Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Index 2023 compares 55 different metrics across six key pillars for 100 city destinations, to create an overall city attractiveness score. It looks at economic and business performance, tourism performance, tourism infrastructure, tourism policy and attractiveness, health and safety, and sustainability.
In 2023, Paris ranks first in the Tourism Performance pillar due to a balanced performance in both domestic and incoming tourism. Tourism infrastructure sets the foundation for any city to become an important player in the competitive travel landscape. London stands out from the crowd with the best tourism infrastructure worldwide in 2023.
Travel bounces back despite geopolitical turmoil and rising cost of living.
The strong recovery of international travel continues with 38% growth in trips, projected to reach 1.3 billion in 2023, despite persistently high inflation with a predicted 7% rate and global disposable incomes per household to grow by 3.8%.
An important milestone for recovery in 2023 has been the return of Chinese international travellers, following the removal of the government’s quarantine requirements. Global inbound tourism spending is set to record an outstanding USD1.7 trillion in 2023.
Inflationary pressures, economic uncertainty and labour shortages will be some of the main challenges faced by the travel industry in 2024. In the case of global stagflation in Q1 2024, international arrivals are expected to decline from the projected 1.5 billion arrivals in terms of number of trips to 1.46 billion in 2024.
The use of technology continues to bring efficiency to the travel industry and will help to face challenges imposed by labour shortages while improving customer service experiences. The introduction of new technologies such as biometric identification, generative AI, payment systems or virtual or augmented reality tools will be widely used by most travel providers and cities.
Europe continues to power progress as the most dominant region
Euromonitor International’s Travel City Index 2023 reveals that Paris is the world’s top city and still commands this position, not only across Europe but globally as well, with exceptional performances across the Tourism Policy and Attractiveness, and Tourism Performance pillars. The city is projected to record over 15 million international arrivals in 2023. In 2024, the Olympic Games will drive buoyant international arrivals for Paris.
Europe leads other regions with 12 cities making the top 20 rankings in Travel City Index 2023, followed by Asia Pacific with five cities, North America with two, and Middle East and Africa with one
Source: Euromonitor International
Dubai is the world’s second most advanced city based on the 55 different metrics across the six key pillars. Dubai unequivocally leads the rankings in the Middle East as a top performer.
Madrid ranks third overall, with an exceptional performance in terms of sustainability efforts helping the city to reach number one in this category. The city aims to become a carbon neutral destination by 2050 with a zero-car centre and green transportation as part of its efforts.
Hong Kong makes its first steps to regain the status of most visited city
All the top 10 cities most visited by international arrivals in 2019 are back in the top 15 of the rankings in 2023, with the biggest increase in the number of international trips being recorded by Hong Kong. The city was one of the last major destinations to remove pandemic-related restrictions at the end of 2022, reopening all checkpoints between Hong Kong and mainland China at the beginning of 2023. Hong Kong still has much to gain when compared to the global high of 24 million inbound trips in 2019. The local government promotes the idea of a cultural hub to meet changing travel demand and highlights the city’s uniqueness with its thriving shopping and hospitality scene.
Bangkok is the second fastest-growing destination in terms of the number of international trips in 2023, with a 142% increase. This jump is also connected to the lifting of COVID-19 rules and heavy promotional activities alongside the return of Chinese travellers. However, there is still room to reach pre-pandemic levels.
Dubai is one of the cities that has already managed to exceed the number of trips compared to 2019. The city posts an 18% increase in the number of international trips, exceeding the 16 million mark in 2023. Dubai targets first-time visitors, as well as those interested in the growing number of stopover visits. Local airlines are actively working to improve connectivity, especially with Chinese cities.
Rising city taxes fight overtourism as sustainability is high on the agenda
With the rebound of international tourism comes the problem of overtourism
Source: Euromonitor International
City destinations are rethinking their strategies on how to combat overcrowding after COVID-19 and introducing more tourism levies to also support investment opportunities in their cities, while enhancing the local natural and cultural assets. Cities in Croatia, Iceland, Japan, Thailand, Netherlands, Greece, and the UK are adopting this strategy and imposing restrictions, steep taxation and/or reduction of hotel capacity to help limit the influx of tourists.
In an era marked by heightened environmental consciousness and the imperative to address climate change, cities are witnessing a remarkable transformation as travellers seek more responsible alternatives. Destinations are taking various steps to enhance their sustainability practices in conserving biodiversity, minimising the impact of travel on the environment and local culture, while still contributing to income generation, employment, and the preservation of local ecosystems.
Read our report Top 100 City Destinations Index 2023 for further analysis on the performance of city destinations.