biggest losses in Asia, with 6% fewer visitors.

Among the biggest winners was Japan. Tokyo rose six places to rank 17th, and Osaka and Kyoto jumped 27 and 11 places respectively, as an increasing number of travellers followed the popular ‘Golden Route’ around Mount Fuji. With 52% more international visitors in 2015, Osaka registered the biggest visitor growth of all cities surveyed.

Top five strongest and weakest performers in Asia for outbound arrivals
Image: Euromonitor

Europe feels the impact of instability

Europe’s most popular city was Paris, which came 5th in the overall rankings. Athens experienced the biggest surge in popularity in the region with a 23%, although the migrant crisis affected Greek holiday destinations like Heraklion and Rhodes.

Italy’s cities also received a big boost. On the back of Expo Milano 2015, Milan’s visitors grew by 18%, while Venice and Florence also recorded big increases.

Moscow saw the biggest slump in arrivals, in the wake of its deteriorating relationship with the EU, economic sanctions and the decline of the ruble.

South America booms but New York City rules

In the Americas , New York City seems to hold an unassailable lead, making tenth place in the ranking in spite of weak growth in 2015.

Toronto (Canada), Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and Lima (Peru) demonstrated the biggest visitor growth in the region, all expanding by 9% and more.

Traditional Mexican favourites Mexico City and Cancun were the biggest losers in the region, However, Mexican tourism is booming as travellers shift their focus from the top cities to other resorts, which have been heavily promoted to both business and leisure tourists.

Top five strongest and weakest performers in Americas for inbound arrivals
Image: Euromonitor

Pilgrims-turned-tourists boost visitor numbers to Saudi Arabia

The Middle East and Africa region has 12 cities in the Top 100. Dubai was the most popular, making it to 7th place overall with an 8% increase in arrivals.

In the wake of terrorist attacks, both Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt (-7%) and Jerba in Tunisia (-17%) - along with some of the country’s other resorts - suffered a major decline in visitor numbers.

At over 17%, Mecca in Saudi Arabia experienced the biggest growth among its peers in the region, driven by increasing numbers of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims converging on the city. On the initiative of the Saudi government, a new programme now allows them to convert their pilgrimage-specific visas into tourist visas, so that they can extend their stay in the country. This appears to have particularly benefited Riyadh, which registered an 11% increase in popularity.

Airbnb: Top Destination Cities 2016
Image: Euromonitor

Short term lettings are changing visitor dynamics

In analysing the dynamics of where international visitors like to travel, Euromonitor highlights the change which short-term lettings have brought about for cities. Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, Airbnb and its peers have seen explosive growth on a global scale. By offering cheaper and more authentic accommodation, short-term lettings may not just be benefiting from overall growth in arrivals to city destinations, but may also be fuelling it, according to the report.

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