World’s ‘most powerful’ tourism city revealed

Paris, France: Europe’s huge summer 2022 holiday travel season helped the French capital to land at the top of the WTTC power list. Laura Passavanti/Adobe Stock

By Lilit Marcus, Jan. 19: Paris is a city beloved for fine food, fine art and fine fashion.

But a new index from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) also says that Paris is the world’s most powerful city for tourism.

The WTTC, a nonprofit travel industry body based in the UK, analyzed tourism data from the year 2022 to see where travellers were spending the most money.

The overall list of most powerful tourism cities didn’t only take museum tickets and hotel rooms into account, though. The other factor was how much local and national governments and businesses are investing in these cities as tourist destinations.

Take list-topper Paris for example the city is preparing to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Although fewer than 5% of the facilities will be newly built for the Games, the city is pouring resources into infrastructure, security and other measures that will help them get ready to host the world.

By that accounting, the French capital’s overall tourism total came to $35.6 billion.

So, who else made the list?

The United States of tourism

Two countries each had three cities on the WTTC list. One was the United States, with Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas representing the nation.

While each city makes a significant chunk of cash from tourism, they cater to different kinds of travellers — Orlando is popular with families visiting the city’s theme parks, Las Vegas is an internationally known gambling and nightlife hub and New York attracts foodies and art lovers, among others.

Of this group, Orlando was the highest earner, raking in $31 billion for 2022. That’s a whole lot of Mickey Mouse ears.

China on the rise

Three Chinese cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — landed in the top 10 for 2022.

Other Chinese destinations are working their way up the index. In particular, the beach getaway of Sanya — on sunny Hainan Island in southern China — and Macao were cited as places to keep an eye on in the future.

China has invested heavily in tourism and is advertising to international travellers now that its border has reopened. Macao is the only city in China with legal gambling, and it’s easier for most tourists to go there without a visa — unlike the mainland.

The WTTC predicts that by 2032 China will dominate its rankings.

“Major cities such as London, Paris and New York will remain global powerhouses but over the next few years, Beijing, Shanghai, and Macao will be moving up the list of top city destinations,” Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said in a statement.

Other standouts

Of course, there are more than two countries represented in the WTTC list. Tokyo, Mexico City and London placed in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively to round out the rankings.

In some ways, it was just as interesting to see who didn’t make it on the list.

Two surprising omissions were in the Middle East, which has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade.

Although luxury-packed Dubai and soccer World Cup host Doha topped the list of the most amount of tourism revenue, they didn’t score as highly in the other categories and wound up outside the top 10.

Amsterdam, Barcelona and Singapore also fell victim to the same phenomenon, scoring highly for the amount of money spent by visitors but not landing on the overall “most powerful” list.

The world’s most powerful cities for tourism 2022

1. Paris, France

2. Beijing, China

3. Orlando, Florida

4. Shanghai, China

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

6. New York, New York

7. Tokyo, Japan

8. Mexico City, Mexico

9. London, UK

10. Guangzhou, China

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