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London set to be world’s most popular destination in 2011

London set to be world’s most popular destination in 2011

London, voted “World’s Leading Destination” by World Travel Awards, is expected to notch up the highest number of international tourists this year, according to new research by MasterCard. Other leading lights include Bangkok, Istanbul and Dubai, which all experienced soaring arrivals.

The global payment giant’s new index of Global Destination Cities predicts the host of the 2012 Olympics will receive 20.1 million inbound passengers in 2011. The runner up was Paris with 18.1 million.

Bangkok is expected to welcome the third-highest number of visitors. The Thai capital is also gearing up to host the World Travel Awards 2011 Asia & Australasia Ceremony in September. The city’s reputation as Asia’s sport tourism gateway is also being reflected by it playing host to the annual WSDE Sport Tourism Expo. Find out about Bangkok at

(Bangkok is Asia’s sport tourism gateway and will play host to WSDE Sport Tourism Expo in September)

Bangkok was followed by Singapore and Hong Kong, with cities in Asia-Pacific account for eight of the top 20 global destinations.

However New York was the only US City that the MasterCard survey predicts will be among the world’s most visited this year. The Big Apple ranked 12th place and predicted to receive 7.6 million inbound passengers.

The study also looked at visitor growth, forecasting that the Barcelona will see the biggest rise in arrivals – up 24.3 percent this year, followed by Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur at 21.8 percent and closely followed Istanbul at 20.4 percent. Istanbul was voted “Europe’s Leading Destination” by World Travel Awards.

(Istanbul’s Maiden Tower)

For the lowdown on what’s hot, City.Mobi offers the best mobile guide to the capital. Istanbul.Mobi is the latest in this illustrious line up of city guides, with over 800 cities in 200 countries listed. Each is developed by the City.Mobi team to combine into a single global travel directory.

Istanbul, which was also voted “Middle East’s Leading Destination” at last month’s World Travel Awards, was also the city experiencing the fastest growth in the amount spent (expenditure up by 30.1 percent in 2011), Barcelona (up 28.2 percent) and Dubai (up 24 percent).

(Jumeirah’s Burj al Arab has been voted “World’s Leading Hotel” by World Travel Awards for the past six years running)

Dubai topped the list of most popular destinations in the Middle East and Africa, even outstripping favourites such as New York, Amsterdam, Kuala Lampur and Shanghai. This follows last month’s victory at World Travel Awards where it was voted “Middle East’s Leading Destination”. Its sights include the seven-star Burj al Arab, which was named “World’s Leading Hotel” at the World Travel Awards. For an exclusive glimpse inside this iconic property visit

Abu Dhabi also performed strongly, with the expectation for robust growth of 15.5 percent. The UAE capital is also expected to draw in an international visitor spend of $2 billion in 2011, representing an increase of 21.8 percent compared to 2010.

(Ferrari World is one of Abu Dhabi’s glittering array of new attractions)

MasterCard compiled its predictions of international arrivals by analyzing airline schedules and UN expenditure figures.

The company says that many emerging markets were showing growth rates of over 20 percent, adding that cities in Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Africa “will correspondingly play ever bigger roles in knitting the world together.”

2011’s most popular cities (international arrivals)
1 London (20.1m)
2 Paris (18.1m)
3 Bangkok (11.5m)
4 Singapore (11.4m)
5 Hong Kong (10.9m)
6 Madrid (10.1m)
7 Istanbul (9.4m)
8 Frankfurt (8.4m)
9 Dubai (7.9m)
10 Rome (7.9m)
11 Seoul (7.9m)
12 New York (7.6m)
13 Amsterdam (7.4m)
14 Kuala Lumpur (6.9m)
15 Milan (6.7m)
16 Barcelona (6.7m)
17 Vienna (6.2m)
18 Shanghai (5.5m)
19 Taipei (5.4m)
20 Tokyo (5.0m)