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Attention rental hosts: presenting the most popular vacation destinations

Mastercard recently released its 2015 Global Destination Cities Index. With data going back to 2009, the Index charts how 132 of the most important cities in the world are connected through air travel – how many international visitors arrive at each of these 132 cities from the other cities; and how much these visitors spend during their visit.

This year, Asian cities dominated the list, along with a few European cities. Here are the 10 most popular cities in the world with international visitors:

10. Hong Kong, China: 8.66 million international visitors

Hong Kong is a fusion of many cultures. Remnants of its colonial past and the British culture and values, intertwine with the Chinese tradition. Visitors will have no problem getting around Hong Kong as English is widely used throughout the islands and almost all the street signs are bilingual.

Tourism is a big deal for Hong Kong. As one of our city’s four pillar industries, it accounts for 5 per cent of GDP and employs almost 7 per cent of the workforce.  Mainland China continued to be the largest source of international travelers with 47.2 million arrivals (+16.0%)

hong Kong

9. Seoul, South Korea: 10.35 million international visitors

With forested mountains, ancient temples, traditional villages and large modern cities, South Korea fascinates visitors with its diversity. The majority of the South Korean tourist industry is supported by domestic tourism. Thanks to the country’s extensive network of trains and buses, most of the country lies within a day’s round trip of any major city.

International tourists come primarily from nearby countries in Asia. Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which together account for roughly 75% of the total number of international tourists.


8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 11.12 million international visitors

Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital city and is packed with historic monuments, steel-clad skyscrapers, lush parks, mega-sized shopping malls, bustling street markets and trendy nightspots. Singapore is the most important source of international travelers for Kuala Lumpur, accounting for 1.2 million visitors and US$1.3 billion in spending.


7. Singapore 11.88 million visitors

Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, but the small city-state offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining. There is also a vibrant history and diverse ethnic quarters to discover, along with the many family-friendly attractions and lovely public spaces that make visiting this slightly futuristic city worthwhile.

Singapore’s top five sources of international travelers are all from Asia/Pacific. Jakarta contributing 1.7 million visitors and $2.7 billion USD with an average spend per visit at an impressively high $1,550 USD. This is far above those from the other top visitor source cities of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila and Shanghai. In 2015, Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence, and we expect to see a major influx of travelers during this time.


6. New York City, USA: 12.27 million international visitors

The only city in the Americas in the top 10 for international travelers, New York also topped the Global Destination Cities Index in terms of revenue generated from them (US$18.6 billion) – a testament to how much more expensive it is in comparison to other cities on this list.. Top sources of international travelers were London, Toronto, Sao Paolo, Paris and Buenos Aires.

new york city

5. Istanbul, Turkey: 12.56 million international visitors

The Global Destination Cities Index cites the location of Turkey’s largest city, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, as a big reason for its popularity as a destination. If its growth in air travel connectivity continues at current rates, the report predicts it will enter the top five destinations by 2016. Istanbul  also has a much higher growth rate than Paris. If these two cities continue to grow their international visitors’ numbers at the current rates, in four years, Istanbul will overtake Paris to become second-ranked in Europe.

All top five sources of international travelers (by city) for Istanbul are in Europe, and London is the most important, followed by Paris, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.


4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: 14.26 million international visitors

Dubai’s tourism offering has continued to expand in recent years, and with the emirate consistently rising to meet new challenges and break new records, this trend looks set to continue. Preparations for Dubai Expo 2020 are underpinning large infrastructure projects like the airport expansion, upgrades to tram and train links, and major ongoing hotel developments. An increasingly wide variety of sporting competitions are also being hosted by Dubai, and new stadiums and facilities are set to boost the emirate’s image as a sports hotspot.

The Middle East remains the largest regional source market with a 24% share of Dubai’s total visitors, while Western European visitors contributed 20% to the total number of visitors.


3. Paris, France: 16.06 million international visitors

The City of Light attracts millions of visitors every year thanks to its hip fashion scene, plentiful historical destinations, and reputation for romance. Airbnb alone  hosts over 40,000 Parisian listings, according to The Guardian, which named Paris “the biggest home-sharing city” in the world. According to Mastercard, London is the most important feeder city for Paris in terms of visitors, followed by New York.

Paris 2

2. Bangkok, Thailand: 18.24 million international visitors

Thailand is known for its delicious cuisines, beautiful beaches, enchanting temples, friendly people and reasonable prices. In spite of ranking only seventh in visitors’ cross-border spending,Bangkok has the fastest growth rate in visitor spending at 11.8 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Visitors from mainland China have been the largest group of international visitors since 2012. The total number of Chinese tourists jumped from 2.7 million in 2012 to 4.6 million last year and might reach 8 million this year.


1. London, England: 18.82 million international visitors

Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye… The list of things to see in London goes on and on. London was last year’s No. 1 travel destination and and this year it has taken the prize once again. The top five feeder cities to London are Dublin, New York, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

New York is the number one source of international travelers to London, accounting for close to a million visitors in 2015 and about $1.2 billion USD of spending. New York is followed by Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt and Stockholm. In terms of visitor cross-border spending, London is also ranked first with over $20 billion USD estimated for 2015


Here’s a selection of other noteworthy findings in the report:

  • If you break down international visitors vs. the number of residents in those cities, Dubai is the runaway winner, going from 4.9 visitors per resident in 2009 to a projected 5.7 this year. The next-closest city is Amsterdam, with 2.7 visitors per resident in 2015.
  • In terms of cross-border spending, Seoul leads in Asia/Pacific with $15.2 billion USD, followed by Singapore $14.7 billion, Bangkok at $12.4 billion, Kuala Lumpur at $12.0 billion, and Taipei at $9.3 billion.
  • Three of the top four fastest-rising destinations in the world since 2009 are in Asia:  Colombo, Sri Lanka (No. 1 at 21.1 percent growth); Chengdu, China; and Osaka, Japan.

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