In a world of rising nationalism, international travel takes on greater importance—breaking down barriers, broadening our horizons and driving economic impact felt throughout the world’s cities. For the past decade, Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index has offered important analysis of travel to and within cities. This year’s top cities are Bangkok, London and Paris, once again underscoring the importance of robust infrastructure, both business and leisure attractions and strong local culture.
The Mastercard Index, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and—for the first time—a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.
With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities was up in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors.
With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year and is unlikely to be bested due to a strong projected growth of 9.6 percent for 2018. Interestingly, visitors tend to stay in Bangkok 4.7 nights and spend $173 per day, on average.
|The Global Top 10 Destination Cities|
|2017 International Overnight Visitors||Growth Forecast for 2018||Average Length of Stay||Average Spend Per Day|
|Bangkok||20.05 million||9.6%||4.7 nights||$173|
|London||19.83 million||3.0%||5.8 nights||$153|
|Paris||17.44 million||2.9%||2.5 nights||$301|
|Dubai||15.79 million||5.5%||3.5 nights||$537|
|Singapore||13.91 million||4.0%||4.3 nights||$286|
|New York||13.13 million||4.1%||8.3 nights||$147|
|Kuala Lumpur||12.58 million||7.5%||5.5 nights||$124|
|Tokyo||11.93 million||1.6%||6.5 nights||$154|
|Istanbul||10.70 million||19.7%||5.8 nights||$108|
|Seoul||9.54 million||6.1%||4.2 nights||$181|
However, not all cities are created equal when it comes to the amount visitors spend in the local economy. Dubai continues to be the top ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending a whopping $537 per day on average. It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia, which debuts in the number two spot, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Phuket, Thailand. Of the most visited cities, Istanbul comes in with the lowest spend per day at just $108 on average.
|Top Cities by Dollars Spent|
|2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD)||Forecast for 2018||Average Spend by Day|
|New York||$16.10 billion||4.1%||$147|
|Palma de Mallorca||$11.96 billion||16.2%||$220|
“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president, global cities for Mastercard. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”