Market Research Company Euromonitor International released today a new ranking of the top 100 city destinations in terms of international tourist arrivals for 2013.
The top three cities on the list remained unchanged from 2012: Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. These Asian mega-cities benefited from their locations in heavily populated areas, large economies and proximity to China.
While outbound travel from China is heavily influential for many of the cities listed, inbound tourism to China remains sluggish. China does remain the leading country for the number of cities featured in the top 100 with a total of eight. However, with the exceptions of Suzhou and Guilin, these cities experienced a decline in arrivals for 2013 due to an uncertain economic outlook, pollution concerns and tensions with Japan—a key source market.
Looking forward, city destinations may want to turn to the US market, the second largest source for outbound travel in 2013. The US has been a relatively mature market with outbound travel peaking in 2007, followed by yearly declines until recovery began in 2012. But a better economic environment, a stronger dollar and lower gas prices will likely boost outbound travel from the US.
“Cities in neighbouring countries to the US such as Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean will most likely see growth in US travellers,” according to Euromonitor’s Head of Travel and Tourism, Caroline Bremner. “Western European cities will likely benefit too, thanks to strong cultural positioning and historical ties to the US.”
Top Five Cities Destination Rankings Listed Below:
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong (25,587.3 arrivals)
- Singapore, Singapore (22,455.4 arrivals)
- Bangkok, Thailand (17,467.8 arrivals)
- London, United Kingdom (16,784.1 arrivals)
- Paris, France (15,200.0 arrivals)
via New City Destination Ranking Released by Euromonitor International.
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 starTweet-This 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 Tweet-This9.6% 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.