Most Welcoming Cities

On 31st October, the United Nations celebrates World Cities Day. To mark the occasion, and support this year's theme of 'Innovative Governance, Open Cities', TravelBird has released a study examining the impact of over-tourism on international cities and their residents.

Tourism employs more people than any other industry in the world, playing a pivotal part in almost every city’s economy. However, as highlighted this summer by the media, over-tourism is dampening the spirits of local communities and affecting visitor experiences. As a travel provider, we believe we have a duty to promote thoughtful travel and sustainable tourism. We conducted this study firstly to take notice of those cities that are making impressive efforts to welcome tourists responsibly, and secondly to open the dialogue about over-tourism and its impact on residents and their surrounding communities.

To create the ranking, we first analysed the global top 500 tourist destinations (taken from the UN-WTO) based on factors that can make a visitor feel welcome, such as a welcoming port of entry (airport, train station etc.), citizen’s happiness, openness to host tourists and English language proficiency. In addition, we ran an expert poll asking over 15,000 travel journalists how welcoming they found each city based on their personal experiences. We then weighted all of these factors with a formula that measures over-tourism in each destination to determine the final 100 cities. This research highlights a precise selection of popular cities around the world in order to give an international overview, meaning there are undoubtedly many welcoming cities not included in this study.

If a city is over its tourism carrying capacity, then issues such as overcrowding, lengthy queues and rising living costs occur, which all negatively impact local residents and therefore affect how welcoming they are to tourists. To determine a quantifiable figure for an issue as complex as over-tourism, we specifically looked into the tourism carrying capacity of each city. This was calculated through comparing the following factors: number of residents as compared to the number of tourists during the peak season, and licensed number of hotel beds in addition to the number of peer-to-peer rental beds per sq km. Finally, we conducted a second poll asking local residents how tourism has positively or negatively impacted on their daily lives, and used this data to contribute to the total over-tourism score.

“As a stakeholder in the future of travel, TravelBird has a responsibility to confront the growing problem of over-tourism,” says TravelBird CEO Steven Klooster. “We devised this study as the first step towards a more sustainable future. It’s a call-to-action to ourselves and to fellow tour operators, to residents and local governments in those places that are worst affected by over-tourism, to work together to find solutions to this problem. We believe tourism can have a positive impact on local destinations; with a clear understanding of the issues at hand, innovative thinking and commonsense legislation, we can preserve and protect them for the future.”

Legend

Expert Opinion
Port of Entry
Safety
Happiness
English Proficiency
Openness to Host Tourists at Home
Tourism Carrying Capacity by City and Residents

Please see the methodology in the below data tables for a full explanation of how each of these categories were researched and final scores were calculated. Please note that every city on this list is welcoming to tourists, and that the cities at the lower end of the list should not be interpreted as 'unwelcoming'.

