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Which cities get the most international visitors?

So every year, MasterCard – you know, the plastic money people – publishes a report by the thrilling name of the Global Destinations Cities Index. In it, it uses figures from travel and tourism authorities to estimate the number of international travellers, who stay over night and, y’know, spend some money, who visit 132 major cities around the world.

You can see this year’s top 15 in the graphic, courtesy of Statista, above. And, well, long story short – London is number 1. Always nice to come top at something, isn’t it? Have some fireworks, London.

Actually, this isn’t that much of a shock: in the seven years that Master Card has produced the survey, London has topped the charts five times. The other two years it was pipped to the twice by Bangkok, which is generally stuck in second place.

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The survey goes out of its way to eliminate the effects of hub airports: cities like Amsterdam and Dubai receive vast numbers of visitors, but a large chunk of those get straight back on another plane, so don’t really count.

Nonetheless, the presence of a decent airport with flights from all over the world is clearly a helpful factor here. The four busiest airports in the world by international passenger traffic are in Dubai (4th in the visitors league table), London (1st), Hong Kong (10th) and Paris (3rd). In all, just five of the 15 cities at the top of this chart aren’t also in the top 15 on the list of busiest international airports, too.

Incidentally, this list includes seven cities in Europe, six in Asia, one in the Middle East, one in North America – and literally none elsewhere. Look at this map from this year’s report – it shows the top 20 cities, rather than the top 15, but nonetheless – and you can suddenly see quite how narrow a strip of the world we’re looking at here.

In terms of tourism and business travel, much of the world is still undiscovered country.
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