The below text and graphs are excerpted from Euromonitor International “Top 100 city destinations 2018”
Euromonitor International’s city arrivals research covers over 600 cities.
The draw of cities is irresistible. The last 100 years have seen a remarkable change in attitudes to city life. In 1900, only 15% of the world’s population resided in cities. 2008 was the tipping point with more people living in urban areas than not. Today, there are 33 megacities—cities with more than 10 million inhabitants —and a further six will be added by 2030
Cities are significant for businesses since they concentrate wealth, income and business opportunities. The second largest city in this year’s ranking, Bangkok, generated over half of Thailand’s GDP in 2017, despite only accounting for 1.5% of the total national land area.
In light of rising populations and visitor numbers, the demands placed upon city assets and resources will be stretched.
Smart city initiatives are needed in fast-growing developing cities to help manage the effects of strong growth in populations and visitor numbers.
Global performance of city destinations
Global inbound arrivals are expected to grow by 5% to 1.4 billion trips in 2018. At the same time, arrivals to this year’s top 100 city destinations are set to grow by 7.5%. This is a continuation of a trend which sees the top cities outperforming global arrivals growth, with city hubs extending their importance for the global travel industry. In this year’s ranking, Asia continues its rise. The region accounts for 41 out of the top 100 cities. This number has steadily risen from 37 in 2012.
The biggest loser is the Middle East and Africa region, with cities such as Jerba and Sousse in Tunisia, or Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt dropping out of the ranking in past years, mainly due to terrorist attacks and subsequent slumping demand. Cairo, however, is seeing a resurgence.
Countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are increasingly looking to diversify their economic activities, with the latter now opening up to international tourists.
Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE, are actively diversifying their tourism offering, targeting family and group travelers seeking experiential travel, and solo travelers seeking health and wellness or adventure. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi are by far the largest destinations in the UAE, dispersal to other emirates is increasingly promoted.
Dubai Tourism Vision 2020 aims to welcome 20 million visitors to the emirate by the year 2020. The tourism board is actively promoting Dubai as a top choice for leisure and business travelers. Various policies were introduced to increase the number of tourists from new source markets, including new visa-upon-arrival policies, no charge for transit tourists for up to 48 hours stays, and optional extended-stay visas for up to 96 hours.
Dubai is one of the most innovative cities in the world, with a host of new and smart technologies continuously introduced in the city-state. This includes smart palms on its beaches and successful tests of flying taxis.
Dubai Airport has installed a face-scanning tunnel equipped with over 80 facial recognition and retina cameras, replacing traditional border gates. The Dubai 2030 transport strategy focuses on smart and driverless transportation, with a conversion target for autonomous journeys of up to 25% by 2030.
This includes separate lanes for driverless buses in the city. The Road and Transportations Authority also introduced a fleet of 50 self-driving electric Teslas in September 2017.
Mecca is trying to facilitate religious tourists through the use of smartphone applications. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah offers official applications such as Hajj Services, Umrah Services, Manasikana, and a Hajj Bracelet reader.
The Hajj e-bracelet can read the barcode to identify pilgrims. In 2018, the organizers also installed a number of sleeping pods to provide low-cost solutions in busy areas such as the airport or train stations.
The Jabal Omar Project is a mega real estate development project developed within walking distance of The Grand Mosque of Makkah.
The project is a cluster of hotels and serviced apartments, with 40 high-rise towers, 15 international hotels, over 12,000 guest rooms, featuring leading global hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt Regency.
Also under construction is Abraj Kudai, planned to be the largest hotel in the world, and consisting of a ring of 12 towers with 45 stories, 10,000 rooms, and five rooftop helipads.