The 100 Most Popular City Destinations
The pandemic has grounded many of us, but it can’t curb human wanderlust.
Cities like Hong Kong, Bangkok, and London have led city destination rankings for years, but movement within the ranks below them—revealed in the above infographic—help to highlight the intriguing travel trends happening before COVID-19.
With data from Euromonitor International’s 2019 travel report, we can uncover where travelers are likely headed once their passports are useful again. Pulling data from 400 cities, collected into mid-2019, the report encompasses millions of international travelers who stayed at their destination longer than 24 hours.
Here’s a closer look at where travelers are likely to touch down in post-pandemic life.
Not-So-Lonely At the Top
Although the top of this list has remained fairly stable in terms of rank in recent years, two cities have seen an impressive influx of travelers.
Paris and Istanbul both made significant gains between 2017 and 2019 with 20.6% and 37.2% growth in visitors respectively:
Note that only one North American city, New York City, is found in this top 10. As well, Asian cities account for half of the leading group, with two of the top 10 cities are located in China. Although Hong Kong leads the top 100 list, political turmoil led to a marked decline of international visitors of 4.2% from 2017 to 2019.
The largest rank changes in the top 10 were made by Macau and Istanbul, but the rise was subtle. Both cities gained two spots each between 2013 and 2018, though each had sizable traveler growth rates, with Macau growing by 19.0%.
|Rank||City||Country||Arrivals (Millions)||5yr Rank Change||Growth ('17-19)|
|1||Hong Kong||China (SAR)||29.26||—||-4.2%|
|8||New York City||US||13.60||1||7.0%|
|31||Ho Chi Minh City||Vietnam||7.20||6||31.6%|
|85||Buenos Aires City||Argentina||2.69||-31||8.6%|
|98||Rio de Janeiro||Brazil||2.28||-7||3.6%|
It’s also worth noting that based on the data collected into 2019, London was projected to continue its downward trend, bringing it to 5th spot—mostly due to complications brought on by Brexit and associated visa restrictions.
Trending: Indian and Japanese Cities Take Flight
Most of the dramatic shifts in city travel patterns are happening below the top 10. Asian hot spots are gaining steam and swiftly making their way up the top 100 rankings, signaling a shift in global preferences before lockdowns began.
Take Japan for instance. The five Japanese cities in the top 100 rose by 352 places collectively since 2013. The country’s top city destinations have had an average traveler growth rate of 17.8% from 2017 to 2019. In light of Japan’s impeccable containment of COVID-19, that trend may be compounded in coming years.
Japan’s dramatic rise in the ranks is echoed by India. India’s seven cities in the top 100 have risen 229 places — with a huge average growth rate of 44.6% from 2017 to 2019. Some of that growth is the result of lifestyle tourism, particularly in the case of Delhi, which saw its traveler rate grow by 49.6% since 2017.
Prior to the pandemic, Delhi was expected to continue that steady growth and experience a leap in rank, which currently sits at 11.
With health and wellness tourism on the rise, India has gained noteworthy attention for its yoga retreats and Ayurveda practices. Delhi’s connectivity to important locations across North India has boosted inbound arrivals to the city.
— Euromonitor International
Where in the World? Asia and Europe
Asia continues to lead all other regions, followed by Europe.
Since 2013, the number of Asian cities in the top 100 has grown from 34 to 43. Asian outbound travel has also seen a surge, spurring a rise in travel campaigns from Europe and the Americas that target Asian travelers on social media platforms like WeChat.
Why the Ranking Matters: In Travel, They Trust
Before the pandemic, tourism was considered a leading and resilient economic sector.
In 2019, 1.5 billion people traveled internationally. By 2030, that number could grow to 1.8 billion—and many cities could become increasingly reliant on tourist dollars.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, cities like Macau, Cancun, Marrakech, and Las Vegas are all heavily dependent on direct tourism and travel contributions to their respective GDPs. As of 2018, more than 50% of Macau’s GDP was derived directly from tourism, while almost half of Cancun’s GDP relies on travelers.
