Why These 9 Cities Attract the Most International Travelers

Why these 9 cities attract the most international travelers

Tourism officials expect more than 15 million people will visit Paris, France, during the 2024 Olympics this summer. While the Olympics creates a massive bump in tourism for every host city, Paris has been ready for tourists longer than any other destination.

France was one of the first countries to develop its tourism industry in the 19th century when British citizens began visiting the French Riviera. Tourism offerings further developed after World War II, when France (alongside Italy and Spain) benefitted from American economic assistance for reconstruction, putting their efforts largely in Paris and the Riviera. That head start allowed Paris to stay top of mind with international tourists, whether or not it's hosting the Olympics. But new cities around the world are developing their own offerings for travelers, with an eye on passing by the historical frontrunner.

Regional advantages make it easier for some countries to attract international visitors — countries near the United States can advertise they're a short flight away from the over 80 million people traveled from the U.S. to an international destination in 2022, per International Trade Administration's National Travel and Tourism Office data. Airlines with hubs near large cities also make it easier for the destination to draw international tourists.

To find out which 9 cities had the most visitors from other countries based on international arrivals, Airalo dove into the Euromonitor International Top 100 City Destinations Index for 2023.

Aerial panoramic view of Cancun beach and city hotel zone in Mexico.
mariakray // Shutterstock

#9. Cancun, Mexico

International trips: 10.8 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 13%

U.S. tourists love visiting Mexico. More than 12 million Americans flew to the country's southern neighbor in 2023, over six times the number of tourists from any other country.

Looking at all international tourists, most flew into Mexico via Cancun's airport, setting up millions of visitors to enjoy the white sand beaches of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, a huge draw for tourism. The area is also known for its cenotes, beautiful underground lakes and rivers, many of which are open for swimming. Chichen Itza, a new world wonder and UNESCO World Heritage site, is about a three-hour drive from Cancun, with many visitors opting to see the Mayan pyramids and ruins on a day trip.

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Times Square and traffic in New York City.
Luciano Mortula - LGM // Shutterstock

#8. New York City

International trips: 11.7 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 24%

New York City may be the only U.S. city to make the list, but it remains a tourist favorite — perhaps because there's something for everyone. This cultural capital is world-renowned for its culinary scene, live entertainment, and urban parks.

New York is the highest-placed American city in Euromonitor's index despite the crackdown on Airbnbs. Last fall, the city implemented a local law prohibiting residents from renting their properties for less than 30 consecutive day stays.

The Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew temple at sunset.
Travel mania // Shutterstock

#7. Bangkok, Thailand

International trips: 12.2 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 142%

This Southeast Asian city is perennially popular with backpackers, but its appeal goes far beyond that. Visitors love checking out the Grand Palace in Thailand's capital city. Temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho are also major highlights. But the City of Angels also delights people with its plentiful street food and rooftop bars.

Bangkok saw higher international visitor growth from 2022 to 2023 as it fully opened to tourists in July 2022, months later than many other countries.

An aerial view of Hong Kong with with a blue and pink sunset sky.
zhu difeng // Shutterstock

#6. Hong Kong

International trips: 14.7 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 2495%

Hong Kong has always been popular among travelers. Its astronomical growth year over year with international visitors is tied to the fact it was one of the last places to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travelers are returning, enjoying the city's theme parks, nightlife, and evening harbor cruises. Visitors also love to get a classic taste of local culture by eating at open-air restaurants called dai pai dong.

A view of the Eiffel tower in Paris framed by tree branches.
beboy // Shutterstock

#5. Paris, France

International trips: 15.5 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 4%

Paris may not have the most international visitors on the list, but Euromonitor International crowned it the best destination to visit in the world. The organization reviews indices such as tourism infrastructure, health and safety, and sustainability to make its choice.

Tourists relish Paris for its cuisine, luxury shopping, and cultural landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. After visitors make it to Paris, the country's acclaimed wine regions are just a few hours away.

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A high-up view of the old town Kaleici in Antalya, with boats docked in the harbor.
muratart // Shutterstock

#4. Antalya, Turkey

International trips: 16.5 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 29%

Turkey is the only country to have two cities on the top 9 list, the first one being Antalya, located off the Turkish Riviera. According to the BBC, Antalya has long been a popular tourist destination for Brits, Russians, and Germans.

The large city on the Mediterranean coast makes for a wonderful beach vacation, thanks to the turquoise water. Antalya also averages 300 days of sunshine per year. On top of that, it's a fantastic place to see historical ruins, including an ancient Roman theater and a trading port used by Alexander the Great.

The Dubai skyline and its busiest highway.
shutterlk // Shutterstock

#3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

International trips: 16.8 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 18%

Dubai is a city that strives for top-charting accolades. Its architecture makes this evident; the city holds the world records for tallest building, largest shopping mall, and deepest dive pool.

Tourists can experience Dubai as a city with an eye on the future. Visitors must look a little closer to see glimpses of the city's history and heritage amid all the growth. This modern city has big plans to continue its tourism growth. Dubai's master plan intends to increase the length of public beaches by 400% by 2040. It also has goals to increase leisure areas and preserve cultural heritage sites.

Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, and a red double decker bus on a sunny day.
Sergii Figurnyi // Shutterstock

#2. London, England

International trips: 18.8 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 17%

The capital city of the U.K. and England stays top of mind for travelers. According to a report by travel platform eDreams ODIGEO, London was the most searched-for city.

The Euromonitor report concluded that London has the best tourism infrastructure in the world, accounting for the number of hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses that keep the industry moving. London has used all that groundwork to support the millions of people who visit the area's many attractions, including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge.

The Taksim-Tunel Nostalgia Tram moves along the streets of Taksim.
Joshua Davenport // Shutterstock

#1. Istanbul, Turkey

International trips: 20.2 million
Growth from 2022-2023: 26%

Istanbul, Turkey, the second Turkish city to make the list and the top destination for international visitors overall, is a city of dualities. Not only is it spread across two continents (Europe and Asia), but it's also a conglomerate of modern and ancient. The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul's oldest neighborhood are two of the most well-known houses of worship that double as popular tourist stops.

Millions more tourists come for the plentiful medical tourism offerings, whether it's dental work, plastic surgery, or hair implantations. Istanbul's airport is the home base for Turkish Airlines, which flies to more countries than any other airline worldwide. Many of those travelers use the airline's stopover program to squeeze in a quick visit to Turkey's capital city before heading to their final destination.

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Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

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