Asia Pacific home to an increasing number of the world’s top city destinations

16 November, 2017

Asia Pacific is the standout region that has driven change in the travel landscape over the past decade and is expected to continue doing so in the coming decade, according to the Top 100 City Destinations Ranking released by Euromonitor International at this month's World Travel Market in London, UK. In 2010, 34 cities from Asia Pacific were present in the ranking. This jumped to 41 cities in 2017 and is expected to grow to 47 cities in 2025.

The report highlights Hong Kong and Bangkok in the top two spots and other Asian cities are surging up the table, largely because millions more travellers from China - the world's fourth largest source market - are exploring Asia. Hong Kong had 26.55 million inbound arrivals in 2016, followed by Bangkok (21.25 million); the latter recently overtaking London in the ranking (at current rates Singapore is expected to also overtake London by 2025 placing Asian cities in the top three positions). In fourth place is Singapore (16.6 million); fifth is Macau (15.39 million); ninth is Shenzhen (12.57 million) and rounding off the top 10 is Kuala Lumpur (12.29 million).

Hong Kong remains the largest arrivals city worldwide, largely thanks to its relationship with China, but more Chinese travellers are looking further afield and boosting numbers in other Asian cities. Bangkok has performed very strongly in recent years, seeing only a limited impact from the banning of cheap tour packages for Chinese tourists, says Euromonitor, while Indonesian cities will also benefit from a Chinese influx, boosted by the waiving of visa requirements, with Denpasar, the gateway to Bali, expected to see the strongest growth in 2017.

Overall, inbound arrivals and outbound departures in Asia showed healthy growth in 2016.However, the picture is not one of growth across the board, as cities in South Korea and Japan have seen declines or slower growth rates. South Korean cities are expected to perform worst in the region, as the strained relationship with China takes its toll, while Japanese cities are a victim of their own success. With the strong influx of Chinese tourists in recent years, hotel rates in Tokyo and neighbouring Chiba have skyrocketed, driving travellers away, says Euromonitor.

The company notes that the performance of European cities has been hampered by several events in recent years, including the Eurozone and migrants crisis, as well as Brexit and terrorist attacks. Despite the uncertainty, some European destinations, in particular Greece, Italy and Spain have profited from unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as travellers find substitutes for countries worst affected by recent unrest such as Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

Performance in the MENA region has fluctuated greatly in recent years, however Euromonitor forecast data show a recovery for the region in 2017 and beyond. Most noteworthy, it is expected that Egypt will register growth in 2017, after a strong decline in 2016. While the Middle East and North Africa's main challenges are wars and border disputes, Africa is looking to do the reverse: opening borders and enhancing collaboration (see 'Ready for take-off? Is Africa finally ready to open its skies?')

Although seeing positive growth, US arrivals witnessed a slowdown in 2016 due to a strong dollar and political uncertainty surrounding the US elections. According to Euromonitor International's Travel Forecast Model, if the US drops out the NAFTA and imposes a 35% tariff on Mexican imports, followed by Mexican retaliation, the "impact on inter-regional travel would be considerable". New York, the most visited city in America and the only US city in the top ten most visited city ranking, has revised its 2017 forecast expecting a potential fall of 300,000 visitors, as a worst case scenario.

TABLE - The importance of cities for tourism has been growing steadily over the years, with top 100 city arrivals outperforming global arrivals almost every year, and this trend is expected to continue. In 2016, the top 100 cities accounted for 558 million international arrivals, almost half of the total 1.2 billion trips taken worldwideSource: Euromonitor International Top 100 City Destinations Ranking

The Euromonitor International report drills down into the detail of the figures to highlight why some cities are performing better than others and how emerging trends are going to re-shape the travel industry and disrupt the ranking up to 2025.

Some of the key emerging travel trends identified by the report are:

  • Asia: Cashless Asia - Cities as Digital Investments
    To ensure continued arrivals growth and sustainable expansion, Asia cities are streaming ahead with initiatives to become smart cities.
  • Europe: Angels and EU-nicorns - Cities as a Start-Up
    While overcrowding represents a key issue in many European cities, there is a growing drive amongst start-ups in Europe to address other pain points in travel.
  • UK: Rail Revolution - Cities as connectors
    Over half of the international travellers coming to the UK visit London. Making the rest of the UK more accessible is an important focus of the UK's strategy with rail a key focus to achieve a better connectivity and movement of international visitors.
  • Americas: Recognize that face? - Cities as hubs of innovation
    As part of his policy to tighten border control, US President Donald Trump has ordered increased speed in implementing biometric scanners at airports. The travel industry is not only looking at the face to merely identify a traveller, but also to tell travel players what it wants, through speech and emotion.
  • MEA: Looking beyond borders - Cities as entry points
    Performance in the Middle East and Africa has fluctuated greatly due to unrest in many countries. However, 2017 is expected to be a good year across the board.