Cities Are Turning into the Biggest Tourism Segment in the World

tourism, world, city breaks, data, market trends


According to a study released by ITB Berlin and IPK International, tourism to cities is the fastest growing segment in the world, including Asia. 

International city breaks have grown four times faster than the global holiday travel market over the past decade  with breaks generating more tourists than the traditional “sun & beach” segment. The global demand is likely to continue unabated. 

In the past ten years, no other type of vacation travel has grown as fast as city breaks around the world according to the world’s largest travel show ITB Berlin in cooperation with IPK International, a tourism consulting company which produces the World Travel Monitor®. Both Europeans and Asians as well as North and South Americans are increasingly travelling to attractive metropolises, whether in neighbouring countries or overseas. 

Figures speak for themselves: since 2007, international city trips have tripled their volume to 190 million. With this result, they are for the first time in the world at the top and overtake sun & beach holidays. The latter has been for decades the favourite type of holidays around the world for years.

The strong increase in city trips was supported by cheap flights and new types of accommodation triggered also by the development of the sharing economy segment in accommodation (such as Airbnb).

Travellers from Asia / Pacific and South America account for the largest share of global growth. In these countries, the number of international city trips has increased four to five times in the past ten years. In the Asia-Pacific region, city breaks have replaced tours as the most popular type of vacation. The strong growth of international city breaks from Asia / Pacific has been particularly fueled by Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, who mainly visit cities within their region. No surprise that Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore are now among the most visited cities in the world.

While in North America the segment has more than tripled in the last ten years, since 2007 Europeans have “only” doubled their foreign city journeys, according to the World Travel Monitor®. This lower growth rate compared to other source regions is due to the already high volume of international city breaks of the Europeans.

The world’s most popular country destinations for international city breaks in 2017 were the US, followed by Germany, France, the UK and Spain. Together, these five destinations received around 35 percent of all international city breaks in 2017. Looking at the different continents shows a different picture, with nearly 60 percent of all foreign city travelers in 2017 targeting Europe. About a quarter travelled to Asia / Pacific, followed by North and South America. Africa remains in fifth place.