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 Most Populous Cities in the World
Where are the world’s largest cities in terms of population? This graphic looks at the top 20 most populous cities in the world.
Ranked: The Most Populous Cities in the World
More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities—and as time goes on, it’s clear that more urban dwellers will find themselves living in megacities.
Megacities are defined as urban areas with a population of more than 10 million people. This means that the world’s top 20 most populous cities are all megacities.
This visualization, using data from Macrotrends, shows the 20 most populous cities in the world.
Today, more than 80% of people in higher income countries find themselves living in urban areas, and in upper-middle income countries the number lies between 50-80%.
Rural-to-urban migration is an increasingly relevant trend in the 21st century. Prospects of better job opportunities and higher wages, along with shifts from agrarian to industrial and service-based economies, are causing mass movement to cities.
How much have the world’s five most populous cities grown in just the last decade?
|Rank||City||2010 Population||2020 Population||Percentage Change|
|#4||🇧🇷 São Paulo||19,660,000||22,043,000||+12.1%|
|#5||🇲🇽 Mexico City||20,132,000||21,782,000||+8.2%|
While Tokyo only gained 559,000 people between 2010 and 2020, Delhi gained over 8 million people in the same time frame.
Shanghai grew by over 7 million people. Meanwhile, São Paulo grew by more than 2 million, and Mexico City gained just over 1.6 million people.
Interestingly, Mexico City placed third on the top largest cities list in 2010, but has since experienced slower growth compared to its competitors, Shanghai and São Paulo.
The Most Populous Cities Today
While Tokyo is the world’s most populous city with 37,393,000 people, this number is leveling out due to declining birth rates and an aging population.
Indian and Chinese cities, on the other hand, will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. In fact, it’s expected that Delhi’s population could surpass Tokyo’s by 2028.
Here’s a closer look at the top 20 most populous cities.
|4||🇧🇷 São Paulo||22,043,000|
|5||🇲🇽 Mexico City||21,782,000|
|11||🇺🇸 New York City||18,804,000|
|15||🇦🇷 Buenos Aires||15,154,000|
By 2035, two new cities are expected to crack the top 20 list. Specifically, it’s projected that Bangalore (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) will boot out Tianjin and Buenos Aires. In addition, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chennai are all expected to meet the megacity definition by 2035.
Urban growth will continue mainly in Asia and Africa, as some cities in regions such as Europe actually begin to shrink in population due to aging citizens and declining birth rates. Since 2012, deaths in the EU have actually been outpacing births—and in 2019, there were 4.7 million deaths compared to 4.2 million births, though net migration kept population numbers from falling.
Life in the City
While there are certainly downsides to mass urbanization, like pollution and overcrowding, the upsides clearly outweigh the negatives for most people. Convenience, better jobs, easier access to social services, and higher wages are among the many reasons people are likely to continue to move to cities, even in the post-COVID era.
With the emergence of smart and green cities, the quality of life for many urban dwellers will likely continue to improve, and more large urban areas will morph into megacities.
Mapped: The Top Surveillance Cities Worldwide
Which cities have the most CCTV cameras? This map reveals the top surveillance cities worldwide in terms of the prevalence of CCTV cameras.
The Top Surveillance Cities Worldwide
Since the world’s first CCTV camera was installed in Germany in 1942, the number of surveillance cameras around the world has grown immensely. In fact, it only took us 79 years to go from one camera to nearly one billion of these devices.
In the above interactive graphic, Surfshark maps out how prevalent CCTV surveillance cameras are in the world’s 130 most populous cities.
Big Brother is Watching
So how many of us are being watched? China and India are the countries with the highest densities of CCTV surveillance cameras in urban areas. Chennai, India has 657 cameras per square kilometer, making it the number one city in the world in terms of surveillance.
Here’s a closer look at the world’s top 10 cities by CCTV density.
|Rank||City||CCTVs per square km||CCTVs per 1,000 people|
|#1||🇮🇳 Chennai, India||657||25.5|
|#2||🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India||480||30.0|
|#3||🇨🇳 Harbin, China||411||39.1|
|#4||🇬🇧 London, England||399||67.5|
|#5||🇨🇳 Xiamen, China||385||40.3|
|#6||🇨🇳 Chengdu, China||350||33.9|
|#7||🇨🇳 Taiyuan, China||319||119.6|
|#8||🇮🇳 Delhi, India||289||14.2|
|#9||🇨🇳 Kunming, China||281||45.0|
|#10||🇨🇳 Beijing, China||278||56.2|
London is the only non-Asian city to crack the list with 399 CCTV cameras per square kilometer.
Beijing ranks in tenth place. The Chinese capital has the highest number of CCTV cameras in total, at just over 1.1 million installed in the city.
Although CCTV cameras have become extremely prevalent in cities around the world, this does not mean these cameras are seeing and recognizing our every move. In most instances, cameras are in a fixed position—and some of the more invasive aspects of CCTV, like accompanying facial recognition technology, are not universal yet.
The Need for CCTV
The ubiquity of surveillance cameras can be unnerving to some, as they represent diminishing privacy. However, there are also those that feel the presence of cameras creates added safety.
While governments like China’s claim that having high amounts of surveillance cameras helps reduce crime, the actual data gets messy. For example, the Chinese city of Taiyuan has roughly 120 cameras per every thousand people and yet the city has a higher crime index than most.
Freedom vs. Security
As surveillance networks become more sophisticated and granular, there is increasing concern about breaches to personal freedoms.
China is doubling down with surveillance in its cities by pioneering the usage and exportation of facial recognition technology. This technology is integral to China’s proposed social points system. With a database of 1.3 billion pictures that can be matched to a face on a CCTV camera in seconds, troublemaking citizens can easily be identified.
In India, on the other hand, the amount of cameras can be attributed to mass urbanization, rising crime, and scarcity of urban resources. Overall, there is a rising middle class that wishes to protect itself with the use of CCTV cameras.
As we close in on one billion CCTV surveillance cameras globally by the end of 2021, we will undoubtedly continue to be monitored well into the future.
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