The role of cities cannot be overestimated in the 21st century, often called the metropolitan century (Kelly et. al. 2017), especially since the global picture is changing towards more diversity and more individually tailored solutions.

It is said that cities are much more agile and act more pragmatically than states. Thus, they may play a key role in the complex international relations of today and tomorrow and serve as significant nodes in the global order.

Just as any other actor in the world economy, cities both collaborate and compete. They cooperate in the fields of anti-terrorism, public services, migration, cybersecurity, cultural diversity, environment protection, public transport and infrastructure. They compete over talents, capital, location of key institutions, corporations, events, as well as investments and tourism.

Contemporary cities do not narrow down their international activities to the closest neighbourhood and do not respect geographical boundaries in fulfilling their tasks and pursuing their policies. Following the revolution in the global economy, technology and communications, national borders and geography matter so little that almost every city, if only its leaders and citizens wish so, can go global.

In this blog posts series, I aim at presenting a comprehensive analysis of the emergence of global cities as actors in contemporary international political, economic, societal and cultural relations. In doing so, I follow and expand Richard C. Longworth’s of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs categorisation. Economy and size of global cities have been tackled in Part I. Knowledge, talents and connectivity were presented in Part II. Let’s have a look at further sections, devoted to crucial reasons why people move and go to global cities.

V – tourism

Global cities are magnets for tourists and build their brand on it. In the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017, London took the 2nd place (losing only to Bangkok) with over 19 million international overnight visitors, Paris is 3rd with 15 million, Dubai 4th, Singapore 5th and New York 6th. Tokyo is 9th, but has the biggest expected annual growth of tourist visits – 12.2% and has made the 9th global growth in visitors from 2009 to 2006 – by 17.7%. Osaka, another Japanese hub, is the fastest growing destination city in the world 2009-2016, especially thanks to the visitors from the region. Tourism naturally contributes to the economic growth of cities. Tourists spend the most money in Dubai, New York, London, Singapore, Bangkok, Paris and Tokyo.

Usually two leading purposes of travel – leisure and business – are combined with a prevailing position of leisure. Kuala Lumpur leads in rankings of leisure travels (around 90% of visits), whereas Shanghai leads when business trips are concerned (around 50% of visits) (Mastercard 2017). According to the 2016 edition of the Index, also Sao Paulo reaches high numbers in business travels (48.5%), especially thanks to visitors from Argentina (17%), US (12%), Chile (7%), Germany (5%) and France (4%). Sao Paulo is also the third feeder city of New York – sends there over 640000 visitors annually – and the first feeder city of Miami with 441000 visitors (Hedrick-Wong, Choong 2016).

VI – cultural offerings

The Anholt-GfK City Brand Index 2015 study with yet another methodology based on six dimensions – presence, place, pre-requisites, people, pulse and potential – proves that global cities lead when the spirit and dynamism are concerned: Paris, London and New York obtain three leading positions. They lead in the presence (their global status), place and potential categories, but lose ground when it comes to prerequisites (where basic requirements play a key role) and people (friendliness and diversity). This is where other, again smaller cities like Berlin (7th in the general ranking), Amsterdam (8th) and Toronto (11th) perform better (GfK 2016).

Cultural offerings are essential for vivid global cities and their inhabitants. Culture is a very competitive field of activities, especially in dynamic urban ecosystems. The lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” – including “I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps” are a pop-cultural proof of this phenomenon and are applicable to all major global cities. Their cultural offerings are rich and are provided to their inhabitants in the 24/7 rhythm. One can experience art and culture whenever they want and in any demanded form. Global citizens want the best kind of leisure and culture. They take advantage of high culture – operas, theatres, galleries, but they also like and need the popular one – sports, concerts, restaurants.

