We travel the world as never before. Global tourism has hit record levels. International visitors have become a significant source of revenue to many destination cities. They spend nights in hotels, eat at restaurants and food stalls, drink in bars, shop in stores and malls, get around on local trains, buses and taxis, and take in the sights from museums and historical sites to sports and the arts. It all adds up — to billions of dollars for the most visited cities.
Using some of the data that goes into MasterCard’s annual Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI), we have listed the ten cities where international tourists spend the most across the course of a year. The numbers are new published estimates for 2014.
London tops the list at $19.3 billion, a 13.4% increase on 2013. It also attracts the most visitors, an estimated 18.7 million for this year, which would be 8% more than in 2013 — and roughly two visitors for every resident. Visitors arriving from New York are rapidly growing in number, although two-thirds of London’s international visitors still arrive from elsewhere in Europe.
For the four years that MasterCard has been compiling its GDCI, the U.K. capital has been battling it out with its Thailand counterpart for the top spot as the most visited city. This year, it pushed Bangkok back into second place, as the country’s political instability cut the number of international visitors by 11%. The impact on visitor spending is even more pronounced, down 17.7% to an estimated $13 billion this year, pushing it down to fifth in the visitor spending list, and even knocking it off the top of the regional list for Asia. Singapore is the new no 1. Politics has hit Thailand’s tourism economy hard.
Cities where you would expect to see visitors with their wallets perpetually open dominate the spending list. New York is second, with estimated revenue from international visitors this year of $18.6 billion, up 13% on 2013, followed by Paris ($17.0 billion, up 7.7%) and Singapore ($14.3 billion, up 7.6%). See our accompanying slideshow for the full top 10.
As befits a global city, New York attracts a diverse mix of visitors. London, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Paris and Beijing are its top five feeder cities. Visitors from Beijing are growing at a particularly rapid rate. Approaching half a million are expected this year, which would be up 17.3% on 2013. They bring the wealth with them to goose the overall visitor spending numbers. Each is expected to spend $1,400 in the city this year, more than the $1,200 expected from those arriving from London and the parsimonious $232 from those coming from Toronto.
Three other U.S. cities make the global top 20, Los Angeles at 13th ($7.8 billion), Miami at 15th ($6.3 billion) and San Francisco at 19th ($5.6 billion). The U.S. city with the fastest accelerating growth in international tourist revenue is Houston, which is expected to see a 20% increase this year to $2.2 billion from the 1.4 million international visitors it is expected to get.