London is number one again. The city came out on top in Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, which ranks 132 of the most-travelled cities in the world.
The annual index tracks projected international visitors to each city. London is projected to have 18.82 million such visitors in 2015. Runner-up is Bangkok, with a projected 18.24 million international visitors this year.
Both London and Bangkok have topped the index throughout its five-year history. London also was No. 1 in visitor spending, with $20.2 billion—a 2.3 percent increase from 2014.
Paris (16.06 million international visitors), Dubai (14.26 million) and Istanbul (12.56 million) rounded out the top five.
Other agencies have noted London’s increasing popularity over the past few years. The Office of National Statistics International Passenger Survey reported that the city welcomed more than 17.4 million international visits in 2014—more than ever before. The International Congress and Convention Association, which tracks the number of rotating international association conventions held in worldwide cities, ranked London No. 6 in its 2014 report; the spot was one up from the city’s position in 2013.
London, of course, has worked hard to attract visitors by featuring world class exhibitions, blockbuster entertainment and major sporting and cultural events. The inaugural 2014 London Technology Week drew tens of thousands of people to more than 200 events; the European Society of Pathology’s conference saw a 23 percent increase in attendance compared to 2013.
In late August of this year, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual conference is expected to draw 35,000 medical professionals. And in the fall some of the biggest matches in the Rugby World Cup take place in London.
In addition, the city’s historic and cultural assets are big reasons why international visitors flock to the city. This includes popular culture: Opening next month is Shrek’s Adventure! London, a collaboration between Merlin Entertainments and DreamWorks Animation. Coming up later this year is Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. London also hosts the National Football League International Series.
How long London and other Western European cities remain in the top 20 most-visited cities is unclear. Right now, MasterCard’s index shows that roughly the same number of Asian and European cities are in the top 20. But as Skift points out, the index also show that Western European cities lagging behind cities in Asia, Central Europe and Middle East in terms of visitor growth. Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the fastest growing destination with a 21.1 percent growth in overnight arrivals against 132 cities from 2006 to 2015.