Singapore edges out New York for the first time in 3 years as a top destination city

The Big Apple has dropped in its ranks, with Singapore edging out New York as a top world destination city for the first time in three years.

According to the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017, Singapore now holds the No.5 spot as a global destination city, racking in 13.11 million visitors in 2016, while New York falls to sixth place with 12.7 million visitors.

But these aren’t just business travellers.

The vast majority of these visitors travel to Singapore (76.7%) and New York (86.6%) for leisure – a trend that is consistent across the top 20 destination cities.

The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017 ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals, and cross-boarder spending by these same visitors based on 2016 data.

However, there shouldn’t be “any major changes from 2016 to 2017, especially in rankings”, said Dr Eric Schneider, senior vice-president of MasterCard Asia Pacific, during a media briefing yesterday (Sept 26).

The event was held at the MasterCard Singapore office near Rochor Road.

When asked for possible reasons to explain the change in rankings between Singapore and New York, Schneider told Business Insider that it could be due to the appreciation of the US dollar along and the depreciation of the Singapore dollar.

Research economist Mr Desmond Choong, who is the brains behind the study, added: “in 2016, New York was just plugging along but there was a sudden jump in Chinese tourists in Singapore, which could be another reason.”

China has been ranked as the largest origin market for the top five destination cities in the Asia Pacific- including Bangkok, which retained its lead as the top destination city worldwide.

Bangkok boasted 19.41 million visitors in 2016, with Chinese tourists making up 34.3% of the total.

Certainly impressive numbers.

When looking at commonalities amongst the top ranking cities, the study found three key traits consistent amongst these destinations: strong flight connectivity and investments into the travel and tourism sector, relaxed visa restrictions, and a large number of Chinese outbound travellers.

While some may be talking about “China slowing down”, Schneider remains optimistic that the large proportion of Chinese travellers “is not a trend that we are going to see diminishing anytime soon.”

There was also a strong correlation between the weakening of a domestic currency, and the number of visitors to that city.

Looking at Asia Pacific as a whole, the region has outpaced both Europe and North America in terms of growth, and nine out of 10 of the fastest growing cities by Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2009 and 2016 fall on the Asian continent.

To keep up with the rapidly growing region, Schneider says that Singapore can continue to focus on its investments into the travel sector, open new flight routes, and work on making the visa application process even easier.

“But Singapore is already ranked number five, and has just surpassed New York as a travel destination, so let’s just take five minutes to celebrate that first”, he said.