By PAN PYLAS
LONDON (AP) — Hong Kong remains the world’s most visited city by international travelers in spite of strained relations with neighboring China, industry experts said Tuesday.
In a report on the top 100 city destinations that highlights the growth in Asian tourism, market research firm Euromonitor International said 25.7 million arrivals are expected in Hong Kong this year.
The figure is down 3.2 percent compared with 2016, largely because tensions with China have grown this year as Beijing has sought to exercise more control on the territory.
Euromonitor expects the downturn to be short-lived and that growth will pick up again from next year and that arrivals to Hong Kong will reach a massive 45 million by 2025.
Unlike Hong Kong, the Thai capital of Bangkok posted further increases in arrivals this year largely linked to tour packages targeted at first-time travelers from China. Its arrivals in 2017 are expected to be 9.5 percent higher at 21.3 million, a rise that’s pushed it further ahead of London, which remains in third spot with 19.8 million arrivals.
Visits to London rose 3.4 percent in 2017, largely due to the 15 percent fall in the value of the pound since the country’s vote last year to leave the European Union. That has helped shift perceptions about Britain being an expensive place to visit.
“The currency depreciation has been a boon for inbound tourism into Britain,” said Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor’s head of travel. “It’s now deemed value for money.”
However, Euromonitor warned that the “Brexit bounce” may soon end if the country’s departure from the EU in March 2019 undermines London’s dominant position in the financial industry and its status as a hub for start-up businesses.
The research firm said London is set to set to slip down to sixth in the rankings in the coming seven year as a result of a rise in travel to Asian cities. Euromonitor expects 47 Asian cities to be in the top 100 by 2025, against 41 now and just 34 in 2010.
“The impact of inter-Asian travel, predominantly from China in particular, cannot be underestimated,” said Wouter Geerts, Euromonitor’s senior travel analyst and author of the report, which was prepared for the World Travel Market, the industry’s top event. “Asia Pacific is the standout region that has driven change in the travel landscape over the past decade and is expected to continue doing so in the coming decade.”
Elsewhere, the survey found that extremist attacks have had diverging effects in cities. While Istanbul has seen a 5.8 percent decline in arrivals this year to 9.2 million, cities like London, Paris and Barcelona have seen little long-lasting impact.
The report shows that much of the tourism that went to Istanbul and other Mediterranean destinations affected by attacks, like Tunisia and Egypt, have gone to Greece and Italy, which are considered “relatively quiet and stable.”
Greece is set for a record-breaking year, with the Cretan city of Heraklion the fastest-growing in Europe in the top 100, with arrivals up 11.2 percent this year to more than 3 million. Athens, the Greek capital, is also enjoying a boom, with numbers up 10 percent, lifting its position by one to 47th.
For Greece, the surge in visits is particularly important as tourism accounts for a fifth of the economy, which has shrunk by a quarter during its debt crisis of recent years. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that tourism in 2017 will help boost the Greek economy by 6.9 percent, supporting nearly a million jobs.
The top U.S. city on the list is New York, which retains eighth spot after a 3.6 percent increase in arrivals in 2017 to 13.1 million. Miami was the second most-visited U.S. city with 8.1 million arrivals, up 3.1 percent.