There is no doubt that comparison is an important element of our lives. We compare our height and weight, our salaries, our cars, our homes, the success of our children… and it’s totally normal. No surprise then that in the professional world, we also want to compare ourselves to others. We do this systematically by using rankings. In our business, there are many rankings about cities. A simple Google search on “city ranking” gives 363 million results! It may be interesting to consider some of them that are useful to our activities… A selection is provided below, with links to the ranking or information page.

European Cities Marketing (ECM) is one of the leading specialist providers of European city rankings.  ECM’s Benchmarking report contains regularly updated destination rankings according to arrivals and bednights (available on the ECM Intranet). Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destination Ranking and MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index also provide destination rankings, not only for Europe, but for cities all over the world.

In the Meetings Industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) (MICE sector), the number of association meetings is a key indicator, with the two most important rankings provided by UIA (Union of International Associations) and ICCA (International Congress and Conference Association), each with a different scope.

City brand image and reputation is evaluated by two consultancy offices; The Reputation Institute via the City RepTrack and Anholt-Gfk with the City Brand Index.

Sustainability has become an increasingly important theme for cities and different rankings exist on this, notably, the Green City Index from Siemens, the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis and the Global Green Economy Index from Dual Citizen.

The Cost of Living in various cities is calculated by Mercer and ECA International.

Different agencies also rate cities on their Liveability: Monocle (Liveable City Index), the Economist Intelligence Unit (Global Liveability Ranking and the Best City Ranking and Report) and Mercer (Quality of Living).

Finally, next to these, cities are ranked on other themes like Influence (Forbes – Most Influential Cities),  Financial Centres (Z/Yen Group – Global Financial Centers Index), Innovation (2ThinkNow – Innovation Cities Index), Safety (Economist Intelligence Unit – Safe Cities Index), Shopping (Global Blue – the Globe Shopper Index), Smart Cities (Boyd Cohen for Fast Company – Smart Cities Index), Sports (Sportcal – Global Sport Cities) or Food (with the guides from Michelin and Gault & Millau) or finally more general rankings like the Global Cities Index from A.T.Kearney, the European Cities and Regions of the Future from FD Intelligence or the Cities of Opportunities from Price Waterhouse.

So… a lot to read and compare….

But what makes a “good” ranking? First of all, rankings are not awards (with nominations and votes) nor are they public polls, both of which can easily be heavily biased. Good rankings must be based on a consistent methodology that allows for repeatability year over year and use known and objectively verifiable criteria. This methodology must be explained and detailed so that everyone knows what the ranking means. Ideally, a ranking would includes figures for city assessments, not only their overall rankings (e.g. 82% not simply ‘first’). If the methodology uses different figures grouped into one, these should also be detailed and given. Finally, the scope should be as large as possible and clearly defined.  For example, are we talking about all cities in Europe, or all cities with more than a million inhabitants? Are rankings only of association members? If so, the membership base should be large enough to be sufficiently representative of the whole.

In conclusion, rankings are good for comparing ourselves and knowing how good we are… It gives us one verifiable view on our performance against others but we must be clear about what they mean and communicate them in full transparency, always referring to the source.

Frédéric Cornet
Manager Research & Development
Member of the ECM Research & Statistics Knowledge Group