10 Years Later: The Cities In Latin America & The Caribbean Taking Cross Border Travel To New Levels

MIAMI, FL | September 4, 2019


Mastercard spends a decade exploring where people travel, sharing its insights about the top destination cities of today and tomorrow.

Throughout the past ten years, the world has seen recession and economic growth, the rise of nationalism and new global partnerships. But, one thing has remained constant: people’s growing desire to travel the world, visiting new landscapes and immersing themselves in other cultures. Mastercard has spent the last decade exploring where people travel and what they do once they are there, sharing insights on the top destination cities of today and tomorrow. Mastercard’s tenth Global Destination Cities Index, released today, quantifies these trends: over the past decade, the number of international overnight visitors around the world grew an astounding 76%.

This year, Cancun remains the No. 1 destination in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with more than 6 million international overnight visitors. Not surprisingly, Cancun is also one of the fastest-growing destinations in the region, with travelers from near and far packing their bags and rushing to experience their numerous beaches, resorts and bustling nightlife. While the majority of the city’s visitors are from the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom is not far behind, accounting for 5.5% of all international overnight visitors to the destination.

Punta Cana holds the No. 2 spot, while Riviera Maya climbed a spot from last year to close out the top 3; both destinations recorded over 3 million international overnight visitors. Additionally, 7 out of the top ten cities in the region saw more international overnight visitors in 2018 than the prior year, and the forecast for 2019 indicates across-the-board growth, with Panama City expecting the largest uptick in visitors.

The LAC Top 10 Destination Cities in 2018
  2018 International Overnight Visitors Growth Forecast for 2019 Average Length of Stay Average Spend Per Day (USD)
Cancun, Mexico 6.04 million 1.35% 6.1 nights $146
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 3.89 million 1.89% 8.4 nights $136
Riviera Maya, Mexico 3.17 million 1.46% 6.9 nights $164
Mexico City, Mexico 3.16 million 1.21% 6.0 nights $111
Lima, Peru 2.63 million 10.00% 5.0 nights $97
Santiago, Chile 2.33 million 5.05% 13.5 nights $77
Sao Paulo, Brazil 2.25 million 0.00% 10.6 nights $59
Buenos Aires, Argentina 2.04 million 6.36% 9.9 nights $86
Cusco, Peru 1.75 million 10.00% 6.0 nights $114
Panama City, Panama 1.49 million 11.82% 8.0 nights $232

The United States continues to be the primary contributor to tourism in Latin America, as the No. 1 origin city to all top 10 LAC destinations except for Santiago (where the U.S. is at No. 3), Sao Paulo (U.S. at No. 2) and Buenos Aires Paulo (U.S. at No. 2). However, this story is not one sided. Take Miami, for example. Not only is it the No. 3 destination in North America with 23.6% of its visitors from Brazil and Argentina, but travelers from these countries make up a large part of the $7.7 billion that tourists spent in the destination in 2018.

At a global level, this year the Index revealed Bangkok as the No. 1 city for the fourth consecutive year while Paris overtakes London for the No. 2 spot. Cities in the Asia-Pacific region have seen the largest increase in international travelers since 2009, growing 9.4 percent. In comparison, Europe, which saw the second highest growth, was up 5.5 percent. This is spurred on by the growth in mainland Chinese travelers. Since 2009, mainland China has jumped up six places to be the No. 2 origin country for travelers to the 200 included destinations—behind only the U.S.

While global travel trends will always continue to shift, what remains constant is that consumers expect a seamless travel experience, and Mastercard works diligently to support and enable cities to deliver on these expectations. Travel spend is equally important as it may provide local officials and companies with better insights on how to plan and promote travel and tourism capabilities.

Top Cities by Dollars Spent in 2018
  2018 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD) Forecast for 2019 Average Spend by Day (USD)
Cancun, Mexico $5.32 billion -2.17% $146
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic $4.45 billion 2.71% $136
Riviera Maya, Mexico $3.60 billion -2.06% $164
Panama City, Mexico $2.76 billion 12.61% $232
Santiago, Chile $2.41 billion 5.05% $77
Mexico City, Mexico $2.11 billion -2.31% $111
Buenos Aires, Argentina $1.74 billion 2.38% $86
Sao Paulo, Brazil $1.41 billion 8.96% $59
Lima, Peru $1.28 billion 3.23% $97
Los Cabos, Mexico $1.22 billion -3.88% $164 

“In today’s interconnected world, travel has become an important part of how we work and how we live. Despite uncertainty in the world and all of our differences, travel literally brings us closer together,” said Carlos Menendez, president, Enterprise Partnerships. “With travel showing no sign of slowing down, it’s important for us to understand how travel impacts destinations for the better and the challenges visitors can pose to local city systems. This is important for travelers, businesses, governments and residents alike, and why we partner closely with cities and organizations around the world to ensure they have the information and solutions they need to preserve the uniqueness of their homes while embracing opportunity.”

For the global travel and tourism industry, Mastercard acts as a key technology partner providing solutions that bundle data-driven insights, digital identity, payment and security solutions, visitor management and infrastructure consulting in order to solve for the needs of a destination. In fact, City Possible, the global partnerships and co-creation initiative for cities, researches institutions and private sector organizations pioneered by Mastercard to identify and addresses urban challenges through scalable solutions in areas such as digital inclusion and economic development.

For cardholders, Mastercard also works to ensure ease, simplicity and value for travelers through seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe.:

    • Mastercard Travel & Lifestyle Services deliver best-in-class travel planning and booking tools for World and World Elite cardholders. With the Lowest Hotel Rate and Hotel Stay Guarantees, cardholders rest assured that they always get the best value and exactly what they paid for.
    • Mastercard Travel Rewards offer premium cardholders in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America seamless cash-back rewards when they shop at select merchants in key destinations.
    • Priceless Cities creates unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 cities around the globe, including Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Santiago and many others included in the Index.
    • Mastercard and Boingo Wireless are providing Mastercard cardholders unlimited access to more than one million premium Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots around the world.

        • The Wi-Fi service is available for Mastercard Black cardholders across Latin America & Caribbean at no additional cost.
    • Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey connects affluent consumers to one of the largest networks of airport lounges, plus curated retail, dining and spa offers.

        • Eligible Mastercard cardholders have access to more than 800 lounges in 400+ airports worldwide regardless of which airline they fly, the class of their ticket or their frequent flyer status.
    • We also provide some of the most comprehensive protections to take care of cardholders when they travel, including an array of travel insurances (Inconvenience & Cancellation, Medical, Lost Luggage) as well as purchase protections (extended warranty and price protection).

More information and the full reports can be found here.

Michelle Muslera

Manager, Communications  |  Mastercard, International Markets (IMK)

About the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index

The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index ranks 200 cities based on third-party research and proprietary analysis 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 2018 and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts.

Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 200 destination cities.

Forecasts are based upon the weighted average of the national level tourism forecasts and the actual 2019 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.

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.