Nairobi City beat Cairo, Moscow and Budapest to make it to top 100 list

Passengers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, a major entry point into the city. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
Nairobi has been ranked the 93rd most welcoming city in the world. A survey conducted by online travel specialists, TravelBird, shows Nairobi managed to beat seven other cities - Cairo, Phnom Penh, Colombo, Moscow, Hanoi, Bucharest, and Budapest - to make it to Top 100 most welcoming cities to tourists.

Singapore came first, followed by Stockholm, Helsinki, San Francisco and Rotterdam. Singapore topped for being able to successfully manage its high visitor volumes with the best airport in the world and cultivating a safe city ecosystem.

The study ranked international cities according to how welcoming they were in relation to their levels of over-tourism. The Responsible Tourism Partnership defines over-tourism as “destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably”.

Impressive efforts

The study was aimed at identifying the cities making “impressive efforts” to welcome tourists responsibly, and secondly to open dialogue about over-tourism and its impact on residents and the surrounding communities.

TravelBird first analysed the global top 500 tourist destinations based on factors that can make a visitor feel welcome such as a welcoming port of entry (airport, train station, etc.), citizens’ happiness, safety, openness to host tourists, and English language proficiency. They also ran an expert poll asking over 15,000 travel journalists how welcoming they found each city based on their personal experiences.

It then weighted all the factors with a formula that measures over-tourism in each destination to determine the final ranking of 100 cities.

Nairobi scored a total of 4.31. Under expert opinion, Nairobi scored 5.30 out of 10; 3.36 for port of entry; 2.05 for safety; 1.44 happiness; 8.51 for English proficiency; and 2.75 for tourism carrying capacity.

Living costs

“When a city reaches its capacity for the number of tourists it can carry, issues such as overcrowding, lengthy queues at attractions, and increased living costs start to occur. This can negatively affect the daily lives of local residents and therefore impact how welcoming the city is to tourists,” says the report.

To determine a quantifiable figure for an issue as complex as over-tourism, TravelBird specifically looked into the tourism carrying capacity of each city. This was calculated by comparing the following factors: number of residents compared to the number of tourists during the peak season, which indicates levels of overcrowding; and the number of licensed hotel beds in addition to the number of peer-to-peer rental beds (per square kilometre), which indicates if the city has adequate tourist accommodation.

They conducted a second representative poll which asked local residents how tourism positively or negatively impacted their daily lives and used this data to create a weighted average that contributed to the city’s total over-tourism score.

“As a stakeholder in the future of travel, TravelBird has a responsibility to confront the growing problem of over-tourism,” says TravelBird CEO Steven Klooster.

He added: “We undertook this study as the first step towards a more sustainable future. 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.”

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