Mastercard brings together tourism and city partners to improve experiences for visitors. In a world of rising nationalism, international travel takes on greater importance—breaking down barriers, broadening our horizons and driving economic impact felt throughout the world’s cities. For the past decade, Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index has offered important analysis of travel to and within cities. This year’s top cities are Bangkok, London and Paris, once again underscoring the importance of robust infrastructure, both business and leisure attractions and strong local culture.
The Mastercard Index, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and—for the first time—a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.
With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities was up in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors.
With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year and is unlikely to be bested due to a strong projected growth of 9.6 percent for 2018. Interestingly, visitors tend to stay in Bangkok 4.7 nights and spend $173 per day, on average.
The Global Top 10 Destination Cities
2017 International Overnight Visitors Growth Forecast for 2018
Average Length of Stay
Average Spend Per Day
20.05 million,9.6%, 4.7 nights, $173
19.83 million, 3.0%, 5.8 nights, $153
17.44 million, 2.9%, 2.5 nights, $301
15.79 million, 5.5%, 3.5 nights, $537
13.91 million, 4.0%, 4.3 nights, $286
13.13 million, 4.1%, 8.3 nights, $147
12.58 million, 7.5%. 5.5 nights, $124
11.93 million, 1.6%, 6.5 nights, $154
10.70 million, 19.7%, 5.8 nights, $108
9.54 million, 6.1%, 4.2 nights, $181
However, not all cities are created equal when it comes to the amount visitors spend in the local economy. Dubai continues to be the top ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending a whopping $537 per day on average. It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia, which debuts in the number two spot, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Phuket, Thailand. Of the most visited cities, Istanbul comes in with the lowest spend per day at just $108 on average.
Top Cities by Dollars Spent
2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD), Forecast for 2018
Average Spend by Day
$29.70 billion, 7.8%, $537
$18.45 billion, 7.4%, $135
$17.45 billion, 13.7%,$153
$17.02 billion, 7.4%, $286
$16.36 billion, 13.8%, $173
$16.10 billion, 4.1%, $147
$13.05 billion, 16.0%,$301
Palma de Mallorca
$11.96 billion, 16.2%, $220
$11.91 billion, 7.8%,$154
$10.46 billion, 12.6%, $239
“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president, global cities for Mastercard. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”
Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:
Identify and address urban challengesthrough scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration
Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation; in over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses
Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind: Seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe
Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index
The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities in 2017, and gives international overnight visitor growth forecasts for 2018.
Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 162 destination cities.
Forecasts are based upon the weighted average of the national level tourism forecasts and the actual 2018 monthly data at the destination level, which is available to the latest month before release.
This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on Mastercard volumes or transactional data.
Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MastercardNews, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest new