London tops global visitor destinations ahead of Olympics 2012

London tops global visitor destinations ahead of Olympics 2012

Ahead of the Olympics 2012, London has established itself as the hottest city in the world right now and continues to own centre stage as it ranks as the top visitor destination in the second annual Global Destination Cities Index, according to MasterCard Worldwide.

For the second year running, the British capital is also expected to attract the highest international visitor spend, ahead of New York, Bangkok, Paris and Singapore.

In terms of international visitor numbers, Rio de Janeiro (up by 28.6%), Tokyo (up by 21.5%), Abu Dhabi (up by 17.9%), Tunis (up by 17.7%), Istanbul (up by 14.7%) and Toronto (up by 7.6%) are all projected to see the biggest increases for their respective regions, while Asia-Pacific (up by 9.5%) is set to show the biggest growth in 2012 of all the global regions.

According to the Index, despite a challenging economic climate, overall international visitor numbers are projected to increase by a steady 5.7% and spend by 10.6% respectively for the top 20 ranked cities in the report, compared to 2011 figures.

Attracted by the city’s landmark museums, world-class restaurants and West End shows, as well as the ease of doing business, visitors to London are set to spend higher than average per head than visitors to all other cities cited in the MasterCard report. As the global centre of interconnectivity, London is also well poised to become a ‘cashless capital’ in the not so distant future. MasterCard projects that electronic transactions could overtake cash for consumer payments in the UK by 2025.

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Ann Cairns, President of International Markets, MasterCard Worldwide, comments: ‘‘This Index paints a picture of an ever more interconnected world where electronic transactions play a critical role in enabling global commerce. When we look at the way international travellers are spending, it is clear that cash is not satisfying the growing demand for safe, simple and smart payments.’’

On London’s number one ranking, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “As our fantastic Diamond Jubilee celebrations demonstrated, London knows how to throw a party and, as we prepare to host the greatest Games the world has ever seen, it is no surprise our capital is the top choice for tourists. Alongside a huge array of events, festivals and activities planned for a summer like no other, London boasts the world-class museums, restaurants, theatres and shopping experience that ensure we’re unbeatable.’’

Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor for MasterCard Worldwide and author of the report, concludes: ‘‘In spite of a challenging global economic backdrop, this year’s Index projects that there are hotspots of robust growth around the globe, in terms of both international visitor arrivals and expenditure. With a new generation of international travellers from emerging markets flocking to the world’s top destinations, global cities continue to represent an important engine of growth.”

“This year we’ve also seen a real distinction between financial markets and consumer markets. Modern financial markets are truly interconnected so a crisis in one region quickly impacts the rest of the world. Cities focused on consumers rise and fall based on local conditions, such as employment and income, with conditions varying greatly from one city to the next, irrespective of the global economic environment.”