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Big Cities, Big Business: Lagos Leads Sub-Saharan Africa In Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index

  • Bangkok and London lead globally

  • Mastercard brings together tourism and city partners to improve experiences for visitors

In a world of rising nationalism, international travel takes on greater importance—breaking down barriers, broadening our horizons and driving economic impact felt throughout the world’s cities. For the past decade, Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index has offered important analysis of travel to and within cities. This year’s global top cities Bangkok, London and Paris, leading the pack, once again underscore the importance of robust infrastructure and both business and leisure attractions. While this year’s top Sub Saharan cities Lagos, Dakar, Kampala, Nairobi and Accra underscore the importance of a strong local culture.

The Mastercard Index, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and—for the first time—a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.

With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities was up across the broad in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors. In Sub Saharan Africa, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to Dakar, Nairobi and Accra remained static at 0.8 million in Dakar and 0.4 million in both Nairobi and Accra.

With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year and is unlikely to be bested due to a strong projected growth of 9.6 percent for 2018. Paired with both the affordability and visitor’s willingness to spend, Bangkok is seen as more affordable than Paris or Singapore but pricier than London, which holds the number two spot. Lagos is the top spot in Sub-Saharan Africa this year, with roughly 1.5 million international overnight visitors. Interestingly, visitors tend to stay in Lagos for seven nights and spend only $57 per day, on average, considerably less than its Sub Saharan Africa counterparts. Visitors to Lagos, are most often from the USA, United Kingdom and China.

The Global Top 5 Destination Cities
  2017 International Overnight Visitors Average Length of Stay Average Spend Per Day
Bangkok 20.05 million 4.7 nights $173
London 19.83 million 5.8 nights $153
Paris 17.44 million 2.5 nights $301
Dubai 15.79 million 3.5 nights $537
Singapore 13.91 million 4.3 nights $286


The Sub Saharan Africa Top 5 Destination Cities
  2017 International Overnight Visitors Average Length of Stay Average Spend Per Day
Lagos 1.5 million 7 nights $57
Dakar 0.8 million 2.3 nights $165
Kampala 0.5 million 7 nights $168
Nairobi 0.4 million 13 nights $50
Accra 0.4 million 10.5 nights $132

However, not all cities are created equal when it comes to the amount visitors spend in the local economy. Dubai continues to be the top ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending a whopping $537 per day on average. It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia; Palma de Mallorca, Spain and Phuket, Thailand. Interestingly, Nairobi, thought of as a tourist hotspot of Africa, comes in with the lowest spend per day in the region at only $50 on average.

Top Cities by Dollars Spent
  2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD) Average Spend by Day
Dubai $29.70 billion $537
Makkah $18.45 billion $135
London $17.45 billion $153
Singapore $17.02 billion $286
Bangkok $16.36 billion $173


Top Sub Saharan African Cities by Dollars Spent
  2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD) Average Spend by Day
Lagos $589 million $57
Kampala $561 million $168
Accra $507 million $132
Dakar $303 million $165
Nairobi $283 million $50

International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists. The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience,” said Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president, global cities for Mastercard. “We’re partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place.”

Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:

  • Identify and address urban challengesthrough scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration
  • Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation. In over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses
  • Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind: Seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe
  • Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index

About the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities in 2017, and gives international overnight visitor growth forecasts for 2018.

Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 162 destination cities.

Forecasts are based upon the weighted average of the national level tourism forecasts and the actual 2018 monthly data at the destination level, which is available to the latest month before release.

This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on Mastercard volumes or transactional data.

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