Bangkok has again grabbed the number No. 1 spot Mastercard’s annual Global Destination Cities Index, with more than 22 million international overnight visitors in 2018.
The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI) contains a region-specific subset, known as the Asia Pacific Destinations Index (APDI). This is the fourth consecutive year that the Thai capital has grabbed the top spot in the global index, which ranks cities in terms of number of international overnight visitor arrivals, cross-border spending, and other factors. It is also the ninth consecutive year that Bangkok retains the no.1 position in the Asia Pacific Index.
Up from 21.1 million visitors in 2017, Bangkok retained the top position over Singapore, which came in second with 14.7 million overnight international visitors in 2018. Two other Thai destinations – Phuket and Pattaya – also made the Asia Pacific top 10 for overnight international arrivals, coming in at seventh and eighth, with 9.9 and 9.4 million international overnight visitors, respectively. This makes Thailand the only country with three destinations in the Asia Pacific top 10.
In addition to ranking Bangkok as the No. 1 destination in the Asia Pacific region, this year’s APDI revealed other interesting facts about the continuing growth of tourism in Thailand, as well as how and where Thai travelers choose to go. Thailand is again the No. 1 destination for mainland Chinese travelers, with 27.1 percent choosing it as their Asia Pacific country of choice, followed by Japan and South Korea. Thailand also emerged as the No. 1 destination country in the region for overnight visitors from Malaysia and India. Results also show that Thai travelers are increasingly traveling within the region, with Malaysia as the most visited country, followed by Japan and Laos.
Aileen Chew, Country Manager for Thailand and Myanmar, Mastercard said, “This year marks 45 years of Mastercard in Thailand. Mastercard is proud to be actively supporting the ongoing growth of the tourism industry in the country, which offers every visitor world-class hospitality, rich cultural heritage and a range of diverse experiences. This year, Mastercard launched two new programs to promote tourism in Thailand; ‘Destination Thailand’ and ‘Priceless Bangkok’, which seek to introduce the world to the incredible beauty and warmth that Thailand has to offer.”
Asia Pacific Trends
Overall results from the APDI show that the five most popular destinations for international travelers in 2018 in Asia Pacific were Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Seoul, which together welcomed over one-fifth, or 22 percent, of all overnight visitors to the region’s top 161 cities and regional centers. Primarily driven by explosive growth in outbound travel from mainland China, these five cities are also capturing more than one-quarter, or 25.2 percent, of total international travel spending in the region.
Mainland Chinese travelers are discovering all corners of the region in unprecedented numbers, turning sleeping giants into tourism hotspots that create fertile ground for governments, tourism boards, brands and businesses as they plan and promote their travel, transportation and retail offerings. Since 2009, overnight arrivals by mainland Chinese travelers in markets across Asia Pacific surged from 10.5 million to 62.4 million in 2018, representing a 21.9 percent compound annual growth rate over the period. Notably, mainland China is amongst the top three source markets of outbound travelers for 82 cities in Asia Pacific, or more than half of the 161 destinations in the APDI.
In 2018, Asia Pacific hosted travelers making 342.2 million business and leisure trips, up from 159.1 million in 2009, representing an 8.9 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the nine year period. During the same period, travel spending in Asia Pacific more than doubled, rising from US$117.6 billion to US$281.1 billion, equating to a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent.