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How will the world’s top cities cope with the increase of visitors?

How will the world’s top cities cope with the increase of visitors?

There is no better indicator of the success of a city than the numbers of people who want to visit, live and work there. But this success creates demand for space, which is increasingly hard to come by in a growing number of world cities. This is especially the case on constrained land and historic sites, where expansion potential is limited. 

Worldwide increases in tourism

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, worldwide international tourist arrivals reached 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7% increase over the previous year, and have already increased by 4% in the first half of 2015.

The Savills 12 Cities Report (which examines worldwide trends) found that nine of the 12 cities included in the report were featured in the top 20 worldwide for international overnight visitors. London topped this list with 18.8 million overnight visitors in 2014, and a huge 300,000 visitors every night.

Although cities in Australia tend to receive a smaller amount of international visitors in comparison to some of the world's top tourist destinations, international visitation is still increasing. According to Tourism Research Australia, Australia saw a 7% increase in international visitors in 2015, which has also led to a growth of 10% for international visitor spend.

This growing trend means that world cities need to consider how to accommodate an increasing number of international visitors. International business people, if they continue to invest in a city, will want to spend time there. The quality, availability and convenience of accommodation – owned or rented – is an important component of city investability and economic success.

The question then becomes how to accommodate all these visitors

Governments will need to look at ways to sustainably develop and increase the density of their cities, and extend their reach, or a combination of the two. This means construction and transport infrastructure are likely to remain high on the list of priorities for some time to come.

In addition, certain businesses such as Airbnb have emerged over the past five years to revolutionise how we perceive available space in a city. Instead of building new space, Airbnb connects travellers with pre-existing space (rooms, apartments or whole houses already built). 

New technology and the digital space has allowed this new accommodation platform to disrupt the traditional travel industry, and Airbnb has already hosted more than 50 million guests worldwide, with 1.5 million properties currently listed around the world. 

Lack of space leads to rising rents 

The inability to keep pace with accommodation demand has created cost pressure, which is why rising rents are a common feature of world cities.

The average accommodation cost per person in the Savills Executive Unit (SEU)* and their household in the 12 cities featured in the Savills 12 Cities Report is now $74,945, compared to $68,538 in December 2008. So despite the recession of 2008-2010, when average live/ work accommodation costs fell by 5%, rents are rising faster than city GDP growth in most jurisdictions.

The biggest rise has been seen in San Francisco, but high live/work rental growth has also been seen in other cities since 2008; New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney have all seen rents spike between 18% and 28% during this time.

To learn more about the trends across world cities, view the Savills 12 Cities Report.

*In order truly to compare the cost of residential and commercial real estate across different global cities, we use the Savills Executive Unit (SEU), which measures the cost of housing an identical group of people living and working in different countries. View p3 of the Savills 12 Cities Report for more details on the research methodology.

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