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The World’s Best City Destinations in the Age of Covid

(CNN) — There are many ways to gauge a city’s success as a tourist destination beyond the number of visitors it receives.

There is infrastructure, sustainability and economy; how it faces the challenges of attracting and welcoming travelers while maintaining residents’ quality of life; and then there is the effectiveness of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK-based market research firm Euromonitor was once known for its annual list of the top 100 city destinations, which – until Covid turned everything upside down in 2020 – ranked the top destinations by number of arrivals international.

This has been replaced by its new Top 100 City Destination Index, which compares the attractiveness of 100 cities around the world using six performance pillars, with the latest report based on data collected in 2021.
In 2019, the top of the list was dominated by Asian destinations – with Hong Kong and Bangkok leading the way – but in 2021 Europe is now represented by eight cities in the top 10.

Like the pre-pandemic list, the 2021 index is a snapshot in time. Last year, cities found their feet in the wake of the global crisis, with some opening up to the world faster than others. Next year’s roster will no doubt be different again, in the rapidly changing landscape of the Covid recovery.

So here are the first tourism heroes of the pandemic era.

Paris dominates the world

Paris has been named the world’s most attractive urban destination for 2021. Globally, it ranked first in the “tourism performance” pillar and second for “tourism policy and infrastructure”.

It has benefited from the return of American and Asian tourists, according to Euromonitor, although it has yet to receive a boost from British visitors – once a big market. That has changed now, with the UK being added to France’s “green list” on March 31, 2022.

However, it ranked low for health and safety, which the report said was “despite increased efforts to increase vaccination rates in a vaccine-hesitant population.”

France has been one of the hardest hit European countries in terms of Covid and at the start of this month it had almost 27 million total cases.

Dubai at the top

Dubai – which ranked No. 1 on the 2020 index – ranks second on Euromonitor’s 2021 list and is the only city from an emerging market to make the top 10.

The UAE favorite got a head start by reopening to international tourists in July 2020 and last year got a boost from the delayed Expo2020, which kicked off in October 2021.

Dubai ranks fourth in the world in the “health and safety” performance pillar, thanks to the strict Covid protocol introduced by the Government of Dubai.

Since April 2022, more than 98% of the population of Dubai has been vaccinated and the wearing of masks remains compulsory in indoor public spaces.

“Livable and inclusive”

EU residents are now allowed to enter Amsterdam freely, but restrictions apply for countries outside the zone.

Figurniy Sergey/Adobe Stock

Amsterdam, a small city with a historically large tourist population – so much so that it has become the poster child for overtourism – ranks third for 2021.

Dutch capital now tackling overtourism with technology: Euromonitor praises its Public Eye crowd monitoring project, which uses AI technology to help navigate large flows of people and reduce traffic traffic jams.

The report also notes that Amsterdam, alongside Barcelona and Oslo, has “taken steps to reduce parking spaces”, as well as introducing “extensive cycling infrastructure to revolutionize their transport networks and create more livable and inclusive”.

Population growth, improving unemployment rates and rising disposable income mean it has performed well in terms of economic and business performance, according to Euromonitor, which ranks sixth in this performance pillar at the global scale.

Viva Spain

Madrid is fourth overall and world No. 1 in the “sustainability” performance pillar. It was also third globally for “tourism policy and attractiveness”.

Thanks to Spain’s easing of entry requirements in several markets, Barcelona also moved up six places to 10th place in 2021.

New York was the highest ranked American city, ranked 7th in the world. Its success was driven by domestic tourism, while Orlando (#22) and Las Vegas (#28) also improved their rankings.

Singapore ranked first in the world in the “economic and trade performance” pillar, although the city-state only reached 24th place in the overall index.

Asian cities stood out in this pillar, with Taipei and Hong Kong also leading in 2021 in terms of economic recovery, and Macau jumping 18 places to seventh in the world.

The British capital fell in the rankings in 2021.

The British capital fell in the rankings in 2021.

Figurniy Sergey/Adobe Stock

Euromonitor also highlighted the impact of Singapore’s high vaccination levels and “living with Covid” policy, unlike the “Zero Covid” approach of other Asia-Pacific destinations.

Dublin ranks first for tourism policy and attractiveness, and ranks 16th on the overall index.

Euromonitor attributes this to the fact that the Irish capital, like France, is open to American travelers from mid-2021, unlike their British neighbors. London have dropped three places in the overall rankings in 2021, down to No.8.

London won out on tourism infrastructure. The report highlights the capital’s comprehensive public transport system, its six commercial airports and notes that “it has a strong reputation in culture and leisure, as well as educational offerings”.

Euromonitor 2021 Top 20 City Destinations Index 2021

1.Paris

2. Dubai

3. Amsterdam

4.Madrid

5. Rome

6. Berlin

7. New York

8. London

9.Munich

10. Barcelona

11. Vienna

12.Milan

13. Prague

14. Los Angeles

15.Tokyo

16.Dublin

17. Lisbon

18. Frankfurt am Main

19. Zurich

20. Istanbul