Global inbound arrivals are expected to grow by 4.2% to 1.5 billion trips in 2019, with the top 100 cities comprising nearly 47% of global arrivals and growing by 6.2% in 2019.
The top 100 cities continuously outperform the growth in world arrivals as tourism becomes a catalyst for innovation as well as a driver of socio-economic progress. This has led to smart city developments, encouraged by governments’ long-term tourism strategies and significantly increased investment in travel and tourism over recent years.
Asia continues to outpace other regions, accounting for 43 of the top 100 cities. This number has steadily increased from 34 cities in 2013. Hong Kong continues to lead the city arrivals globally despite the political unrest and protests which lead to a sharp decline in the number of visitor arrivals in 2019.
With an increasing Chinese outbound market, many countries are targeting travellers through Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, as well as working closely with local travel intermediaries.
Additionally, rising income levels and increased millennial travellers from Asian economies has also increased intra-regional travel in Asia and regions in closer proximity such as the Middle East and Africa. Europe remains the second key region for travellers with 32 cities in the rankings, the same as last year. However, Brexit uncertainty remained a concern for many travellers, leading to a slight decline in the number of inbound arrivals to London in 2018. Despite this, the city maintained its 3rd place globally in 2018 but is forecast to lose two places to 5th in the ranking in 2019.
Cities in North America continue to perform well, however, most cities lost their rankings owing to increased competitiveness from Asian and European city destinations. Latin America cities face challenges with Mexico City leaving the ranking and only four cities featuring in the Top 100 City Destinations ranking this year — with all four experiencing a decline in their position.
The Middle East and Africa continued to pose stable growth, with leading destinations such as Dubai experiencing flat growth. Saudi Arabia, the second most important market in the region, saw a slowdown in religious tourism and arrivals for the purpose of visiting friends, family and relatives, following the country’s efforts to reduce workforce dependency on expats. Egypt made a comeback on account of its tourism reform program, with Hurgada making it into the Top 100 City Destinations ranking for the first time at position 82. Cairo also improved to position 42.
Security concerns remain a challenge for some destinations in Europe due to possible terrorist attacks, increased local crime rates and emerging concerns regarding refugees.
While leading cities have benefited from their own popularity, many destinations are now faced with issues of overcrowding, pollution and transport management. There has been a greater focus on enhancing infrastructure and airport capacities through new terminals and improved passenger facilities. Further, smart city initiatives and integrating digital platforms to facilitate travel services have been a key trend to improve efficiency and reach in the travel sector.
With the increased importance of travel and tourism to a country’s economy, many regional peers are looking to build alliances to boost regional travel. Such alliances include London and Paris in Europe and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and Africa - resulting in shared resources, destinations and more dynamic travel offerings and packages.