The Mastercard Index, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and—for the first time—a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.

This year’s top cities are Bangkok, London and Paris, once again underscoring the importance of robust infrastructure, both business and leisure attractions and strong local culture.

With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities was up in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors.

With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year and is unlikely to be bested due to a strong projected growth of 9.6 percent for 2018. Interestingly, visitors tend to stay in Bangkok 4.7 nights and spend $173 per day, on average.

The Global Top 10 Destination Cities
  2017 International Overnight Visitors Growth Forecast for 2018 Average Length of Stay Average Spend Per Day
Bangkok 20.05 million 9.6% 4.7 nights $173
London 19.83 million 3.0% 5.8 nights $153
Paris 17.44 million 2.9% 2.5 nights $301
Dubai 15.79 million 5.5% 3.5 nights $537
Singapore 13.91 million 4.0% 4.3 nights $286
New York 13.13 million 4.1% 8.3 nights $147
Kuala Lumpur 12.58 million 7.5% 5.5 nights $124
Tokyo 11.93 million 1.6% 6.5 nights $154
Istanbul 10.70 million 19.7% 5.8 nights $108
Seoul 9.54 million 6.1% 4.2 nights $181

However, not all cities are created equal when it comes to the amount visitors spend in the local economy. Dubai continues to be the top ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending a whopping $537 per day on average. It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia, which debuts in the number two spot, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Phuket, Thailand. Of the most visited cities, Istanbul comes in with the lowest spend per day at just $108 on average.

Top Cities by Dollars Spent
  2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD) Forecast for 2018 Average Spend by Day
Dubai $29.70 billion 7.8% $537
Makkah $18.45 billion 7.4% $135
London $17.45 billion 13.7% $153
Singapore $17.02 billion 7.4% $286
Bangkok $16.36 billion 13.8% $173
New York $16.10 billion 4.1% $147
Paris $13.05 billion 16.0% $301
Palma de Mallorca $11.96 billion 16.2% $220
Tokyo $11.91 billion 7.8% $154
Phuket $10.46 billion 12.6% $239

“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president, global cities for Mastercard. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”

Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:

  • Identify and address urban challengesthrough scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration
  • Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation; in over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses
  • Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind: Seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe
  • Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index