RANKED: The Top International Destination In the World, According to Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Index
For the third year in a row, Bangkok is the top international destination in the world.
The Thai capital welcomed 20.5 million visitors in 2017, and is predicted to host 9.06% more in 2018, according to this year's Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index. The annual list looks at visitor volume and spend at the largest 162 cities in the world, taking into both vacation and business travelers.
The South East Asian capital was trailed by London (19.83 million visitors) and Paris (17.44 million visitors). Dubai clocked in at number four with 15.79 million travelers, followed by Singapore with 13.91 million guests. New York, the only North American city to crack the top ten, ranked sixth with 13.13 million international visitors.
The Mastercard Index, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and -- for the first time -- a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.
With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities was up in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors.
With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year and is unlikely to be bested due to a strong projected growth of 9.6 percent for 2018. Interestingly, visitors tend to stay in Bangkok 4.7 nights and spend $173 per day, on average.
However, not all cities are created equal when it comes to the amount visitors spend in the local economy. Dubai continues to be the top ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending a whopping $537 per day on average.
It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia, which debuts in the number two spot, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Phuket, Thailand. Of the most visited cities, Istanbul comes in with the lowest spend per day at just $108 on average.
“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president, global cities for Mastercard. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”
Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:
- Identify and address urban challenges through scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration
- Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation; in over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses
- Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind: Seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe
- Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index