Skift Take

Another year reveals that arrivals and visitor growth in Asia continues to be the real story of international travel.

Over the past six years, it has been a tale of two cities in terms of welcoming the most overnight visitors, with London and Bangkok jockeying for first place.

But this year London again ended up in first place on MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index, edging out Thailand’s capital with 18.8 million to 18.2 million projected visitors. Paris, Dubai, and Istanbul also join the top five and are between two million and six million visitors behind. For the most part, the list presents an equal representation of Asian and European cities in the Top 20.

However, Western European cities are a minority against markets in Asia, Central Europe, and Middle East in terms of visitor growth. Colombo, Sri Lanka is the fastest growing destination with a 21.1 percent growth in overnight arrivals against 132 cities from 2006 to 2015. And when looking at the the Top 20, Taipei, Taiwan is in the top position with a 14.9 percent increase.

In terms of visitor spending, London also retains the number one spot with $20.2 billion which is a 2.3 percent increase from the prior year.

“I’m delighted that London has proudly held on to this coveted title,” Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in a statement, “I’m confident that these accolades will keep coming as the capital continues to surprise and excite visitors from all over the world.”

New York crept up two places to number two at $17.4 billion, leap-frogging Paris because of the latter’s visitor spending dip.

The report found that the largest growth in visitor spending will not be driven by destinations in the U.S. or Europe. Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, and Dubai showed the most gains, with 11.8, 8.7, 7.3, and 7.1 percent increases, respectively.

The index forecasts visitor numbers and estimated spend for 132 different destinations around the world.

Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, co-author of the report said: “These are destination cities that have big enough numbers of international visitors to put them in the top 20 of the world, and yet are still growing at double digits; and Asia is the region that dominates. And for the four Asian cities, their strong growth in visitors has come mostly from the massive increase in outbound travel from China.”

Top 20 Global Destination Cities in 2015

Rank City Overnight Visitors
1 London 18.82 mn
2 Bangkok 18.24 mn
3 Paris 16.06 mn
4 Dubai 14.26 mn
5 Istanbul 12.56 mn
6 New York 12.27 mn
7 Singapore 11.88 mn
8 Kuala Lumpur 11.12 mn
9 Seoul 10.35 mn
10 Hong Kong 8.66 mn
11 Tokyo 8.08 mn
12 Barcelona 7.63 mn
13 Amsterdam 7.44 mn
14 Rome 7.41 mn
15 Milan 7.17 mn
16 Taipei 6.55 mn
17 Shanghai 5.85 mn
18 Vienna 5.81 mn
19 Prague 5.47 mn
20 Los Angeles 5.20 mn

Fastest Growing Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitors

City Growth by %
Colombo 21.1%
Chengdu 20.7%
Abu Dhabi 20.4%
Osaka 19.8%
Riyadh 18%
Xi An 16.2%
Taipei 14.9%
Tokyo 14.6%
Lima 13.9%
Ho Chi Minh City 12.9%

Disclosure: MasterCard is a sponsor of

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Tags: bangkok, cities, istanbul, london, new york state, sri lanka

Photo credit: Timelapse photo of London's Millennium Bridge. London once again topped MasterCard's ranking of global destinations. Kris Williams / Flickr

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