City People Over tourism
# City
Country
Expert Opinion
Port of Entry
Safety
Happiness
English Proficiency
Openness to Host Tourists at Home
Tourism Carrying Capacity by City and Residents
Total
1 Singapore SingaporeSingapore 7.90 10.00 8.95 6.16 7.82 8.60 8.65 8.22
2 Stockholm SwedenSweden 9.10 9.13 7.89 9.04 8.17 5.63 6.59 8.02
3 Helsinki FinlandFinland 8.30 7.72 8.78 9.48 7.90 4.50 7.55 8.01
4 San Francisco USAUSA 8.00 7.38 6.80 8.43 9.30 3.80 8.46 8.00
5 Rotterdam NetherlandsNetherlands 7.50 9.21 6.33 9.39 8.43 4.23 8.90 7.98
6 Lisbon PortugalPortugal 9.20 3.27 8.08 2.14 6.33 3.01 7.81 7.90
7 Tokyo JapanJapan 8.90 9.48 9.65 3.88 3.88 6.07 7.09 7.89
8 Oslo NorwayNorway 9.10 7.90 8.43 10.00 7.99 4.76 6.11 7.88
9 Zurich SwitzerlandSwitzerland 8.00 9.39 9.74 9.74 6.59 5.11 7.13 7.84
10 Orlando USAUSA 8.50 5.11 4.06 8.43 9.30 3.97 7.99 7.81
11 Hamburg GermanyGermany 8.50 8.43 7.99 7.82 7.55 7.90 6.50 7.69
12 Copenhagen DenmarkDenmark 9.50 7.85 9.48 9.91 8.25 6.68 4.52 7.63
13 Dublin IrelandIreland 7.90 8.78 7.38 7.90 10.00 6.16 7.00 7.58
14 Toronto CanadaCanada 8.50 1.70 7.81 9.21 8.69 8.34 6.23 7.52
15 Nice FranceFrance 7.70 7.38 7.90 5.98 5.11 3.27 7.70 7.45
16 Bruges BelgiumBelgium 8.00 1.61 5.02 7.38 7.03 3.70 7.88 7.41
17 Geneva SwitzerlandSwitzerland 8.10 5.89 9.44 9.74 6.59 3.10 6.16 7.39
18 New York USAUSA 7.50 6.50 3.10 8.43 9.30 9.91 7.73 7.38
19 Berlin GermanyGermany 7.40 2.83 6.76 7.82 7.55 9.36 7.58 7.37
20 Phuket ThailandThailand 8.90 1.44 3.82 5.54 2.22 1.09 7.64 7.36
21 Dubai UAEUAE 6.90 2.49 8.49 6.77 2.75 5.89 8.56 7.35
22 Abu Dhabi UAEUAE 6.90 2.49 10.00 6.77 2.75 2.40 8.43 7.34
23 Kathmandu NepalNepal 7.70 1.26 7.03 1.87 1.00 2.92 8.86 7.32
24 Stuttgart GermanyGermany 6.50 8.34 8.21 7.82 7.55 5.28 8.15 7.31
25 Gothenburg SwedenSweden 8.00 8.60 7.47 9.04 8.17 3.45 6.24 7.30
26 Munich GermanyGermany 6.00 8.34 9.83 7.82 7.55 8.25 7.99 7.23
27 Bern SwitzerlandSwitzerland 8.00 9.65 9.91 9.74 6.59 2.49 5.46 7.21
28 Auckland New ZealandNew Zealand 8.00 9.74 8.69 9.13 9.91 4.84 5.17 7.13
29 London United KingdomUnited Kingdom 6.80 8.51 7.32 7.12 9.83 9.74 6.85 7.06
30 Doha QatarQatar 5.70 2.49 9.04 5.11 1.87 1.17 9.74 7.05
31 Glasgow United KingdomUnited Kingdom 8.00 9.65 5.65 7.12 9.83 3.53 5.83 7.00
32 Macau ChinaChina 7.80 5.49 7.12 3.10 3.80 1.61 7.19 6.99
