Johannesburg has emerged as the most popular destination city in Africa for the fifth consecutive year, according to the annual Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index released on Tuesday.
The City of Gold, as Johannesburg is affectionately known, attracted 4.05-million international overnight visitors in 2017. Close on its heels, Marrakech in Morocco is the second most popular African destination city, welcoming 3.93-million international overnight visitors last year.
Polokwane came in at third with 1.88-million, beating Cape Town which attracted 1.73-million visitors, and Djerba in Tunisia with 1.65-million rounded out the top five African cities ranked in the Index.
Mastercard said Johannesburg also recorded the highest international overnight visitor expenditure among African cities with travellers spending $2.14-billion in 2017, well ahead of Marrakech which stood at $1.64-billion.
On average, international visitors stayed 10.9 nights and spent $48 per day in Johannesburg, with shopping accounting for more than 50% of their total spend.
The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index ranks the world's top 162 destination cities in terms of visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year. It also provides insight on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world.
This year's Index ranked 23 major African cities including Cairo, Nairobi, Lagos, Casablanca, Durban, Tunis, Dar es Salaam, Accra, Kampala, Maputo and Dakar among others.
Mark Elliott, division president of Mastercard Southern Africa, said the mix of shopping and tourism offerings in Johannesburg was still hitting the mark with international travellers.
"The ranking is significant for Joburg’s economic prospects as visitor expenditure contributes an important source of revenue to the retail, hospitality, restaurant and cultural sectors," Elliot said.
Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said the Index rating affirmed Johannesburg's position as the major economic and cultural hub in Africa.
"As the strong numbers of visitors from our neighbouring countries show, Johannesburg is one of the continent’s most significant metropolises for business, trade, investment and leisure," Mashaba said.
"The Index re-affirms Johannesburg’s status as a destination that continues to attract international overnight visitors each year due to its continually evolving tourism offerings - from popular shopping destinations and our world-class malls to a wide range of lifestyle, sporting and business events."
Meanwhile, Bangkok retained the top spot as the most famous city in the world with roughly 20-million international overnight visitors this year.