Asia dominates both the global top 10 destination cities and top 10 fastest growing destination cities

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BANGKOK – September 22, 2016 – Bangkok is the top-ranked destination city by international overnight visitor arrivals, according to the sixth annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index released today. Asian cities make up half of the global top 10 cities – Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Seoul – and seven of the top 10 fastest growing destination cities – Osaka, Chengdu, Colombo, Tokyo, Taipei, Xi’an and Xiamen.

The Index provides more than a ranking of the 132 most visited cities around the world. It projects visitor volume and spend estimates for the 2016 calendar year, while delivering a deeper understanding of how people travel and spend around the world. As cross-border travel and spending continue to grow at a faster pace than world GDP, the world’s cities continue to be engines of broader economic growth.

According to the study, Bangkok is projected to receive 21.47 million international overnight visitors in 2016, just ahead of second-ranked London. Forecasted international overnight visitors to the top 10 cities include:

  1. Bangkok – 21.47 million
  2. London – 19.88 million
  3. Paris – 18.03 million
  4. Dubai – 15.27 million
  5. New York – 12.75 million
  6. Singapore – 12.11 million
  7. Kuala Lumpur – 12.02 million
  8. Istanbul – 11.95 million
  9. Tokyo – 11.70 million
  10. Seoul – 10.20 million

Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor, Mastercard, commented, “The continuing strength of global tourism is one of the silver linings of an otherwise complicated and less-than-satisfactory recovery since the 2008/09 crisis. To a very large extent this is driven by an expanding middle class in many emerging markets. For such middle class households, traveling overseas is a priority as their discretionary spending expands. As we have highlighted, within the universe of the 132 of the most important cities in the world, growth in the number of international visitors out-perform world GDP growth by 2.5 times over the 2009 to 2016 period. This speaks powerfully to the importance of inclusive growth, a pattern of growth that benefits the majority of households in a society; which strengthens domestic demand in spite of generally more anemic global economic conditions. For destination cities, tapping into a diverse network of origin cities where the middle class is growing strongly is key to success in the coming years.”

Eric Schneider, senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Mastercard Advisors, said, Asia Pacific has been the fastest growing region for international tourism since 2005, with underlying growth momentum expected to continue especially with the burgeoning middle class in Southeast Asia, China and India seeking new travel experiences within the region. Even as the tourism sector becomes more competitive, countries seeking to attract visitors need to continue to innovate and cater to the needs and preferences of the changing demographic of tourists today. Crucially, tourism has the power to drive significant social, economic, cultural and environmental development of cities in both developed and developing markets. While it brings challenges, it can also be the catalyst for large investment in cities and businesses and governments need to understand how to harness this potential in order to ensure continued smart development and sustainable growth in cities around the world.”

Asian Cities Dominate Fastest Growing Destination Cities Ranking

Osaka has shown the strongest growth in international visitors over the last seven years, followed by Chengdu, the provincial capital of China’s Sichuan province. Forecasted top 10 fastest growing cities by CAGR (2009-2016) include:

  1. Osaka – 24.15 percent
  2. Chengdu – 20.14 percent
  3. Abu Dhabi – 19.81 percent
  4. Colombo – 19.57 percent
  5. Tokyo – 18.48 percent
  6. Riyadh – 16.45 percent
  7. Taipei – 14.53 percent
  8. Xi’an – 14.20 percent
  9. Tehran – 12.98 percent
  10. Xiamen – 12.93 percent

Osaka’s strong growth in visitor numbers has been a result of its success in attracting visitors from neighboring countries, particularly tourists from China and South Korea. For the three Chinese cities – Chengdu, Xi’an and Xiamen – their growth testify to China’s growing attraction to international visitors. Fourth ranked Colombo is continuing to see strong recovery in tourism after the ending of its long running civil war.

The difference between the global top 10 and the fastest growing top 10 destination cities suggests that Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa have become increasingly important to the global economic landscape. Many cities measured on the Index have increasing growth trajectories, indicating the growing interest in both visiting and living in cities.

New Insights into Purpose of Travel and Local Spend

For the first time, the Index explores whether visitors travel for business or leisure, and provides insights into how international visitors are spending, including dining, lodging and shopping. The 2016 Index shows that among the top 20 cities, more people travel internationally for leisure (85.6 percent for Bangkok), except to Shanghai where more than half visit for business (54.6 percent).

In terms of discretionary spending, accommodation makes up the biggest portion of visitors’ expenditure in most of the destination cities, with the exception of Istanbul. Reflecting the disparity in local cost of living, expenditure on accommodation runs as high as over 40 percent in Paris, Milan, Rome, Amsterdam and Vienna; whereas it is less than a third-of total expenditure in Bangkok, Seoul, Osaka, Shanghai and Istanbul. Seoul topped the list for greatest percentage spent on shopping against all categories at 58.7 percent, followed by London (46.7 percent), Osaka (43.4 percent) and Tokyo (43.1 percent).

Identifying Regional Trends

Across the globe, a few key trends stand out, including:

  • Europe – London, ranked second globally and first in the region, is the top feeder city in terms of visitor and spending volume for all other cities that round out the top European destinations: Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
  • Latin America – Lima is both the top destination and fastest growing city in the region since 2009, with 4.03 million visitors (ranked 32nd globally) and a seven year CAGR growth rate of 9.9 percent (ranked 15th globally). However, the rankings are very different in terms of overnight visitor spend; Punta Cana leads the region with US$2.95 billion followed by Mexico City (US$2.27 billion).
  • Middle East and Africa – Dubai is the top ranked destination city in the region (ranked fourth globally), while Abu Dhabi is the fastest growing in the region since 2009 with a seven year CAGR growth rate of 81 percent. This marks the United Arab Emirates as both the most visited and fastest growing country in the region for the second year in a row.
  • North America – New York, ranked fifth globally, is the top destination city in the region. It significantly surpasses the rest of the region in overnight visitor spend at US$18.50 billion. Nearly 90 percent of New York’s international visitors are from outside North America, led by London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Toronto and Beijing.

Download the full report here:

About the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2016.

Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 132 destination cities, using custom-made algorithms; paying special attention to eliminate the hub effects for destination cities such as Singapore, Dubai, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on Mastercard volumes or transactional data.

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories.  Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.  Follow us on Twitter @MastercardAP and @MastercardNews, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Communications Contacts

Georgette Tan, Mastercard,, +65 6390 5971
Samantha Yong, Weber Shandwick,, +65 6825 8053

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