Urban Transformation

These are the world’s most visited cities

Mainland Chinese tourists view the Hong Kong skyline at the Peak in Hong Kong January 14, 2014. Launched by the Hong Kong government over a decade ago to stimulate an economy battered by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis, the Hong Kong Capital Investment Entrant Scheme has proved a hit with mainland Chinese who, though technically barred, see it as a means to invest money near home without the tight controls imposed by Beijing. Although governed by Beijing, Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy. Picture taken January 14, 2014.   REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION CITYSCAPE TRAVEL)

Hong Kong is the world's most visited city for the ninth year in a row. Image: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Whitney Leach
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Hong Kong has held onto its title of the world’s most visited city for the ninth year in a row in market research firm Euromonitor International’s latest Top 100 City Destinations Ranking.

Image: Euromonitor International

The annual league table is based on the number of international tourists who spend 24 hours or more in a city. Hong Kong pulled in an impressive 26.6 million visitors in the previous year, largely thanks to arrivals from mainland China. In second place, with 21.2 million visitors in 2016, is Bangkok, which overtook London in 2015.

Singapore, currently in fourth place, is also set to outpace London and become the third most-visited city by 2025.

Asia’s rise

Asian cities dominate the ranking: there are 41 cities from the Asia-Pacific region in the 2017 list, compared to 34 in 2010. And this number is expected to grow to 47 by 2025.

A major factor behind the growth of international visitors to Asian cities is the “inexorable rise” of China’s outbound tourism market, which is the largest in the world, the report says.

It predicts that Hong Kong’s international visitor numbers will fall to 25.7 million during 2017, because of increased tensions with mainland China. But it expects the city to bounce back, with arrivals set to hit 45 million by 2025.

Hong Kong takes the top spot for the ninth consecutive year. Image: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

“Asia Pacific is the standout region driving change in travel,” said Wouter Geerts, Senior Travel Analyst at Euromonitor International, in a press release. “We expect the region to continue growing in the coming decade with Singapore overtaking London as the third most visited city in the world by 2025, giving the podium fully to Asia.”

Europe’s outlook

Euromonitor says the performances of European cities have been affected by recent events such as the Eurozone crisis, the influx of refugees, Brexit and terrorist attacks.

But tourist magnets such as London and Paris remain resilient. And some destinations in Greece, Italy and Spain saw growth during 2016 as a result of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Despite suffering terror attacks and the political turbulence around Brexit, London was Europe’s most visited city in 2016 with 19.2 million visitors.

In the longer term, though, the outlook for London is more gloomy, with Euromonitor predicting a slide to sixth place by 2025 as tourism rises faster in Asian cities.

The highest-placed US city in the ranking is New York, which remains in eighth position with 12.7 million visitors, just ahead of Shenzhen at 12.6 million.

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