A new report by Euromonitor International shows that Chinese tourists determine the success or failure of city destinations in Asia, while terrorist attacks have had a major impact on the travel landscape in Western Europe and North Africa.

Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations Ranking covers 100 of the world’s leading cities in 2015 (the latest year comprehensive data on inbound arrivals is available for all cities). According to its methodology, Euromonitor focuses on international arrivals that stay longer than 24 hours, thereby excluding travellers with airport transfers, and day-trippers.

Despite turbulent times, the ranking illustrates that cities continue to increase their importance to the global business and leisure travel industry. Indeed, inbound city arrivals to the top 100 cities grew by 5.5% between 2014 and 2015. This is compared to global travel flows increasing by 4.3% in the same period.

Top 10 City Destinations

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Source: Euromonitor International

The top three cities in the ranking

Hong Kong remained the top city destination by some margin, despite falling arrivals. The close proximity to and rapidly rising disposable incomes in China mean that Hong Kong remains a key destination for Chinese travellers. However, Hong Kong faces increasing difficulties in maintaining its attractiveness, especially amongst younger Chinese travellers, amid rising tensions between Hong Kong residents and the Chinese ruling party. A decade of rapid growth in arrivals from China came to a halt in 2015, with the number of visitors from the country falling by 6%.

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Bangkok benefited with growth of 10% in international arrivals, resulting in a jump to be ranked as the second largest city. It is likely Bangkok would have registered even stronger growth, but for the Erewan Shrine bombing in August 2015, which saw several countries, including Singapore and the Philippines, issue travel advice urging citizens to take all necessary precautions for personal safety when they are in Thailand.

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London closes out the top three of the ranking, with international arrivals growing just short of 7% in 2015. Arrivals were boosted by England’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in September 2015. Despite this positive result, there are many question marks surrounding London and the UK. The UK’s decision to leave the EU has led to high levels of uncertainty, casting dark shadows over the UK economy. The depreciation of sterling will constrain the UK outbound market significantly, but is expected to result in a bumper year for London inbound tourism in 2016.

Terrorist attacks in Western European cities and shift to stable Mediterranean countries

Paris saw the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, and the attack on the Bataclan and other areas of Paris at the end of 2015. Arrivals data from early 2016 shows that the November attack had a significant impact, but, due to the smaller scale of the January attack, Paris arrivals only declined marginally in 2015. A slight impact was also felt at Marne-La-Vallée, the home of Disneyland, just 10 kilometres outside Paris. Beyond Paris, two other cities that can expect declines in 2016 are Nice and Brussels. Both cities were targeted by terrorists in 2016, with Brussels and nearby Zaventem experiencing bombings in March 2016, and Nice having to come to terms with the cargo truck attack in July 2016.

Cities in Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia suffered as terrorist attacks spread fear amongst potential visitors. High profile attacks like the Russian plane bombing and the beach attack in Sousse saw cities including Sharm el Sheik, Sousse and Jerba register strong declines. Istanbul performed well, especially with business travellers, but Turkish beach resorts saw arrivals declining due to a weak Russian economy (a key source market) and increasing terrorist attacks during the summer of 2015. With the 2016 bombing of Atatürk Airport, the military coup and the New Year’s Eve attack, it is expected that Istanbul will follow its country’s trend and see arrivals falling in 2016.

Especially Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy attracted growing numbers of visitors as a result of declines in other countries. With the exception of Heraklion on Crete and Rhodes, which continued to be impacted by the continuing migrant crisis, all cities in these countries showed strong growth.

To view the complete Top 100 City Destinations Ranking and for further insights, download the free report HERE.

This article was written by Wouter Geerts, Travel Analyst at Euromonitor. Euromonitor is a WTTC Knowledge Partner and contributes monthly to the WTTC blog on Medium.

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