World’s Most Visited Cities

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  • No. 1 Hong Kong
    2011 International Arrivals: 21.8 million Growth: 8.8 percent
  • 6. Singapore
    Lights of the skyline of the central business district and Marina Bay are reflected on the waters of Marina Barrage in Singapore at dusk, Dec. 1, 2011. Singapore’s presence in the top 10 highlights a shift away from Western Europe toward Asian hubs, EIU noted.
  • No. 5 The Tower of London
    The Tower of London is worth €70.552 billion ($88.585 billion).
  • No. 5 Macau
    2011 International Arrivals: 12.9 million Growth: 8.4 percent
  • 7. Bangkok
    Saphan Bhumibol at Dusk - Bangkok
  • No. 7 Antalya, Turkey
    2011 International Arrivals: 12.1 million Growth: 13.3 percent
  • No. 8 Shenzhen, China
    2011 International Arrivals: 10.9 million Growth: 6.8 percent
  • 9. Istanbul
    The Bosphorus Bridge is illuminated in Istanbul Oct. 21, 2011. Istanbul is a classed as a megacity, those with a population of over 10 million people. Istanbul is rapidly becoming a major global policy nexus.
  • No. 11 Guangzhou, China
    2011 International Arrivals: 8.9 million Growth: 8.9 percent
  • 3. Paris, France
    The Eiffel tower, la Defence business district (background) and the Montparnasse tower (R) are seen in an aerial view in Paris July 14, 2011.
  • 10. Shanghai, China
    A view of the city skyline from the Shanghai Financial Center building.
  • The holy city of Mecca
    Pilgrims pray in the Grand Mosque during the Muslim month of Ramadan in the holy city of Mecca August 20, 2011.
  • No. 17 Pattaya, Thailand
    2011 International Arrivals: 6 million Growth: 10.5 percent
  • Barcelona, Spain
    No. 8 Barcelona, Spain
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New York City and Paris often vie for the title of the most visited city in the world, but a new study out from Euromonitor International, which looks exclusively at international visitors, offers a list that's different from most other "most visited city" lists.

Indeed, because a large portion of their visitors are domestic, New York City and Paris don’t even make the top eight. Meanwhile, China’s two special administrative regions, Macau and Hong Kong, score disproportionately high on the list because Euromonitor researchers consider Chinese as international visitors. Singapore, too, creeps into the list's upper portion since it’s a small city-state in a booming region.

The international market research organization compiles its annual list by looking at arrival data sourced directly from national statistics offices, airports and hotels in 57 core countries and 153 markets.

Other surprises on its latest survey include Antalya, which surpassed Istanbul as Turkey’s most visited city. Perhaps due to their proximity to Hong Kong and Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou welcome more international tourists than Shanghai or Beijing. And in the U.S., Miami and Las Vegas see more international arrivals than the nation’s second-largest city, Los Angeles.

Caroline Bremner, head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor International, said Vietnam was one of the year’s biggest surprises, even though none of its cities cracked the top 30.

“While many cities maintained their previous rankings, Vietnam showed a particularly strong performance with Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi experiencing over 40 percent growth for the second consecutive year,” Bremner explained. “Although Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will continue to be top tourist attractions in Vietnam, future demand is likely to be driven by other Vietnamese cities, including Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc emerging as international tourists look to discover more new places.”

The rebound in global economic growth in 2011 contributed to stronger tourism demand, Bremner added, positively impacting the results for the top 100 cities, with arrivals up by 7 percent. Fewer visa restrictions and future growth driven by the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America regions should make the 2012 numbers even higher when Euromonitor releases its 2012 study next year.

For a complete look at the world’s 20 most-visited cities, scroll through the slideshow above.

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