BANGKOK has reached number two on the list of Asian cities in the annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index with 18.24 million international overnight visitors and is catching up with top-ranked city, London.
Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong round off the top 10, taking seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th place, respectively.
Driven by insights into travel patterns, the Global Destinations Cities Index provides a ranking of the 132 most visited cities around the world. More than just a travel tracker, the index provides an understanding of how people move around the world and the importance of the world’s cities as homes, destinations and engines of growth, MasterCard says.
London and Bangkok have topped the index throughout its five-year history. The rivalry is set to continue as Bangkok’s visitor numbers continue to recover after civil unrest in 2014.
In addition, seven of the top 10 fastest-growing cities by visitor numbers over the last six years are in Asia. Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo, leads the pack, followed by Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province.
For the five East Asian cities, their strong growth in visitor numbers has been a result of the massive increase in internal and outbound travel from China. Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, tourism is growing fast after the ending of its long-running civil war.
Matthew Driver, president for Southeast Asia at MasterCard, said tourism was becoming an increasingly important source of income and employment for many Asian countries. This reflects the growing appeal of Asia as it continues to develop, led by the fast-emerging Asean economies, China and India.
As countries compete for tourist receipts and seek to improve the visitor experience, it will be key for governments and tourist authorities to continue to invest in smarter city infrastructure while preserving and protecting the heritage – from monuments to cultural events – that makes their cities unique. In this way, Asia will be able to maintain and build dynamic, exciting, global cities, which will fast become brands in their own right, pulling people to the region.
Juthaporn Rerngronasa, acting governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the coming Asean Economic Community would provide a great opportunity for Thailand to build upon its strength in tourism.
“As the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index shows, we have retained our strength globally, and this is in part due to intra-Asean travel from cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. This facilitates growth across the region as well as paving the way for Thailand to be the tourism hub of Southeast Asia.
“We are proud of our nearly decade-long partnership with MasterCard and look forward to working together to continue to encourage Thai and international tourists to travel within and around Thailand.”
The majority of visitors to cities in Asia originate from within the Asia-Pacific region. This may help to explain the continued growth of visitor numbers over the last five years as European and North American markets experienced economic slowdown.
The top five feeder cities to Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 2015 are all in the Asia-Pacific region. However, this shows the lack of diversity in the origin of visitors to many destinations in Asia, which presents risks to long-term resilience to any global economic shocks.
The challenge for many of these otherwise very successful destination cities is to diversify their sources of visitors while maintaining their robust rates of growth. Nevertheless, globally, international overnight visitor numbers and their cross-border spending have consistently grown faster than world real gross domestic product since 2009.
credit : The Nation