Safety has long been a paramount concern for travelers when it comes to deciding which destination to visit. But the world has been turned on its head in recent years due to the global pandemic and the notion of exactly what makes somewhere "safe" has changed significantly.
This may help to explain the shake-up at the top of the Economist Intelligence Unit's Safe Cities Index (SCI,) which ranks 60 international destinations on digital security, health security, infrastructure, personal security, as well as environmental security, a new category for this year.
While Asian cities like Tokyo, Singapore, and Osaka have continuously occupied the top spots year after year, it's a European destination that holds the number one position for 2021. Copenhagen has been named the world's safest city for the first time, scoring 82.4 points out of 100 in the annual report. Denmark's capital jumped from joint eighth place in 2019 to the top of the list, largely thanks to the introduction of an environmental security section, which the city scored particularly well in, along with personal security.
"One key factor that makes Copenhagen such a safe city is its low crime rate, currently at its lowest level in more than a decade," Lars Weiss, lord mayor of Copenhagen, says in the report. "Copenhagen is also characterized by great social cohesion and a relatively narrow wealth gap. It is a mixed city where both the cleaning assistant and the CEO meet each other at the local supermarket and have their kids in the same school.
"This is one of the very cornerstones of Danish culture, and it contributes greatly to the high levels of trust and safety that we benefit from." Canada's Toronto just missed out on the top spot, taking second place with 82.2 points, while Singapore was third with 80.7 points.
Although Sydney came fourth, with 80.1 points, the Australian city topped the digital security category, while 2019 winner Tokyo was awarded 80.0 points, putting the Japanese city in fifth place.
"Copenhagen is definitely a worthy overall leader and Toronto a well-deserving runner-up, but as much because of long-term success in making residents secure as from any particular improvements in the last two years," reads the report.
"Toronto and Copenhagen do noticeably better in the new environmental security pillar than do any of the top three cities from earlier years." The Netherlands' Amsterdam was sixth with 79.3 points, while New Zealand's Wellington came in at number seven with 79.0 points, and was the overall leader in the environmental security category.
Asia Pacific cities Hong Kong and Melbourne scored joint eighth place after receiving 78.6 points each, while Sweden's Stockholm rounded off the top 10 with 78.0 points. New York was the highest US city on the list, sharing the 11th spot with Spain's Barcelona (both cities received 77.8 points). Washington DC was close behind in 14 places, while London and San Francisco tied at 15th.
There were few surprises at the other end of the list, with Nigeria's Lagos, Egypt's Cairo, Venezuela's Caracas, Pakistan's Karachi, and Myanmar's Yangon making up the bottom five.