London Tops MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index

Despite a challenging economic environment, the overall travel and tourism picture is predicted to be fairly strong for 2012, with international visitor numbers projected to increase by a healthy 5.7 percent and associated spending to swell by 10.6 percent for the top 20 ranked cities. The new report, the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, analyzes both visitor traffic and cross-border travel spending in 132 cities around the globe.

London has again secured global dominance. It has been crowned number one – the world’s top destination city – for the second year running. It is predicted to grow both in terms of international visitor numbers and expenditure, the report notes.
    •    In London, visitor numbers are set to go up 1.1 percent and visitor spend is predicted to increase by 10.3 percent, fueled by a summer of celebration in the capital.

Visitors to London are also predicted to spend more on average per head than visitors to the top 20 cities ranked by visitor number in the report.

The top five origin cities for London are predicted to be Dublin, New York, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The numbers of visitors from Frankfurt is set to increase by an impressive 20.8 percent.

Visitors from New York are predicted to spend more than twice as much once they arrive than visitors from Dublin. Interestingly, these spending patterns are set to be reciprocated – Londoners visiting New York are shown to spend more than those originating from the other four of their top five origin cities.

Overview of Emerging Cities:
    •    Emerging cities around the globe are also predicted to make an impact in 2012 with cities such as Recife, Belo Horizonte and Rio in Brazil and Colombo in Sri Lanka all performing well in terms of projected growth. Meanwhile, other emerging cities including Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Colombo, Tunis and Bogota will all witness increased cross-border spend this year, the report predicts.
    •    International visitor spend in Bogota is projected to grow almost four times faster than Los Angeles, whilst visitor numbers to Abu Dhabi are set to grow nearly three and a half times faster than New York.
    •    The top ten Latin American cities will see an increase in visitors of 7.3 percent, according to the report and total international visitor spending is projected to increase by 7.9 percent.
    •    The top ten Asia Pacific cities are projected to see an increase in international visitors of 9.5 percent and total spending, an increase of 15.3 percent.
Key City Highlights:
    •    Although the report predicts that Paris will have fewer international visitors this year – a marginal decline of 0.6 percent – it will still hold the number two slot in terms of actual numbers of visitors. What’s more, those visiting are set to spend slightly more – their spend will increase by 1.5 percent. Interestingly, Paris will not be one of the top origin cities by air travel for the lead destination city, London, despite its proximity, although Parisians will be traveling further afield – they feature in the top five origin city lists for both New York and Dubai in the report.
    •    New York again comes second in the spend rankings, although international visitor spend in the Big Apple is set to increase by 6.8 percent. In visitor number terms, New York is predicted to remain in 13th place, although, international visitor numbers are expected to rise by 5.2 percent in 2012. New York continues to appeal to long haul travelers and Canadians. Looking at the top five origin cities for visitors, the majority sit across the water, with London, Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo all making an appearance in the predicted rankings. Toronto in Canada completes the top five, claiming the second slot.
    •    Bangkok is one of the rising stars of the report and is cited as the number one city in terms of projected international visitor numbers and spend within the Asia/Pacific region. The city will witness growth of 6.5 percent in terms of visitors and an impressive 16.6 percent in international spend. Most traffic is set to come from Tokyo and these visitors will also be spending more than visitors from the other top origin cities. Traffic to Bangkok will be concentrated within the region.
    •    Singapore remains stable in the visitor number rankings, despite the fact that it is set to experience significant growth in visitor numbers, up 9.9 percent on the previous year. It has also climbed two spaces to claim the fourth spot in the international spend rankings, a rise of 12.7 percent.
    •    Istanbul is the fastest growing city in the top five in terms of international visitor numbers, set to grow14.7 percent on last year and it has climbed one space in the rankings to claim the fifth spot. It is also rising up the charts when we look at visitor spend, with a predicted increase of a staggering 20.7 percent since MasterCard’s last report.
Region by Region overview:
    •    According to the report, the outlook for international travel to and expenditure in Europe is fairly rosy for 2012. The top ten cities show a projected combined overall increase in visitor numbers of 2.8 percent and a rise of 8.1 percent in terms of projected total international spend. The average international spend per visit is expected to rise for these European cities to $1,172, up 5.1 percent on last year.
    •    Despite Western Europe’s economic woes, major cities including Dublin, Brussels, Lisbon, Barcelona, Vienna and Frankfurt are expected to increase their international visitor spend during 2012. Only Prague, Madrid and Athens are projected to experience a fall.
    ◦    The Asia/Pacific regional story stands out as the real success story of the report, with total visitor numbers for the top ten cities predicted to grow by 9.5 percent and total international spending set to increase by a solid 15.3 percent. Average international spending per visit for these cities is set to increase to $1,350, up 5.4 percent on the previous year. Bangkok claims the top slot in terms of visitor spend in the report and Tokyo, in sixth place, shows the fastest predicted spend growth, at 24.2 percent. Hot on its heels is Taipei, with a healthy predicted visitor spend growth of 20.5 percent.
    ◦    The growth figures for Latin America show real signs of positivity, with projected visitor numbers up by 7.3 percent for the top ten destination cities in the region and total international predictions for spend growth at 7.9 percent. Though there is set to be a lower average international spend per visit of $982, this is up by 0.6 percent on last year. Buenos Aires takes the number one slot in spend terms, whilst Quito and Bogota will be the fastest growing, says the report. Meanwhile, Recife will be the fastest growing regional city within our report in terms of visitor numbers, with impressive anticipated growth of 37.6 percent, MasterCard says.
    ◦    The regional outlook for the Middle East and Africa is equally bright, with visitor numbers for the top ten cities set to grow by 7.2 percent, total international spending predicted to rise by 10.4 percent and average spend per visit set to grow by 3 percent. Visitors will spend the most in Dubai and this is also a fast growing city within the top ten for that region. Abu Dhabi will be the fastest growing in terms of spend, according to the report, up 20.7 percent this year. Looking at the full list of cities, Durban will be the fastest growing for the region in terms of visitor numbers and is predicted to be the second fastest growing city in the report.
    ◦    The predicted growth in North America also looks healthy. Looking at the top ten cities, visitor numbers are set to swell by 4.1 percent and international spending to grow by 5.8 percent. Average spend per visit will also go up by 1.6 percent to an impressive $2,442, claims the report. New York will be the city where visitors will spend the most, up 6.8 percent on last year. There will also be increasing numbers of visitors flocking to the Big Apple, with visitor numbers set to grow by 5.2 percent.  Dallas and Boston, though not in the top ten, will also show fast growth in terms of visitor spend, both predicted to go up by 13.6 percent on last year, as well as healthy increases in projected visitor numbers. Toronto, the fastest growing city in North America’s Top Ten,  will also grow fast in terms of international visitor spend, with a projected increase of 10.2 percent on last year.


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