The World’s Most Reputable Cities Explained


Just as people have reputations, cities and countries have reputations, too, and they have a direct impact on economic indicators such as tourist arrivals, exports, and investment. That’s to say that ranking the world’s most reputable cities isn’t about holding a popularity contest. Rather, it’s a reflection of the positive feelings that people have towards cities and the economic implications.

After the 2005 launch of RepTrak®, which is the gold standard of reputation measurement, Reputation Institute adapted its model to measure the reputations of countries (2008) and cities (2011). Since then, we have analyzed the reputations of the largest and most well-known cities in the world in an annual report.

We just released our 2015 City RepTrak® report last week and, for the first time, two cities from the same country secured the top spots. The two cities are located in Australia and they are Sydney (#1) and Melbourne (#2). Rounding out the top ten are Stockholm, Vienna (#1 in 2014), Vancouver (#1 in 2012), Barcelona, Edinburgh, Geneva, Copenhagen and Venice. Major media outlets reported out on our 2015 results, including CNN, Forbes, Business Insider, and Mashable, among others.


What do we measure for this study?

First of all, reputation is an emotional bond based on admiration and respect, trust, and esteem, which drives people’s behaviors. That emotional bond, what we call the RepTrak® Pulse, is the basis for our study. The RepTrak® Pulse score is what determines a city’s placement in our ranking. However, we would not be able to make any recommendation on how to improve a city’s reputation if we only had that overall score.

That’s why we go further and look at 13 rational attributes that we have grouped into three dimensions: “Effective Administration”, “Advanced Economy” and “Appealing Environment”. We measure the perceptions of the general population for each city based on the 13 rational attributes.

How did the top cities achieve such good reputations?

All the cities in the top ten of our ranking obtain high scores on all of the three dimensions. Stockholm, Melbourne, and Sydney lead on “Effective Administration”; Tokyo, New York and Berlin are ahead on “Advanced Economy”; and finally, Rome, Paris and Barcelona come out on top of “Appealing Environment”.

A key conclusion from our study is that a city’s reputation is highly dependent on the reputation of the country in which it resides. Based on the countries where the cities in the City RepTrak® study reside, the fluctuations in scores for the city reputation index this year mirror closely what we saw in July when we analyzed the reputations of countries.

To be large or economically strong does not necessarily equate to a good reputation. When we compare our list of the most reputable cities with the list of the largest cities by population or GDP, we see little to no overlap. However, when we compare our list to those of the most livable cities, the most beautiful cities, or the safest places, we can see a lot of overlap, and that gives us an idea of what makes a city reputable.

Based on the results of our study, the three most important attributes to build a city’s reputation are: be a beautiful and safe place, and offer wide array of appealing experiences.

A city must also be well-known in order for its good reputation to positively impact economic indicators. That is the case of the most well-known cities, Paris and London, which happen to also have very strong reputations. A lot of people know Paris and London, and they are admired. The Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne may have a higher reputation score, but the issue is that the level of familiarity is still quite low. Not a lot of people know them, but those who do have a very high opinion of them.

The most important takeaway from this study is that a city’s reputation drives supportive behaviors such as: I would visit the city, I would invest in the city, I would study in the city, or I would attend an event in the city. Therefore, if we all agree that Sydney is the most reputable city in the world, let’s visit Sydney, or even move there if we can.

Fernando Prado
Managing Partner
Reputation Institute

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