33 Edinburgh United KingdomUnited Kingdom 8.50 6.77 8.60 7.12 9.83 3.62 4.65 6.96
34 Lima PeruPeru 6.90 4.15 2.02 3.62 2.83 6.42 8.95 6.91
35 Brussels BelgiumBelgium 6.90 5.81 4.58 7.38 7.03 7.12 7.38 6.90
36 Manama BahrainBahrain 5.50 4.50 8.25 4.58 1.61 1.35 9.39 6.80
37 Liverpool United KingdomUnited Kingdom 7.30 5.11 6.16 7.12 9.83 2.83 6.42 6.79
38 Beirut LebanonLebanon 7.90 4.50 3.68 2.22 2.05 2.57 7.47 6.78
39 Tel Aviv IsraelIsrael 8.30 8.86 7.72 8.69 8.60 5.81 5.09 6.76
40 Kuwait City KuwaitKuwait 6.50 1.26 6.07 4.67 1.35 1.44 8.60 6.73
41 Vienna AustriaAustria 5.40 8.69 9.30 8.60 7.73 7.99 6.94 6.60
42 Madrid SpainSpain 6.90 6.24 7.82 5.28 5.63 9.30 5.81 6.52
43 Las Vegas USAUSA 8.00 2.49 4.06 8.43 9.30 3.71 5.02 6.47
44 Shanghai ChinaChina 6.00 3.45 4.76 3.10 3.62 5.98 8.25 6.43
45 Miami USAUSA 6.50 1.35 2.58 8.43 9.30 4.67 7.12 6.42
46 Bangkok ThailandThailand 8.50 6.68 3.88 5.54 2.22 6.59 4.67 6.41
47 Marrakech MoroccoMorocco 6.80 6.16 3.53 2.40 2.92 3.88 7.29 6.32
48 Prague Czech RepublicCzech Republic 6.90 7.55 7.20 6.42 6.24 7.29 4.19 6.31
49 Los Angeles USAUSA 6.50 5.98 2.83 8.43 9.30 9.39 6.07 6.30
50 Muscat OmanOman 5.50 4.50 7.64 6.07 1.44 1.96 7.82 6.29
51 Graz AustriaAustria 5.70 8.95 9.56 8.60 7.73 3.36 5.72 6.22
52 Amsterdam NetherlandsNetherlands 8.70 9.39 8.34 9.39 8.43 6.77 2.18 6.12
53 Monaco MonacoMonaco 5.00 3.18 7.20 4.76 5.11 1.00 8.17 6.12
54 Taipei TaiwanTaiwan 6.50 6.42 8.86 5.37 4.15 7.82 5.11 6.11
55 Sydney AustraliaAustralia 7.90 5.63 5.13 9.04 9.48 8.43 5.10 6.07
56 Jakarta IndonesiaIndonesia 4.30 7.55 2.57 2.57 4.32 7.38 7.48 6.06
57 St. Petersburg RussiaRussia 6.00 3.62 4.41 4.06 4.06 9.21 6.77 6.03
58 Amman JordanJordan 7.40 5.28 4.67 3.27 1.70 3.18 5.46 6.01
59 Seoul South KoreaSouth Korea 6.00 9.13 6.68 3.80 5.46 9.13 5.63 5.95
60 Milan ItalyItaly 8.70 3.80 4.01 4.32 5.37 7.55 2.66 5.78
61 Antwerp BelgiumBelgium 6.30 9.91 5.37 7.38 7.03 4.15 4.66 5.77
62 New Delhi IndiaIndia 6.30 7.12 2.14 1.26 5.89 7.20 6.20 5.73
63 Toulouse FranceFrance 6.90 8.08 5.54 5.98 5.11 6.85 3.96 5.71
64 Athens GreeceGreece 8.10 6.94 3.71 2.31 3.71 5.02 3.45 5.64
65 Paris FranceFrance 5.90 3.88 6.50 5.98 5.11 10.00 5.87 5.62
66 Hong Kong ChinaChina 5.90 9.91 6.94 3.45 4.58 8.08 4.84 5.61
67 Frankfurt GermanyGermany 6.70 6.33 5.28 7.82 7.55 5.46 4.76 5.60
68 Melbourne AustraliaAustralia 6.30 3.97 6.24 9.04 9.48 8.69 5.57 5.56
69 Lille FranceFrance 6.70 7.64 4.84 5.98 5.11 5.54 4.00 5.53
70 Chengdu ChinaChina 5.10 6.54 7.99 3.10 2.57 2.05 6.21 5.50
71 Rome ItalyItaly 7.30 1.52 3.02 4.32 5.37 8.17 3.83 5.44
72 Reykjavik IcelandIceland 7.90 2.49 6.85 9.83 8.17 1.79 3.26 5.31
73 Buenos Aires ArgentinaArgentina 6.50 2.92 3.18 6.33 6.07 9.48 4.84 5.29
74 Bogotá ColombiaColombia 7.50 6.59 1.26 5.02 2.49 8.86 4.01 5.22
75 Beijing ChinaChina 6.00 8.17 6.42 3.10 3.62 6.24 3.97 5.18
76 Sofia BulgariaBulgaria 4.50 4.15 3.62 1.61 5.72 4.06 6.94 5.15
77 Venice ItalyItaly 7.40 3.01 3.08 4.32 5.37 2.22 2.19 5.12
78 Barcelona SpainSpain 7.00 4.93 6.77 5.28 5.63 8.95 2.05 5.11
79 Warsaw PolandPoland 5.00 7.90 8.08 4.41 7.12 9.04 4.06 5.10
80 Johannesburg South AfricaSouth Africa 7.60 2.92 1.17 1.79 1.52 2.66 3.70 5.07
81 Manila PhilippinesPhilippines 7.90 3.80 1.09 3.36 6.68 4.58 4.44 5.04
82 Denpasar IndonesiaIndonesia 4.80 2.49 2.57 2.57 4.32 1.26 6.43 4.93
83 Nantes FranceFrance 5.80 1.09 4.93 5.98 5.11 5.37 3.61 4.83
84 Mexico City MexicoMexico 7.10 3.53 1.26 6.24 3.01 7.47 2.41 4.80
85 Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaMalaysia 5.40 7.73 1.79 4.50 6.77 6.33 3.98 4.70
86 Kiev UkraineUkraine 5.80 2.57 4.23 1.00 3.10 8.78 3.62 4.61
87 Mumbai IndiaIndia 7.00 4.93 2.40 1.26 5.89 7.03 2.15 4.53
88 Istanbul TurkeyTurkey 5.00 4.67 1.61 3.53 2.40 9.83 4.33 4.49
89 Rio de Janeiro BrazilBrazil 5.00 3.10 1.26 6.59 3.27 7.73 4.14 4.48
90 Jeddah Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia 4.50 1.00 5.19 4.93 1.26 2.14 4.83 4.46
91 São Paulo BrazilBrazil 5.90 1.79 1.52 6.59 3.27 6.50 2.89 4.40
92 Guangzhou ChinaChina 4.50 5.37 9.04 3.10 3.62 4.41 3.23 4.32
93 Nairobi KenyaKenya 5.30 3.36 2.05 1.44 8.51 2.75 3.80 4.31
94 Cairo EgyptEgypt 3.90 1.87 1.87 1.70 2.31 5.19 5.90 4.28
95 Phnom Penh CambodiaCambodia 6.10 5.72 1.70 1.09 1.09 1.52 3.25 4.27
96 Colombo Sri LankaSri Lanka 4.60 2.92 5.39 1.35 1.96 1.87 4.37 4.24
97 Moscow RussiaRussia 4.50 8.08 2.75 4.06 4.06 9.65 3.27 4.12
98 Hanoi VietnamVietnam 5.50 4.76 2.48 2.05 4.50 5.72 2.40 3.98
99 Bucharest RomaniaRomania 5.00 2.66 6.50 3.71 5.98 4.93 3.22 3.82
100 Budapest HungaryHungary 4.30 4.58 2.31 3.18 6.16 7.64 2.89 3.74

