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Vienna the world's most liveable city for the second year running: EIU

Sydney

THE world's most liveable cities are generally less global capital, more regional second city, a new ranking showed.

Singapore took 40th place in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) world's most liveable cities ranking.

Vienna took the top spot for the second year running, confirming that life is officially better on the banks of the Danube than it is by the Yarra River in Melbourne, which came in second.

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Australia and Canada dominate the top 10 with three cities each, while Osaka, Tokyo and Copenhagen complete the list.

Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are judged to offer the Antipodes' best quality of life, while Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto are North America's top locations.

"Overall, our index remains dominated by medium-sized cities in wealthy countries," the report notes, pointing to high-quality education, well-funded public healthcare and functional transport systems.

These cities - with populations that number anywhere from 300,000 to one million - hit the sweet spot between overcrowded and underdeveloped.

"The upsides of these cities tend to be fully realised. You get a good collection of cultural activities, you get good access to healthcare and education," said EIU's regional director for Asia, Duncan Innes-Ker. "But you don't get a lot of downsides that tend to come with big cities, things like traffic congestion, crime problems and general wear and tear."

Financial hubs London (No 48) and New York (No 58) lagged behind other domestic rivals. Hong Kong and Singapore fared better - but not much, charting at No 38 and No 40 respectively. Hong Kong's ranking overlooked for now the recent political unrest, but the disruption will likely show up in next year's rankings.

"I think it's probably safe to say that Hong Kong's rating will suffer quite significantly," Mr Innes-Ker said.

To assess living conditions, the index examines the quality of healthcare, education, infrastructure, stability and culture. Each city is graded on more than 30 factors, which are then compiled into a weighted score of between one and 100.

At 99.1, Vienna's 2019 liveability score is almost perfect. Melburnians and others shouldn't feel too put out though: The scores among the top 20 cities vary by less than five points. No US city made it higher than No 22, with Honolulu ranked as the nation's top performer.

Across the board, the report points to improved quality of living, thanks to strengthened stability, as well as better education and healthcare systems - especially in emerging markets.

But climate change puts these gains at risk, the report said, noting that cities such as New Delhi and Cairo have slipped down the rankings as a result of worsening pollution.

Sitting right at the bottom of the list are Dhaka, Lagos and Damascus, with the war-torn Syrian capital retaining the last position for the past seven years.

In another ranking exercise, Thailand's capital, Bangkok, edged out Paris and London as the world's most popular city to visit, welcome news for Thailand after worries over a drop in foreign arrivals.

Bangkok was named the most-visited city for the fourth consecutive year, with about 22.8 million visitors reported in the annual rankings by MasterCard Inc.

Paris and London were ranked second and third, each with about 19.1 million arrivals, trailed by Dubai with 15.9 million.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were fourth and fifth in the rankings, based on third-party research, proprietary analysis and public data across 200 destination cities.

New York, Istanbul, Tokyo and Antalya, Turkey, rounded out the top 10.

The number of international visitors across the 200 cities grew by 76 per cent in the last 10 years.

Despite Bangkok's long-time reign atop the list, the Thai tourism industry has faced headwinds, with arrivals dropping 1.03 per cent year-on-year in May before recovering to grow 0.89 per cent in June from a year earlier. Tourism accounts for about 12 per cent of Thailand's economy.

However, weaker Chinese economic growth and a boat accident last year led to a drop off in Chinese arrivals in Thailand in the first half of this year.

The downturn in the number of visitors from China was partially offset by Indian arrivals. Thailand expects to welcome 2 million Indian tourists in 2019, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, told Reuters, adding this was one year earlier than its target.

In August, the government extended a waiver of a 2,000 baht (S$90) fee for visa-on-arrivals for tourists from 18 countries including those from China and India. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS