The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


And the Most Popular Destination in the World Is …

In its fourth annual Global Destination Cities Index, MasterCard made some surprising revelations about worldwide travel.

Measuring the total number of international visitor arrivals and how much they spend on the ground, the GDCI ranked the most popular global destinations and identified several trends that may change how, and to where, we travel.

What’s not surprising: London tops the list as the most popular destination for international travelers for the third time in four years. An estimated 18.69 million visitors will make it to the capital city of the United Kingdom in 2014, spending a whopping $19.3 billion while there. That’s about 10 billion scones, or 386,000,000 rides on the London Eye.

The other cities in the top five? Bangkok, Paris, Singapore, and Dubai, representing a large swath of the globe that sees heavy international foot traffic.

In North America, the only city to crack the GDCI’s top 20 was—naturally—New York, which sees some 11.8 million visitors annually. However, it’s the second-ranked city in terms of spending; visitors to the Big Apple drop $18.6 billion each year on “I Love NY” tee shirts, Broadway shows, street-vendor pretzels, and so on.

The study revealed some interesting trends: Istanbul is quickly climbing the ranks, with a 17.5% increase in total visitors from 2013 to 2014. In Latin America, Lima was 2013’s fastest growing city and continues to skyrocket, while Dubai is on track to overtake Paris and Singapore within the next five years as one of the top three most popular destinations on the planet.

In general, the GDCI points out that a burgeoning middle-class in the Middle East and Asia has caused a spike in international travel, as well as a rising need for business and luxury-brand niches. Overall, visitors are spending more on the ground, perhaps as the far-reaching effects of 2008’s global financial crisis slowly subside and growing economies emerge.

Below, find the top 20 most-visited destinations. If you want to see the full report (and a nifty infographic), you can read the full Global Destination Cities Index on the MasterCard site.

Top 20 Top Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitors

  1. London, United Kingdom
  2. Bangkok, Thailand
  3. Paris, France
  4. Singapore
  5. Dubai, UAE
  6. New York, USA
  7. Istanbul, Turkey
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Seoul, South Korea
  11. Barcelona, Spain
  12. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  13. Milan, Italy
  14. Rome, Italy
  15. Taipei
  16. Shanghai, China
  17. Vienna, Austria
  18. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  19. Tokyo, Japan
  20. Lima, Peru
Top 20 Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitor Spending
  1. London, United Kingdom
  2. New York, USA
  3. Paris, France
  4. Singapore
  5. Bangkok, Thailand
  6. Seoul, South Korea
  7. Barcelona, Spain
  8. Dubai, UAE
  9. Taipei
  10. Istanbul, Turkey
  11. Hong Kong
  12. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  13. Los Angeles, USA
  14. Tokyo, Japan
  15. Miami, USA
  16. Madrid, Spain
  17. Sydney, Australia
  18. Rome, Italy
  19. San Francisco, USA
  20. Munich, Germany



You Might Also Like:


Destinations to Watch 2014 Places to Go While They Are Still Cheap
Charming World Heritage Cities Travel Trends Taking Hold in 2014

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From