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A Tale of Two Cities: London and Bangkok Continue to Vie for Top Global Destination City Ranking

Bangkok remains Asia Pacific’s top destination city for air travel, and is the world’s second top destination city after first-ranked London, the newly released MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index for 2014 shows.

Bangkok and London have vied in recent years for top ranking in the Global Destination Cities Index, which measures international visitor arrivals with at least one overnight stay in that particular city.

Bangkok beat out London for the top ranking in the 2013 Index, becoming the first Asian city to top the list. Bangkok remains a leading global destination city in 2014 despite a drop in air travel that is likely attributable to ongoing political turmoil in the Thai capital.

MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index, now in its fourth year, provides an annual ranking of 132 of the most important destination cities in the world. It generates estimates of the total number of international visitors to each of these cities each year, their cross-border spending in these cities, and breakdown of their numbers by feeder cities. The Index creates a global map of how these 132 cities are connected and the business potential generated in each of them by the inflows of visitor spending.

The Index projects 16.42 million international overnight visitors to Bangkok in 2014, down 11 percent from last year. In previous years, Bangkok has showed among the world’s biggest gains in international air travel, with double digit percentage increases in 2011 and 2012.  In 2013, the city saw a 16.7 % increase in international overnight visitors.

Bangkok is ranked fifth in the world and second in Asia Pacific for cross-border spending, with US$13 billion projected in international visitor expenditure for 2014.

At US$14.3 billion, Singapore is expected to take over Bangkok’s top spot for international visitor spend in Asia Pacific, up 7.6 percent from last year.

London regained the top destination ranking this year with an 8% growth in international overnight visitors, versus Bangkok’s 11% drop. However, given how close the visitor numbers have been between these two destination cities in past years, it is clear that the race is by no means over.

Following London and Bangkok as top global destination cities are Paris, Singapore, and Dubai in third, fourth and fifth place respectively. Their respective growth rates, however, diverge significantly. At 1.8%, Paris’ growth is very low, and Singapore’s growth rate is only slightly higher at 3.1%. But they are both eclipsed by Dubai’s 7.5% growth rate (also the fastest growing city in the top ten). If their current growth rates are to continue, then Dubai is on track to overtake both Paris and Singapore, to be in third position within five years.

For the top 10 destination cities in Asia Pacific, Bangkok is in the top rank in the region with 16.42 million international visitors. The top five ranks of Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, and Seoul remain unchanged from 2013. They are followed by Taipei, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai and Beijing.

Bangkok’s resilience as a global destination city is one of the big takeaways from the Global Destination Cities Index for 2014. So, maybe we just might see it back on top next year.

How did your city rank in the Global Destination Cities Index? Let us know what you think about its ranking.

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