Cities of the World Where Tourists Spend the Most

Dubai generated the world's highest amount of international tourist spending in 2016.
Dubai generated the world's highest amount of international tourist spending in 2016.

Major cities around the world recognize the significance that foreign tourists have on their respective economies, and therefore invest heavily on promoting and marketing themselves to foreign tourists. A recent study conducted by MasterCard calculated the amount of money spent by international tourists in major cities around the world in the form of overnight spending. According to the report, Dubai ranked as the number one city in terms of tourist spending, with international tourists spending $28.50 billion.

According to the study, when visiting a country, tourists spent the highest amount of money on accommodation, shopping, and entertainment. Therefore, many of the leading tourist destinations around the world have prioritized the establishment of these facilities, which include world-class hotels and restaurants.


Tourists spend more when visiting Dubai than in any other city in the world. This revelation comes as a surprise, considering Dubai ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number of tourist arrivals. Statistics reveal that tourists who visited the United Arab Emirate’s largest city in 2016 had a total overnight expenditure of approximately $28.50 billion. Tourists in Dubai spent almost double the average amount of tourist spending in many major global cities, including London and Paris. Dubai also has the highest nightly accommodation costs of any city in the world, estimated to be $553 per person.

New York

In 2016, New York recorded its highest number of tourists, with a total of 60 million visitors. Of this total, 12 million were identified as international tourists. However, despite accounting for only 20% of the total tourist numbers, international tourists had the largest economic impact, accounting for more than 50% of total direct and hotel spending. These international tourists spent as much as four times as much as domestic tourists. International tourist spending in New York in 2016 was the second-largest in the world, estimated to be $17.02 billion.


Foreign tourist numbers in London reached record levels in 2016. Records from “Visit Britain” show that more than 17 million international tourists visited London in 2016, the highest number of foreign tourists in any city. Tourists from France made up the largest segment of foreign tourists, with 2 million international tourists. Tourists were attracted to London’s many tourist spots, including Big Ben, London Bridge, and Premier League football, among others. Foreign tourists spent approximately $16.09 billion in overnight expenditures at London’s hotels, malls, and restaurants.


Singapore ranked fourth in overnight expenditure by international tourists, with foreign tourists spending about $15.69 billion in 2016. This total was the largest amount spent by foreign tourists in any city in the Asia-Pacific region. Approximately 16.4 international tourists visited Singapore in 2016, which is three times more than the city's population. Most international tourists visiting Singapore came from Indonesia, China, and Malaysia. Singapore’s popularity to international visitors is attributed to several factors including its security, given that the city has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, as well the ease of communication, since English is one of Singapore's official languages.


Another Asian city with high international tourist overnight spending is Bangkok. In 2016, international tourists spent about $14.08 billion in overnight spending, the fifth largest amount of any city in the world. Thailand’s capital city is renowned for its tourist appeal and has been repeatedly named as the most popular tourist city in the world, with 3.13 million international tourists visiting Bangkok in August 2017. Records from Thailand’s Department of Tourism show that on average, a tourist spends nine and half days in the country. While the city’s reputation for sex tourism is well known, there are also many other tourist attractions in the city, including the centuries-old Grand Palace, Suan Pakkad Palace, Museum of Siam, and the Jim Thompson Museum.


The traditional tourist capital of the world, Paris is renowned for its cultural attractions including Notre Dame de Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Foreign tourists in Paris spent about $12.03 billion in overnight expenditures, the second largest amount in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. However, tourism in Paris has been greatly affected by recent terrorist attacks in the city. Tourist numbers in Paris have experienced a steady decline in recent years, with the city losing as many as 1.5 million foreign tourists, which is causing concern in the city’s hospitality sector.


Overnight spending from foreign tourists visiting Tokyo reached record levels in 2016, as international tourists spent as much as $11.28 billion, the seventh-largest of any city in the world. Increased tourist spending was as a result of more international visitors in Tokyo recorded in 2016. As capital of Japan, Tokyo is home to numerous tourist attractions which draw millions of tourists. Key attractions include the Tokyo National Museum, the Imperial Palace, and the Meiji Shrine. Japanese pop culture is another key attraction.


Taipei is the largest tourist destination in Taiwan, as well as Greater China. In 2016, overnight tourist spending in Taipei was the largest in Greater China, totalling $9.91 billion. International visitors to the city in 2016 were primarily from Asian countries. Chinese tourists made up about 37.64% of total international tourists, while Japanese tourists accounted for 18.24%. Key tourist attractions in Taiwan’s largest city include the National Palace Museum, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and Taipei 101.


In 2016, an estimated 13.5 million international tourists visited Seoul, which was the highest number ever to visit the capital of South Korea. Visitors from Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made up the majority of these international tourists. Overnight spending by these international tourists in 2016 amounted to $9.38 billion, the ninth-largest amount of any city in the world. The huge amount of tourist spending in Seoul is almost equal to the city’s annual budget. Some key tourist attractions in the city include Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace.


Barcelona had the third-largest overnight spending from international tourists of all cities in Europe and the tenth-largest in the world, which amounted to $8.90 billion. While recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona have affected international tourist arrivals, the city’s administration expects the situation to improve as investments are made to market Barcelona to key international tourist markets.

Cities of the World Where Tourists Spend the Most

RankCityInternational Overnight Visitor Spending, 2016 (Billion US dollars)
2New York17.02

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