Countries like India and the Philippines are also particularly reliant on travel. India has a related job-to-tourist ratio of two jobs for every tourist and the Philippines has a ratio of one job per tourist.
By 2030, there could be 1.8 billion tourists – just over one in five persons in the world–traveling around the globe.
— United Nations World Tourism Organization
Where to Next? Wheels Up
Millions of travelers don’t lie — the siren call of cities is undeniable. In turn, those tourists have become a major lifeforce for many of these destinations, and a boon for the international travel industry.
The pandemic has thrown these dynamics off course, with much of the world grinding to a halt since early 2020. However, it’s only a matter of time before the world opens back up again.
Although travel may look very different in the future, wanderlust doesn’t simply disappear. In fact, frustrated travelers — including digital nomads and remote workers — may have all the more reason to run away.
Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities
Nearly 60% of the world’s population lives in cities and this trend is not slowing down—take a look at the world’s 20 fastest growing cities.
Ranked: The World’s Fastest Growing Cities
By 2025, the world’s population will reach over 8.1 billion people.
Most of that population growth will be concentrated in cities across Africa and Asia. To help paint a detailed picture, this map uses data from the United Nations to rank the top 20 fastest growing cities in the world in terms of average annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025.
Full Speed Ahead
The majority of the world’s fastest growing cities are located in Africa—in fact, 17 of the 20 are located on the continent, with four of the 20 cities being located in Nigeria specifically.
Population growth is booming across the entire continent, as many countries retain high birth rates. According to the World Bank, the 2019 fertility rate (births per woman) in Sub-Saharan Africa was 4.6, compared to the global fertility rate of 2.4.
|City||Country||Continent||Annual Growth (2020-2025p)|
|Kabinda||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||6.37%|
|Bunia||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.63%|
|Goma||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo||Africa||5.14%|
Nigeria’s economy is largely based on petroleum which has resulted in the country becoming one of the strongest economies in Africa. This, coupled with a high birth rate and a resulting young population, has given the country a strong and rising workforce.
However, the population growth in Nigeria is both a blessing and a curse. The success of the economy, among other factors, has resulted in excessive rural-to-urban migration. This mass exodus from rural areas has led to less farming, which means the country now needs to import basic food staples at a high cost.
In Mozambique, Tete and Quelimane are growing 5.56% and 5.14% respectively. The country is expected to experience strong economic growth after facing contractions due to the pandemic. Forecasts predict that the Mozambiques’s economy will grow 4% by 2022.
Implications of Fast Growth
All of the top 20 fastest growing cities are located in either Africa or Asia, and they are far outpacing growth on other continents, such as Europe, for example.
Fastest Growing Cities: Europe vs. Global
|Europe's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate||World's Fastest Growing Cities||Growth Rate|
|🇷🇺 Balashikha, Russia||2.01%||🇳🇬 Gwagwalada||6.46%|
|🇷🇺 Tyumen, Russia||1.88%||🇨🇩 Kabinda||6.37%|
|🇦🇱 Tiranë (Tirana), Albania||1.63%||🇧🇩 Rupganj||6.36%|
|🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway||1.38%||🇳🇬 Lokoja||5.93%|
|🇷🇺 Sochi, Russia||1.33%||🇦🇴 Uige||5.92%|
|🇬🇧 Coventry-Bedworth, UK||1.32%||🇧🇮 Bujumbura||5.75%|
|🇸🇪 Stockholm, Sweden||1.25%||🇹🇿 Songea||5.74%|
|🇨🇭 Lausanne, Switzerland||1.23%||🇨🇳 Xiongan||5.69%|
|🇷🇺 Krasnodar, Russia||1.22%||🇳🇬 Potiskum||5.65%|
|🇷🇺 Surgut, Russia||1.17%||🇨🇩 Bunia||5.63%|
|🇷🇺 Podolsk, Russia||1.16%||🇲🇿 Tete||5.56%|
|🇮🇪 Dublin, Ireland||1.12%||🇦🇴 Cuito||5.48%|
|🇬🇧 London, UK||1.12%||🇮🇳 Hosur||5.38%|
|🇳🇱 Utrecht, Netherlands||1.11%||🇧🇯 Abomey-Calavi||5.27%|
|🇸🇪 Göteborg, Sweden||1.07%||🇳🇬 Nnewi||5.18%|
|🇫🇷 Toulouse, France||1.07%||🇦🇴 Malanje||5.17%|
|🇸🇪 Malmö, Sweden||1.05%||🇨🇲 Mbouda||5.16%|
|🇫🇷 Montpellier, France||1.04%||🇲🇿 Quelimane||5.14%|
|🇫🇷 Bordeaux, France||0.99%||🇺🇬 Kampala||5.14%|
|🇨🇭 Genève, Switzerland||0.99%||🇨🇩 Goma||5.14%|
By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to close to 2 billion people and roughly half will be under the age of 25. This represents an enormous labor force and opportunities for innovation and growth. In fact, in navigating the pandemic, Africa is already starting to capitalize on digital advances in both traditional and new sectors.
