Skift Take

A stronger U.S. dollar isn't the only reason why more Americans are traveling abroad, but when your money goes further than it has in nearly a decade the world is certainly your oyster.

With a stronger dollar behind it, the U.S. was one of the largest foreign markets for several of the world’s most-visited cities in 2015.

Some of these cities — a few which are ultra long-haul destinations from the U.S. — have seen double-digit growth from U.S. arrivals and expect that momentum to continue.

Skift reviewed 2015 international tourist arrivals data from tourism boards and tourism ministries for several of the world’s most-visited cities by international travelers. We compared changes in visitor arrivals data across these cities since 2014, and found the U.S. market was one of the largest for many of these cities and showed notable growth.

London, for example, had a 10.5 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in its U.S. arrivals. The U.S. is London’s largest foreign market, with 2.1 million Americans visiting the UK capital last year. Last year, London welcomed a record 18.6 million international tourists and it was the first year the city surpassed the 18 million visitor threshold, a 6.8 percent increase from 2014’s 17.4 million visitors.

But Hong Kong, several thousand miles further away from the U.S. than London, had nearly five percent growth in U.S. arrivals from 2014 to 2015. Hong Kong is the world’s most-visited city due to the influx of mainland Chinese travelers, and the U.S. is its second-largest market with the second highest growth in arrivals compared to 2014 (see charts below).

Some cities, such as Paris, haven’t finalized their tourist arrival numbers for 2015. Paris was the fifth most-visited city by international travelers in 2014 with nearly 15 million international arrivals that year. Like London, Americans are the largest market for Paris with more than 1.5 million visiting in 2014.

International arrival totals for cities like Paris and Istanbul were likely impacted in the latter part of 2015 due to terror attacks in both cities. French news site France 24, however, reported in August 2015 that France overall was on track to break records for its international arrivals before the November attacks in Paris.

The chart below is from Euromonitor International’s 2014 ranking of most-visited cities by international travelers. Their rankings may have increased or decreased depending on their 2015 visitor totals, but these cities are still the most-visited.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 4.50.27 PM

Source: Euromonitor International

London capitalized on its growing U.S. market and launched its “Fans of London” campaign earlier this year. The campaign features UK cultural icons that are popular with Americans, such as Shakespeare and the Rolling Stones. London & Partners, the city’s destination marketing organization, flew a diehard Rolling Stones fan, Alex Emanuel, from New York City to London to visit the new Rolling Stones Exhibition and meet the band at London’s Saatchi Gallery (video).

“The U.S. is London’s most important market for overseas visitors and we predict that by 2020, one million more U.S. visitors will be visiting London compared to last year,” said London & Partners CEO Gordon Innes.

“We know that London’s history and culture are the number one reasons why American tourists love the city.”

Other cities in Euromonitor’s ranking such as Istanbul, Seoul and Macau also count the U.S. as one of their largest visitor markets. The U.S. was Seoul’s third-largest market in 2015 with 5.5 percent year-over-year growth and was Macau’s sixth -argest market and its largest outside of Asia.

MasterCard, which also analyzes international tourism arrivals and spending, found that Americans’ domestic and international travel spend is showing muscle so far this year. “International travel transactions by Americans are up 9.2 percent and the money people are saving in lower airline ticket prices are being applied to other experiential spending, including lodging and restaurants,” said Sarah Quinlan, a market analyst for MasterCard.

Below are data on the top five international source markets for the four most-visited cities in the world: Hong Kong, London, Bangkok and Singapore, respectively. Though the U.S. didn’t make the top five source markets for Singapore, it is the sixth largest market for that city with more than half a million visitors in 2015.

For other trends, Bangkok and Singapore’s Chinese market grew 81.9 and 23.5 percent, respectively, in 2015 and that represents the overall growth of outbound Chinese travelers.

Hong Kong

Country International Visitors in 2015 International Visitors in 2014 Percent Change
South Korea 933,447 894,532 4.40%
U.S. 839,159 801,434 4.70%
Taiwan 831,644 807,168 3%
Japan 632,959 636,432 -0.50%
Philippines 584,481 521,192 12.10%
Overall Total, All Markets 26.6 million 27.7 million -3.90%


Country International Visitors in 2015 International Visitors in 2014 Percent Change
U.S. 2.1 million 1.9 million 10.50%
France 2.07 million 2.01 million 2.90%
Germany 1.4 million 1.3 million 7.60%
Italy 1.16 million 1.18 million -1.60%
Spain 1.15 million 984,300 16.8%
Overall Total, All Markets 18.6 million 17.4 million 6.30%


Country International Visitors in 2015 International Visitors in 2014 Percent Change
China 3.8 million 2.1 million 81.90%
Japan 1.18 million 1.11 million 6.10%
India 909,138 802,499 13.20%
U.K. 672,290 639,928 5.06%
U.S. 619,640 544,944 13.70%
Overall Total, All Markets 15.8 million 16.2 million -2.40%


Country International Visitors in 2015 International Visitors in 2014 Percent Change
Indonesia 2.7 million 3.02 million -10.50%
China 2.1 million 1.7 million 23.50%
Malaysia 1.1 million 1.2 million -8.30%
Australia 1.04 million 1.07 million -2.80%
India 1.01 million 943,636 7.10%
Overall Total, All Markets 15.2 million 15.09 million 0.70%

Source: City tourism board and national tourism ministry data


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Tags: tourism

Photo credit: The Rolling Stones with American fan Alex Emanuel, second from left, at the Rolling Stones Exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery as part of a tourism promotion. London & Partners

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