London tops ranking of destination cities

London will lead the world in terms of international tourist arrivals this year, according to new research released June 1 by MasterCard.

The global payment giant's new index of Global Destination Cities predicts London will receive 20.1 million inbound passengers in 2011, slightly more than Paris's 18.1 million.

Bangkok is expected to welcome the third-highest number of visitors, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong - in fact, cities in Asia-Pacific account for eight of the top 20 global destinations.

By contrast, MasterCard predicts that only one US city will be among the world's most visited this year, with New York taking 12th place and predicted to welcome 7.6 million inbound passengers.

The Big Apple can perhaps take consolation that visitors will spend $20.3 billion there this year, more than every other city save London, which will see cross-border expenditures of $25.6 billion.

As well as studying total arrivals, MasterCard also looked at visitor growth, forecasting that the Spanish city of Barcelona will see the biggest jump - 24.3 percent growth in arrivals this year, followed by Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur at 21.8 percent and Istanbul at 20.4 percent.

The places seeing the fastest growth in the amount we spend, however, will be Istanbul (expenditure up by 30.1 percent in 2011), Barcelona (up 28.2 percent) and Dubai (up 24 percent).

MasterCard compiled its predictions of international arrivals, one of the clearest indicators of the human dimension of globalization, by analyzing airline schedules and UN expenditure figures.

The company says that many emerging markets were showing growth rates of over 20 percent, adding that cities in Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Africa "will correspondingly play ever bigger roles in knitting the world together."

View and download the study from http://newsroom.mastercard.com/2011/06/01/a-new-way-of-looking-at-the-global-economy-destination-cities/

2011's most popular cities (international arrivals)

1    London (20.1m)
2    Paris (18.1m)
3    Bangkok (11.5m)
4    Singapore (11.4m)
5    Hong Kong (10.9m)
6    Madrid (10.1m)
7    Istanbul (9.4m)
8    Frankfurt (8.4m)
9    Dubai (7.9m)
10    Rome (7.9m)
11    Seoul (7.9m)
12    New York (7.6m)
13    Amsterdam (7.4m)
14    Kuala Lumpur (6.9m)
15    Milan (6.7m)
16    Barcelona (6.7m)
17    Vienna (6.2m)
18    Shanghai (5.5m)
19    Taipei (5.4m)
20    Tokyo (5.0m)

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