China has its eye on Africa, as evidenced through their multiple investments in infrastructure projects in the continent. Additionally, NATO countries have recently committed to investing similar amounts in Africa to counter China’s influence.
In spite of the economic potential, increased city sizes could be problematic for some of these countries. They will need to adapt to the issues associated with mass urbanization, like pollution, overcrowding, and high costs of living.
Population booms can lead to massive economic growth, a larger (and younger) working population, and a growing domestic consumer market.
As the aforementioned cities continue their rapid expansion, and as people continue to flock to growing megacities in Africa and Asia, it could represent the beginning of an important economic shift that is worth keeping an eye on.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
Compared to January 2020, 34% of small businesses are currently closed. This map looks at the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
In the business news cycle, headlines are often dominated by large corporations, macroeconomic news, or government action.
While mom and pop might not always be in focus, collectively small businesses are a powerful and influential piece of the economy. In fact, 99.9% of all businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, collectively employing almost half (47.3%) of the nation’s private workforce.
Unfortunately, they’ve also been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy amid the pandemic. From the CARES Act to the new budget proposal, billions of dollars have been allocated towards helping small businesses to get back on their feet.
Small Business Recovery in 50 Metro Areas
During the pandemic, many small businesses have either swiftly pivoted to survive, or struggled to stay afloat. This map pulls data from Opportunity Insights to examine the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas across America.
So, has the situation improved since the last time we examined this data? The short answer is no—on a national scale, 34% of small businesses are closed compared to January 2020.
San Francisco is one of the most affected metro areas, with a 48% closure rate of small businesses. New York City has spiralled the most since the end of September 2020.
|U.S. Metro Area||% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Sep 25, 2020)
|% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Apr 23, 2021)
|7-month change (p.p.)|
|New York City||-21%||-42%||-21|
|Salt Lake City||-18%||-23%||-5|
Data as of Apr 23, 2021 and indexed to Jan 4-31, 2020.
On the flip side, Honolulu has seen the most improvement. As travel and tourism numbers into Hawaii have steadily risen up with lifted nationwide restrictions, there has been a 16 p.p. increase in open businesses compared to September 2020.
Road to a K-Shaped Recovery
As of April 25, 2021, nearly 42% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, even with this rapid vaccine rollout, various segments of the economy aren’t recovering at the same pace.
Take for instance the stark difference between professional services and the leisure and hospitality sector. Though small business revenues in both segments have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the latter has much more catching up to do:
This uneven phenomena is known as a K-shaped recovery, where some industries see more improvement compared to others that stagnate in the aftermath of a recession.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Endures
Despite these continued hardships, it appears that many Americans have not been deterred from starting their own businesses.
Many small businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which makes EIN applications a good proxy for business formation activity. Despite an initial dip in the early months of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic spike in EIN business applications.
Even in the face of a global pandemic, the perseverance of such metrics prove that the innovative American spirit is unwavering, and spells better days to come for small business recovery.
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