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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Although this is an inaccurate method for measuring tourism, it does provide a general comparison to consider next time you touch down in one of the destinations.
If you’ve recently walked down a crowded street in a new city and felt surrounded by more tourists than locals, it’s probably not your imagination.
International overnight visitors outnumber city residents in at least 11 of the most visited global destinations, according to MasterCard’s 2014 Global Destination Cities Index.
These 11 destinations have visitor-to-local ratios larger than one in 2014, indicating that the number of international visitors each of these cities receives is equal to or great then the total number of residents in the city.
The greatest imbalance between foreign tourists and locals is reported in Dubai where overnight visitor arrivals are expected to outnumber residents 4.8 to one throughout the end of the year.
The surprising 5-to-1 statistic makes more sense when considering the context of Dubai’s relatively small population and the destination’s reputation as a business and travel crossroads.
Over the same five-year period, growth rates of international visitors arrivals and their cross-border spending in 132 cities exceeded real GDP growth.
The ratio between international visitors and locals has increased for all destinations over the past five years, evidence of the rebounding global travel industry.
Dubai and Amsterdam experienced the greatest growth with ratio changing from 4.2 in 2009 to 4.8 today in Dubai and 1.9 to 2.6 in Amsterdam.
In other cities like New York and Shanghai, overnight arrivals per city resident is less than one. These is in part caused by growing resident populations in the each of the cities, which offsets their tourism growth by this measure.