According to the study of Totally Money, the cultural offerings of global cities are indeed rich. For instance, Paris has 245 theatres, 17 museums, 69 art galleries, 6 concert halls and 100 Michelin starred restaurants. London is even richer in high culture – with its West End has almost 900 theatres, 186 museums, 125 art galleries, 17 concert halls. And it locates 67 Michelin starred restaurants. New York is home to an astonishing number of art galleries (142) and also of 533 theatres, 123 museums, 16 concert halls and 77 Michelin starred restaurants. Tokyo specialises in museums (280) and Michelin starred restaurants (217) but the number of theatres (95), art galleries (72) and concert halls (14) is also significant (Totally Money 2017).

VII – migration

Global cities are inhabited in a significant percentage by foreign-born residents often called ex-pats, meaning highly-skilled professionals, working in banking, services or technology. Another group of foreign-born residents are immigrants that are poorer and less educated, but bigger in numbers, and go where employment is. All of them create the spirit of a city, based on their ambition, hard work and entrepreneurial nature.

Dubai has 83% of foreign-born inhabitants, New York has 37% and London 31% (Longworth 2015). Paris with just 12.4% of foreign-born residents is an interesting case, explained, for instance, in InterNation’s Expat Insider 2017 survey, where respondents were asked about their favourite cities to live in. Paris was chosen as the third worst. 43% of respondents were feeling unwelcome in the French capital, 31% were not feeling well with the necessity of speaking French, 62% pointed at difficult housing situation and 71% found Paris expensive (Hoad 2017).

But, with internal migration added, migration also makes economic inequalities and divisions strikingly visible. These inequalities, one of the major negative effects of globalisation and a cause of gentrification, are visible in global cities more than anywhere else. They cause backlash, demonstrations and transnational movements, like Occupy Wall Street. This movement organised protests in the financial and other districts of New York that inspired further demonstrations in cities around the world.

The general smartness and concrete smart solutions matter the most for cities that wish to counter inequalities and build high-quality living conditions. They include public transportation, care over the environment, safety on the streets, health care, efficient and non-corrupted local administration and many others. Global cities cannot afford not to be smart. And no city can become global without being smart first. It is probably impossible to fully eradicate income and other inequalities in global cities. The way local authorities manage them may either hamper or improve the global status of a city.

When the quality of life is concerned, the size of the city matters. It is reflected especially in Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking 2017 that takes into account political, economic and environmental indicators. It is dominated by middle-sized European cities like Vienna (1st), Zurich (2nd), Munich (4th), Düsseldorf (6th), plus Vancouver (5th) and two cities from the antipodes: Auckland (3rd) and Sydney (10th). Bigger global cities obtain lower positions: Singapore is 25th, San Francisco is 29th, Tokyo 47th, and Dubai 74th (Mercer 2017).

The above-mentioned InterNation’s Expat Survey 2017, due to a different methodology, provides some different, but equally interesting answers. Manama is chosen by respondents as the best place for ex-pats to live in, and Prague is the runner-up. The Bahraini capital is acknowledged especially for the fact that one does not have to speak Arabic to get by there (92% of respondents confirm that), for the friendly attitude of locals towards the outsiders (84%), and for the easiness of finding accommodation (88%). Responders found it generally hard to start one’s life in Prague, but the Czech capital scored high in career opportunities, quality of urban living, leisure options, transportation and affordability of healthcare that play a significant role in further stages of stay (Hoad 2017).

This is the end of Part III. Stay tuned for something extra for all the politics experts out there. Part IV will make this series complete.


This series includes also following articles:

What makes a global city? Prelude

What makes a global city? Part I

What makes a global city? Part II

What makes a global city? Part IV



GfK (2016), “Paris winds back <<most admired city>> from London”,

Hoad P. (2017), “The surprising winners and losers in an expat city survey”,

Kelly J. et. al. , „City Momentum Index 2017 Edition”, JLL 2017.

Longworth R. C. (2015), “On Global Cities”, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Mastercard (2017), “Defining What Makes a City a Destination”,

Mercer (2017), “Vienna tops Mercer’s 19th Quality of Living Ranking”,

Totally Money (2017), “The World’s Most Cultural Cities”,


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