According to the MasterCard Global Destination
Cities Index released today, cities in Asia Pacific continued
their ascendance as global destinations in 2012, with nearly half
of the world’s top 20 cities by visitor arrivals and expenditure
heralding from the region.
The MasterCard Index of Global Destination
Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total
international visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by
these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor
and passenger growth forecasts for 2012.
The Index projects sustained growth among
emerging market cities with the top ten Asia Pacific destinations
expecting a 9.5% growth in visitor arrivals for 2012 and a 15.3%
surge in cross-border spending. Singapore (4th), Hong Kong (6th)
and Kuala Lumpur (10th) feature in the Index’s top ten global
Cities in Asia Pacific once again led the charge
globally with eight of the top 20 cities by international
arrivals, with Bangkok ranked third globally with projected
visitors to top 12.2 million visitors this year. Singapore was in
fourth place with 11.8 million visitors, with Hong Kong sixth with
11.1 million visitors. Kuala Lumpur ranked 10th with 8.1
million visitors expected.
The region also ranked highly on
visitor spending with Bangkok ranked third globally with US$19.3
billion expected to be spent by inbound passengers in 2012, a
16.6% jump from last year. Singapore leapt two places to fifth
overall with US$12.7 billion, up 12.7% on last year. Seoul moved
into the top ten with US$10.6 billion in cross-border spend, an
increase of 16.2%, while Tokyo, still recovering from the triple
disasters of 2011 moved up four places to 14th,
is officially the world’s third-fastest growing market (24.2%) in
terms of cross-border spending.
In terms of growth in visitor
numbers six out of the top 20 fastest growing cities in the Index
were from Asia Pacific with Tokyo second globally behind Rio de
Janeiro (28.6%) with a 21.5% growth in visitor arrivals. Taipei
and Beijing also featured in both the top ten growth cities by
visitor arrivals and cross-border spending.
cities continue their rise, expecting a significant upward trend
in visitor arrivals and cross-border spend - most of them on the
back of large double digit growth,” observed Dr. Yuwa
Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor, MasterCard Worldwide.
London once again topped the world’s cities by visitor numbers
with 16.9 million inbound passengers expected in 2012, just ahead of
Paris in second place with 16 million inbound passengers expected.
London also ranked first on cross-border expenditure, ahead of New
York in second place, with estimated expenditures in these cities
for 2012 amounting to US$21.1 billion and US$19.4 billion
While cities in Europe and the US still ranked
highly in the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Dr.
Hedrick-Wong said that the number of emerging market cities
featuring in the Index showed Asia’s growing role in the global
“The leading Asian cities are some of the most sought
after destinations for visitors from all over the world, and the
Index indicates that they will continue to thrive into 2012,” he
said. “Another interesting trend that we observe is a rise in cashless payments with many international travelers opting to do
electronic transactions rather than using cash. The trend is a
response to an increasing demand for safe, simple and smart
payments, and highlights the rising importance of cashless
commerce for both business and leisure travel,” Dr. Hedrick-Wong
The MasterCard Worldwide
Index of Global Destination Cities is compiled using international
flight and flight capacity information purchased from OAG Global,
a provider of international aviation data.
Flight schedules are
also used for calculating flight frequency between pairs of
cities. Airlines also publish on a regular basis their historical
load factor, and advance flight schedules, which are then used to
estimate the actual outbound passenger departures, and for
forecasting outbound passenger departures in the coming year.
On any given flight there are visitors from the departure country,
returning residents of the destination city after visiting the
departure country, and a third group: non-residents connecting
through the departure country to the destination city on their way
to a second destination city. This group can be a low proportion
of the passengers for typically non-hub cities, but very high for
destination cities that are “hubs” such as Singapore, Amsterdam,
On a country level, the UN Database of “Trade in
Service” in the “Travel Component” provides estimates of how much each year residents spend abroad (air fare paid in home country
not included). An algorithm is applied to this total outbound
expenditure and estimated total number of outbound passengers to
derive an estimate of average per outbound passenger’s expenditure
A margin of error is also unavoidable in such
estimates, as not all outbound trips are of equal length, and the
cost of living varies a great between arrival cities such that
even if each trip of equal length, expenditure per passenger
between different arrival cities would still be very different.
This margin of error is reduced significantly by imposing a
minimum of expenditures in the algorithm, after a number of
iterative testing (US$500 per trip for bordering arrival country
and US$700 per trip for non-bordering arrival country).
It is also important to
note that the city rankings from the 2011 MasterCard Index of Global
Destination Cities are altered retrospectively as updates in data
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