HK retains top spot as tourist magnet

Top News | BLOOMBERG 4 Dec 2019

Hong Kong is likely to hold on to its status as the world's most popular city with international visitors in 2019, despite months of unrest that led to a sharp drop in tourists. Meanwhile, New York City is expected to fall out of the top 10, and New Delhi will be joining theranks for the first time.

The Top 100 City Destinations report from global market research company Euromonitor International shows Asian destinations dominating the list, with over 40 entries. Bangkok is set to take second place, followed by Macau and Singapore.

London is predicted to round out the top five, although it is droppingtwo places amidan uncertain future as Brexit potentially leads to tighter visa restrictions for European Union nationals.

Globally, inbound arrivals are expected to rise by 4.2 percent to 1.5 billion trips.

New York City, the most popular US destination, is expected to sink from eight to 11, while Miami (29), Los Angeles (33) and Las Vegas (38) are the next highest US cities.

Competition from Asia and Europe has seen most American cities slip in recent years, despite positive growth in arrivals for most.

Growing trade tension with China is "one of the main concerns," according to the report's author, Rabia Yasmeen, who added that many US cities are actively attempting to tap the lucrative Chinese market.

Euromonitor's research covers overseas visitors or arrivals, who stay longer than 24 hours and less than one year in over 400 cities.

Arrivals include people traveling for business, leisure and to visit family or friends, but excludes those in employment or education as well as military personnel, transportation crew, cruise passengers and people displaced by war or natural disasters.

The 2019 rankings are calculated using estimates based on part-year arrivals data, meaning Hong Kong's place as the global travelers' capital could still change, given the ongoing protests.

However, Euromonitor senior analyst Simon Haven said strong arrivals numbers in the first half of the year would lessen the impact of the protests.

"Over the period January to June of 2019, inbound arrivals grew by 14 percent versus the same period last year. In July, arrivals started to drop, with the most notable being in August when the city experienced a 40 percent drop," he said.

"Total inbound arrivals into Hong Kong are expected to drop by 5 percent to 10 percent in 2019."

Haven said this degree of decline would keep the Asian financial hub in poleposition, given its lead over Bangkok and strong performance last year.

More broadly, the list shows that Asian tourism is booming. The region accounts for the most entries and the number has risen steadily since the first edition was published in 2013.

Travelers within Asia are responsible for much of the growth, as income levels rise and the number of Chinese tourists - as well as millennial travelers of the region - increase.

The biggest leap this year is expected to come from Hurghada in Egypt, forecast to take 63rd after joining the top 100 in 82nd last year. Thanks in part to a tourism reform and improving security, Egypt remains North Africa's leading destination, with Cairo also enjoying strong growth. Other notable climbers include Indian cities such as Agra and Bangalore, and Cebu in the Philippines.

In Europe, traditional travel hotspots like Barcelona, Milan and Vienna slid down the rankings, while cities in "off the beaten path destinations such as Croatia, Slovenia and Sweden" moved up, but are yet to break the top 100.

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