Each year Mastercard ranks more than 130 cities on visitor numbers, data on travel spending and airline tickets. It looks back on the year and offers a prediction as to those destinations that will be favoured by tourists in the one ahead
Number of 2017 visitors 20.19 million
From sparkling temple grandeur to preening shopping malls and authentic neigbourhoods undisturbed by time to effortless 21st century luxury, the Thai capital is an alluring place in which to spend a few days. Yes it’s busy and yes it can be oppressively hot (autumn and winter are nice though) but the culture is splendid, the cuisine one of the world’s best-loved, and the nightlife eclectic, whether it’s fine dining and bars to challenge anything offered by London or New York or a simple street-side supper in the company of locals.
Take Off Flights start from around £600 (www.evaair.com; www.thaiairways.com).
Packaged Up www.pettitts.co.uk; www.selectiveasia.com
Number of 2017 visitors 20.01 million
Just pipped to the top spot, London is on a roll, even if it’s one fuelled by a beleaguered pound. It’s the odd one out in this list (assuming it’s your capital city), so how about some unusual things for a day trip or weekend break? Hidden London (www.ltmuseum.co.uk) runs tours taking visitors into parts of the city few rarely get the chance to explore, ranging from an “access all areas” of Charing Cross Station to Down Street – Churchill’s Secret Station – which had a short life and became critical to winning the Second World War. Christopher Winn’s book, I Never Knew That About London (Ebury Press), is well worth checking out and the visitlondon.com website has a whole section on “quirky London”.
Number of 2017 visitors 16.13 million
This is one of the world’s true greats – chic and romantic, cultural and artistic with, of course, superb food, world-class museums and galleries, stylish neighbourhoods and no shortage of cosy bars in which to pull-up a chair, order a coffee or cognac and watch life unfold. Walking tours are one of the best ways to get under the skin of a city and Paris Walks (www.paris-walks.com) offers everything from the “greatest hits” to those themed around food, fashion, chocolate and notable residents such as Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Take Off Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) fares start from £70 return.
Packaged Up It’s easy to DIY it in this city, but if you do want it all organised try www.thomascook.com or www.ba.com
Number of 2017 visitors 16.01 million
Its manufactured glitz might not be to everyone’s taste but for a manageable long-haul break (flying time around six hours) and guaranteed good weather (beware body-sapping summer highs of 45°) it’s pretty hard to question Dubai’s appeal. You’re not headed there for high culture but what you do get is superb, often jaw-droppingly spectacular hotels, great restaurants, bags (literally) of shopping and a range of adventures.
Take Off Flights start from around £450 (www.emirates.com; www.ba.com).
Packaged Up www.emiratesholidays.com; www.virginholidays.com
Number of 2017 visitors 13.45 million
The sleepless energy of high-flying business combined with inspirational architecture, a multitude of cultural influences and unique, world-class attractions make Singapore one of the most dynamic cities in Asia. Although it’s most frequently a stopover destination, Singapore’s seamless efficiency, spotlessly clean image and ethnic and historical legacies make it well worth exploring.
Take Off Flights start from around £600 (www.singaporeair.com; www.ba.com).
Packaged Up www.jasmineholidays.co.uk; www.pettitts.co.uk
Number of 2017 visitors 12.51 million
Tokyo (and Japan generally) has shed something of a reputation for being expensive and challenging. One of the largest cities in the world this is where high-tech is in overdrive and yet traditions remain sacrosanct. Oh, and if you’re jaded by Western life, Japan has a reputation for being one of the safest and most courteous places on the planet.
Take Off Flights start from around £1,000 (www.ana.co.jp; www.jal.co.jp).
Packaged Up www.insidejapantours.com; www.selectiveasia.com
Number of 2017 visitors 12.44 million
For many South Korea is epitomised by high stake border skirmishes with its neighbour, the drama of taekwondo and the viral high jinks of ‘Gangnam style’. Seoul is a sprawling metropolis that has enjoyed rapid post-war expansion. A 24-hour city of glittering skyscrapers, searing neon and K-pop culture, Seoul is also conversely an ancient city of tradition where Buddhist temples, Joseon dynasty palaces and wooden ‘hanok’ houses share the space.
Take Off Flights start from around £700 (www.koreanair.com; www.qatarairways.com).
Packaged Up www.regent-holidays.co.uk; www.selectiveasia.com
8. New York City
Number of 2017 visitors 12.36 million
The city that never sleeps is also one that can max-out the budget of even the most well-heeled traveller. For the best flight deals, book well ahead and avoid the usual high spots on the calendar. Low-cost Norwegian Air (www.norwegian.com) flies from Gatwick, and Trailfinders (www.trailfinders.com) is usually a good bet for combined flight and accommodation deals. Manhattan hotels were notoriously expensive even before the weakened pound so if you’re on a budget Airbnb (www.airbnb.co.uk) is worth checking out.
Take Off Flights start from around £450 (www.ba.com; www.virginatlantic.com).
Packaged Up www.expedia.co.uk has four nights in March with flights and accommodation from £500pp.
9. Kuala Lumpur
Number of 2017 visitors 12.08 million
Mayalsia’s capital since 1896, Kuala Lumpur has grown to become one of the key Asian metropolises. Although the skyline has changed a great deal over time, KL has managed to retain the strong cultural heritage so evident at street level. High-rise structures exist side-by-side with ancient markets and grand colonial architecture. The city offers a wealth of sights, sounds and tastes, representing the crossroads of three cultures co-existing in one of the most electric cities in South-East Asia.
Take Off Flights start from around £500 (www.malaysiaairlines.com; www.emirates.com).
Packaged Up www.pettitts.co.uk; www.audleytravel.com
Number of 2017 visitors 9.24 million
Turkey might have its fair share of political woes but Istanbul managed to squeeze its way onto the list. This vast city of 15 million souls straddles the Bosphorus and is, of course, the place where East meets West. It also boasts magnificent buildings drenched in history, museums and galleries of equal importance, grand hammam (bath houses), leafy neighbourhoods alongside vast public squares, good shopping and excellent food.
Take Off Flights start around £160 from Gatwick (www.turkishairlines.com).
Packaged Up www.mosaicholidays.co.uk; www.steppestravel.com