Lonely Planet Writer

Discover which cities are considered the most welcoming in the world

Sights and attractions are great but sometimes what really makes an unforgettable trip is meeting and interacting with locals. Now, new research has ranked the most welcoming cities around the globe.

Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Photo by fiftymm99

The list was compiled by Dutch travel agency Travelbird. Initially they looked at the top 500 most-visited cities and the final top 100 list are deemed the most welcoming out of those destinations. The rankings come from examining seven different factors across three categories.

The first step was to rate the city itself. The agency polled more than 15,000 travel journalists asking them to rank the cities they visited on how welcome they perceived it to be. They also examined online reviews about the city’s airports, train and bus stations to determine whether visitors felt welcome upon arrival. Next, they ranked existing data on how safe people feel when in those cities.

Port of entry and safety were two of the factors included in the study. Photo by Eternity in an Instant

The next category was about people. Here they used the UN World Happiness Index to see how happy residents in those countries are. They rated residents’ openness to accommodating tourists by searching hosts on Couchsurfing and also including a ranking on their proficiency in English on the basis that is “often the easiest language for communication while abroad”.

Finally, the study looked at the hot-button issue of over-tourism, examining the city’s capacity to accept tourists in a sustainable manner. This was achieved by comparing the ratio of tourists to residents at high season, the number of legal beds available and the perception of the city’s residents themselves towards tourists.

The attitude of residents towards tourists was also measured. Photo by Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

All the factors are ranked out of the ten, resulting in a cumulative score which allowed the agency to rank the cities by how welcoming they are to visitors. The top ten most welcoming cities were determined as follows:

1. Singapore
2. Stockholm
3. Helsinki
4. San Francisco
5. Rotterdam
6. Lisbon
7. Tokyo
8. Oslo
9. Zurich
10. Orlando

In a statement TravelBird emphasised there were probably lots of incredibly welcoming cities that did not make the list and that every city is welcoming in its own way. It also called for more conversations about sustainable travel.

Zurich made the top 10. Photo by Roman Babakin/Shutterstock

“We devised this study as the first step towards a more sustainable future”, said CEO Steven Klooster. “It’s a call-to-action to ourselves and to fellow tour operators, to residents and local governments in those places that are worst affected by over-tourism, to work together to find solutions to this problem. We believe tourism can have a positive impact on local destinations; with a clear understanding of the issues at hand, innovative thinking and commonsense legislation, we can preserve and protect them for the future.”

You can see the full list of the top 100 most welcoming cities here.