Methodology

The research began by examining thousands of cities based on UN-WTO data, focusing on the top 500 destinations according to tourist arrival numbers, which determined the final list of 100 cities. Firstly, we consulted with travel journalists and then we examined the over-tourism level in each city. We then analysed how welcoming each of these destinations are based on these following factors: expert opinion, port of entry, safety, happiness, English proficiency, and openness to accommodate tourists. Once we had established the raw data, we then created relative rankings for each of these factors. The final ranking was determined by creating a weighted ranking across all categories.

To kick-start the research, we first polled over 15,000 travel journalists from around the world to include human judgement in the study, and find out how welcoming each destinations is according to people who have actually traveled there.

We then calculated over-tourism by analysing the tourism carrying capacity of each city. The following factors were examined: the number of licensed hotel beds in addition to the number of peer to peer available beds (per square kilometer), which indicates if the city has adequate tourist accommodation. Next we looked at the number of tourists during the peak travel season as compared to the number of residents, which indicates levels of overcrowding. Following this, we conducted a representative poll of 1,000 residents in each city asking them to rate how positively or negatively they feel impacted by tourists during the high travel season. Using all of this data, we then calculated a score which rates cities by how well they manage their tourism carrying capacity.

Each city was then analysed for the remaining factors; port of entry, safety, happiness, English proficiency, and openness to accommodate tourists

Below is a detailed explanation of how each factor was researched and determined:

City

  • Expert Opinion: Over 15,000 Journalists and experts completed a poll where they ranked each city in the study (that they have personally visited) on how welcome it is.
  • Port of Entry: This is the first place that a visitor sees when arriving in a city, and therefore the first place that a tourist can feel welcome or not. We looked at both the main airport and main train station. For situations when there was no existing train station, then the ranking is based on a bigger bus station.

Airport: Ranking of customer perception
Source: Tripadvisor and Skytrax Airport Reviews
Train and Bus Station: Ranking based on customer perception
Source: Tripadvisor and Google reviews

  • Safety

Perception of security: How safe people feel
Source: Gallup, OECD, United Nations

People

  • Happiness

Source: UN World Happiness Ranking by country

  • English Proficiency: English is the international language of communication and often the easiest language for communication while abroad. This is included as a valuable insight into a country’s bilingual capabilities, which can contribute towards helping tourists feel welcome. The data for non-English speaking countries was taken from the English proficiency Index, which details how many people can speak English as a second language. For English speaking countries, results were sourced from local census data and detail how many people speak English at home or as a first language. Both of these data sets were then used to create a comparable ranking out of 10.

Source: EF EPI, local online census data

  • Openness to accommodate tourists: Number of hosts in each city on Couchsurfing, which illustrates how willing locals are to welcome tourists into their own homes.

Source: Couchsurfing

Over-Tourism

  • The Responsible Tourism Partnership defines over-tourism as “destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably.” Within this study, we are looking specifically at how over-tourism affects residents’ willingness to accommodate and be welcome to visitors.

Tourism Carrying Capacity by City and Residents

  • The tourism carrying capacity of the cities is a derivative of the number of licensed hotel beds added to the peer to peer beds available (per square kilometer). This was then factored against the number of residents as compared to the total number of visitors during the peak of the high season. These numbers were then weighted against the perception score given by city residents when polled how negatively or positively they felt impacted by tourists.

Accomodation Source: Hotel beds (city official data), P2P beds (Airbnb, Homestay, Windu, Villas.com and 9flats)
Tourist Arrival Source: Local statistic websites, UN WTO, World Economic Forum; Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2017 edition
Population Source: CIA World Factbook, UN Dara, OECD Statistics
Perception from City Residents Source: Representative poll of 103,000 people / 1000 residents per city.

Additional sources

Scoring

We scored each of the above factors to make a comparable quantification of how welcoming each city is, and then made a three-step evaluation of the data. First, we ranked the raw data from highest to lowest value and then we awarded a standard score based on their ranking in the following manner:

A low score indicates less welcoming, with each increasing number indicating a higher level of welcomeness. A score of 1 represents the least amount of welcomeness possible and 10 indicates the most. Secondly, all umbrella categories (City, Over-Tourism and People) were given an overall score based on each sub-category.
Finally, to create a comprehensive ranking, the Final Score is a weighted average of each individual umbrella category, as follows:

Final Scorei = 55% Cityi + 35% Over-Tourismi + 10% Peoplei

The final results highlight the most welcoming cities in relation to all factors included in the study.